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Four Steps To Take Right Now To Make Your First Day Back From The Holidays Suck Less

It only takes a little time to set yourself up for a simple, stress-free return to work after New Year’s Day.

Four Steps To Take Right Now To Make Your First Day Back From The Holidays Suck Less
[Photo: Flickr user Dragan]

With any luck, if you took some time off for the holidays, you were able to relax and unplug. But if you’re among the 42% of people who feel obligated to check in on your work while away, congratulations–you may have an easier time getting back into the saddle. Even a brief check-in can ensure that you feel less stressed when you get back to the office.

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To further boost your powers of productivity and make returning after the holidays less painful, here’s a roundup of the best tips we could find to help you hit the ground running on your first day back.

1. Delete With Abandon

According to recent research, the average worker sends and receives about 122 messages a day, which amounts to around 30 hours each week spent just on email. If you’ve got your autoresponder turned on while you’re away, no doubt those missives are stacking up–and we know there’s nothing more anxiety-inducing than watching the number of unread messages ratchet ever higher.

Experts suggest shaving down that mountain by deleting as much as possible without even reading. You can dispatch junk mail with abandon, but you can also rid yourself of lengthy threads you’ve been copied on, stuff that’s not essential for you to tackle, and the like. Feeling a twinge of guilt before you press the trash icon? Ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen if you deleted that message? Maura Thomas, founder of the productivity website RegainYourTime.com, says if the answer is, “Not much,” then out it goes.

Read More: Six Expert Tricks For Achieving Inbox Zero Every Day

2. Do A Digital Declutter

Digital pile-ups on your computer can cause as much stress as accumulations of useless stuff in your house. While lots of people go through their homes collecting unwanted items to donate before the end of the year, you can do the same with your virtual hoard by dedicating a few minutes a day. It won’t have the same tax benefit, but nothing beats the feeling of starting fresh in a new year.

Start by scrapping duplicate documents or downloads and deleting files you no longer need. Then do a defriending detox on social media. By scouring Facebook, Twitter, and other social streams, you can whittle down your network of friends, fans, and followers to only the most essential. Mute the ones you feel too guilty to dismiss altogether so you don’t waste precious productive time reading their updates.

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Read More: Your Four-Step, Digital-Clutter Detox Plan

3. Write Your Day One To-Do List Right Now

We know that writing things down helps us remember them better simply because it forces our brains to process that information. Writing down your list of tasks can serve the same function, especially as you work to prioritize what to do first.

While you’ve still got some downtime, set out to write down the most important things you’ll need to accomplish on your first day back. Here’s the catch: Don’t put down more than six things. By forcing yourself to narrow down the number of tasks, you’ll give yourself a manageable list to tackle and remove the angst of staring at a monumental workload.

Read More: This 100-Year-Old To-Do List Hack Works Like A Charm

4. Give Your Calendar A Check

While you’re in prioritization mode, give your calendar a gut check and make sure that any meetings you have scheduled for your first week back are absolutely necessary. If you’re struggling to decide, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will this meeting assist me in achieving my goals?
  • How does the purpose of the meeting align with my company’s strategic priorities?
  • What contribution can I make in the meeting?
  • Will anyone even notice if I’m not present?
  • Will this meeting be energizing, or will it suck the life right out of me?
  • Will this meeting be a rehash of the last five meetings I attended?
  • Is attending this meeting the highest and best use of my time right now?

If the answers are no, take that right off your calendar.

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Read More: Three Steps Toward More Efficient And Valuable Meetings

Coming back to work after the holidays can be a stressful, chaotic experience, but it doesn’t have to be. A little light administrative work before your vacation is officially over can save you hours of time and a good deal of anguish once you’re situated back at your desk.

Related Video: This CEO’s Trick At Getting To Inbox Zero

About the author

Lydia Dishman is a business journalist writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, commerce, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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