How To Dig Out After A Long Weekend

Ah, the joy of long holiday weekends. They re-energize, revitalize and send you back to work... feeling you like you've slept in late and got a term paper due at noon. The reasons for this are unclear—vacations are planned for, coworkers notified to pick up the slack, email generally avoided—but just one extra day off can throw your entire week out of sync.

There are ways to enjoy the long weekends without paying for it on the other end. Here are a few tips to help you avoid emergency maneuvers on your way back to the office.

Set Up a Calm, Clean Space for Your Landing

You'll have plenty of chances to freak out about returning to work—11 p.m. the night before is a generally accepted starting point. Returning to a messy desk, a computer desktop full of unsorted files, and a few coffee mugs with brews of unknown vintage will reinforce the feeling that everything's gone South while you were sleeping in. So put in some dedicated custodial time before you split, or early when you return.

J.D. Roth, the productive personal finance blogger behind Get Rich Slowly and Your Money: The Missing Manual admits that he's a slob by nature with a messy office—which works fine on most days. But if Roth has a vacation or day off coming up, he carves out time before departing to pick up diet soda bottles and tidy up the paper stacks. "The top thing I can do to improve my productivity ... is to clean my office before I leave. I'm not kidding," Roth writes. "This gives me a huge boost when I return."

Prune Your Task Lists with New-Found Perspective

Your to-do list is supposed to be a practical, honest list of things you can get done in methodical fashion. Across long days and multiple projects, that list tends to get filled with things you wish you could do, things that are too big and vague to do simply ("Get a grip on expenses"), or things that aren't that important. Now that you've spent a good bit away from your desk, you have tangible proof that those tasks you're always putting off aren't holding up your ceiling. With that perspective, go ahead and clean out your to-do list.

Don't Panic, Stick to Your Routine (If You Have a Good One)

Mark Forster, author of Do It Tomorrow, might disagree with that previous advice about to-do lists—his productivity system leans more toward routines, flows, and being conscious of what you're doing. But Forster understands the nature of long weekend panic. When a heap of work is dropped on you, the part of your thinking that Forster terms the "Reactive Mind" wants to panic, to enter triage mode, to reach out and stab at a few seemingly Top Priority items and leave the rest.

That's a surefire ticket to email backlog, incomplete items, and no kind of output that will impress the bosses. Instead, take the time to fully address yourself to each of the things that needs doing. That calm starting point also forces you to figure out whether inbox cleaning, for example, is more important than touching base with an important client or vendor. Just as importantly, don't give up on the necessary breaks and daily rituals that balance out your other days. (Get a better sense of Forster's take on long weekends in a free first chapter.)

Nobody knows what awaits you at work after an extra day or two off, but that's also the good news. Give yourself a clean, calm space to work in, leave yourself the time you really need to do things right, and commit yourself to enjoying your extended weekend. If it helps, picture what your impatient managers and correspondents looked like in Bermuda shorts over the weekend when they're trying to add panic to your plan.

Kevin Purdy is a freelance writer, former Lifehacker editor, non-disgruntled Buffalo resident, consumer of coffee.

[Image: Flickr user net_efekt]

Add New Comment

3 Comments

  • Annie Murrell

    Good advice.  This is an issues that comes up frequently in my office: I'm a mindfulness-based psychotherapist in Tulsa, OK and every tactic you list here is very good cognitive and behavioral training, including Forster's advice about flow and awareness.  To all that you have said here I would add that practices of Everyday Mindfulness help people avoid and deal with the seemingly ever-present 21st century experience of overwhelm and "not enough time" syndrome on an everyday basis.  This allows people to capitalize on vacation time even further, because they don't take as long to get ready to go, nor does re-entry cause so much suffering.  

    Annie Murrell, MS, LPC
    Licensed Professional Counselor
    www.a-quiet-mind.com

  • David Kaiser, PhD

    I definitely agree with Mark Forster's advice. Stick with good routines, and consider calmly what needs to be done. The most important work we do every day, is figuring out what we are going to do. Once we have that, the rest tends to flow.

    David Kaiser, PhD
    Time Management Coach to C-Level Consultants
    www.DarkMatterConsulting.com