While taking breaks during the workday is a very important part of a productive work schedule, it can often be difficult to get back into a workflow once you’ve taken a break and returned to your desk.
Sometimes it can be difficult to pick up where we left off when we get back to work, having left tasks incomplete that required a consistent train of thought to get done. While it can be difficult to get back into it after taking a break, it’s important to develop the necessary skills to manage this transition, for example by organising your day so that certain tasks are completed in the morning, and some in the afternoon. How you organise your day obviously depends on your personal work rhythms and what you do for a living and figuring out what works best for you can also require some trial and error. However, by testing out different ways of managing your day, you can create a more effective work schedule that allows you to get the most out of your working hours, and not feel like it’s always a struggle to get back to work after you’ve taken some time out.
To make our workdays more enjoyable and productive, with ample time to re-energise, here are five tips to keep in mind when returning to work priorities after a break away:
1. Time Your Breaks
While we all know that we should take breaks during the day to be more productive, it’s important to be strategic about these breaks in order to be as effective as possible. It’s one thing to take a break when your mind feels like it needs a rest, but unless we can give some structure to our time off, we can make our days more complicated by taking random breaks, which can make it even more difficult to get back to work and address the priorities on our task-list. Research suggests that there is actually a very specific framework for break taking, which has led to the highest levels of productivity in certain organisations. This approach suggests that working for 52 minutes and then taking a break for 17 minutes is the most effective way to remain productive throughout the workday, which means that you also need to make an effort to time your breaks and set up alerts to remind you to take these breaks in the first place.
2. Get Away from Your Desk
It’s tempting to take breaks at your desk and mindlessly surf the internet, but doing this might not be the best way to rest and re-energise your brain. Research into productivity levels in the workplace suggest that actually getting up and moving around is the best way to take a break, as you’re allowing yourself to detach, which should give you the boost you need to get back into it when you return to your desk. Other research suggests that in fact, doing work related tasks during your breaks can be the most effective way to remain productive throughout the workday, and that using your breaks to help a colleague or write a to-do list can be a more effective way to increase productivity levels.
3. Make Realistic To-Do Lists
Most of us want to achieve as much as possible in a given workday, and write lengthy to-do lists with tasks that we aren’t always realistically able to achieve in a limited time frame. Depending on what you do for a living, being realistic about what you can do, and how long it will really take to complete a task, can be the best way to manage your work schedule more effectively. Sitting down and diving up your task lists into those that require the most attention to the least can empower you to focus your attention on the tasks that need to be done as soon as possible, and give you the perspective you need to work more effectively. With a very clear idea of what needs to be done, you can divide up your day into distinct work periods with breaks in between, which can make it much easier to return to those priorities after taking a break.
4. Prioritise Ruthlessly
Once again, while we may pride ourselves on our ability to write lists of things to do, being able to prioritise is a true skill that can make even the most daunting work schedule manageable. Research into productivity in the workplace suggests that instead of having a long list of things to do everyday, we should rather focus on three priorities, adding other tasks to an additional list throughout the day, and readjusting if necessary. If we have a very clear idea of what our priorities are, we can take breaks with the knowledge that everything is getting done, and allow these short reprieves to really inspire us to get back to work when we return to our desks.
5.Take Longer Breaks
When we’re anxious and stressed about getting things done, and feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to achieve everything we’ve set out to do, the thought of taking a vacation can be the most far-fetched thought possible. However, when looking at our work schedule from a more holistic perspective, both mini-breaks throughout the day and even longer vacations can be seen as an important part of a working career, with the idea that we can only be truly productive if we plan for necessary time out. Planning for a vacation has been shown to boost well-being even eight weeks prior to the trip, and knowing that we will have a chance to recharge could be the key to being able to slog away, with the knowledge that there is something to look forward to.
Making Managing Return to Work Priorities Practical
A lot of what we read about increasing productivity might be theoretical, and what works for some people might not work for everybody. The truth is, being able to return to work after a break and get back into a work rhythm requires discipline, but with the tips detailed above, this can be integrated into your current work schedule for maximum benefits. Paying attention to your overall well-being can also have a profound effect on your ability to work efficiently, in addition to the suggestions above. In short, constructive planning, being realistic about what you can achieve and being mindful of taking time to reboot can all contribute to an effective work schedule and being able to work efficiently throughout the day.