Another summer is over, despite what your thermometer might be suggesting. It’s true. As you read this, the working season will be picking up in earnest, and even the most sluggish of bureaucracies will at least be putting up the pretense of working hard. It is when almost everyone is back from vacation, making an effort to paint a little smile across their face, illuminated faintly by the artificially white light of a computer screen. Some will be brushing up on their PowerPoint, and getting ready to enthusiastically make presentations before glazed faces that stare at them with the fading memories of beaches, mountains and an 11 o’clock breakfast time.
Getting back into the rhythm of work will feel like trying to run through thick syrup while shackled with concrete. It does not, however, have to be this way; getting back to work does not have to be the worst time of the year; there are things you can do to make the transition easier, if not entirely without turbulence.
Ease Into It
When you get back to the office you might feel that you are obligated to make a running start, that you have to keep up a certain pace, almost as if to make up for the time you spent away from your desk; there is an almost subconscious feeling of guilt that pervades our collective behavior at this juncture, making us work at a pace that will do nothing if not burn us out. This inevitably compounds the negative feelings of annoyance associated with the return to the workplace.
Consider instead easing back into the swing of things rather than leaping back into the fray, in the same way that you would take a few days to warm your body up after a long period of not working out and then discovering that yearlong gym membership card at the bottom of your wallet. Jumping back into the same rhythm you were keeping before the vacation will increase the risk of metaphorically pulling your mental tendons.
Don’t Get Hung Up
The best way to rub salt in the wound at eight in the morning as you navigate traffic on your way to work, is to hang on to the memory of waking up at 10:30am to the sound of birds chirping and gently taking in the day where your most difficult decision will be choosing between a heavy breakfast and a light lunch.
Hanging on to the reverie of vacation days past is an excellent way to make everything more difficult in the office. The computer will not start up at the speed of light? It is a cosmic conspiracy against you. The printer ran out of ink? It is all set up to make you look bad in front of your bosses. Everything is a willful act apparently designed to make you feel worse about your day.
So stop with the pointless self-inflicted pain, and pay attention to what you are doing. Getting hung up on the vacation will achieve two things, namely the hindrance of your performance and exacerbating your feelings of dread at walking into an enclosed space at first light. Focus on the task at hand to gradually build your tolerance to an increasing work load, and eventually reestablish your pre-vacation rhythms, without overloading yourself.
You’re Not a Prisoner
Prisoners tend to keep time in relation to the date of their release, counting downwards towards their eventual freedom. Thinking of time in smaller chunks and breaking it down to weeks, days, and months is an important coping mechanism that substitutes their lack of control over their circumstances. If you find yourself counting down the days between vacations, your mental approach to your job might have more in common with the mindset of a prisoner than you think, which is counterproductive at best, and downright depressing otherwise.
Yes, yes, if you had a choice you would not be typing away or designing presentations. We’ve been over that. You do however need to fund your enjoyment, and unless you find the fabled golden goose, your job will continue to play a key role in funding your lifestyle; remember that at least you have the freedom to quit if the job becomes unbearable, a luxury not afforded to the average prisoner.
And Back Again
Let’s not kid ourselves, if we could do what we wanted all the time we would never walk back into the office. You work hard. You put in the time and hopefully make some money while you do so. It will all have been worth it on that day when you walk out the door with the full knowledge that you will not lay eyes upon your desk for at least ten days.