I returned home during the Christmas holidays from visiting my son in New York City. He and I had a marvelous time but what caught my attention was the incredible lack of traffic on the parkway back to LaGuardia Airport and how empty the L train was coming back from Midway, even though normally both are jammed during the evening commute.
This told me that people were taking time off during the holiday and while that’s a wonderful thing for all involved, it’s also less frequent. Studies have shown that Americans are leaving 222 million vacation days unused or forfeited and that 55% of all employees who received vacations left something on the table.
I’ve heard many complain that the fear of coming back to a huge backlog of work is a major stress unto itself. In my previous post about post vacation mojo, I spoke specifically about how to be both more effective and efficient. I would encourage you to review it.
But for all of you who are anticipating your return to your jobs, I would like to encourage you to consider these critical steps to assisting you in not only getting, but consistently maintaining your work mojo.
1. Identify your daily top three areas of focus
Before you sit down to work on any day, be sure that you have identified the top three areas you should be targeting some significant energy to on that particular day. It’s helpful to do this the day before and to also consider how much time you might wish to spend on each. Establish targets.
I like to-do lists but a long list is really just a brain dump of ideas and tasks. These three items should be higher order and you are hoping to be able to make noticeable progress for each of the three areas.
2. Question everything
I am not suggesting that you become a professional skeptic, but at least to yourself, engage in the following personal calculus:
- Is there clarity about the goal and current plans?
- Is the goal realistic?
- Is the payoff for accomplishing this goal still meaningful and relevant for everyone involved?
- How does this benefit me, my team and the organization?
If you hesitate on being able to answer any of these questions in a positive and convincing manner, perhaps you should ask if you and / or the organization should still be working on it.
3. What will I say “NO” to
We’ve all gotten sucked into various projects and committees that, upon reflection, seem like:
- Tremendous wastes of time due to poor leadership on the part of others;
- No longer directly relevant to your areas of interest or focus;
- Simply less critical than other areas in terms of your personal growth and performance.
If so, are you willing to take a stand and graciously disengage yourself from at least one of these commitments per quarter? This is not a lot but will free up time and enhance your confidence that your focus is where it needs to be… and help you to be more assertive about saying “No” more easily.
- Can I commit to identifying three areas of focus for each day?
- Will I engage in the personal calculus needed to ensure that I am working on the right things?
- Am I willing to say “No” to at least one project, committee or meeting per quarter?
If you’re willing to do so, please let me know if this has enhanced your post vacation mojo.