7 Steps to Catch up Quickly after a Break

I took my first break in ages — that didn’t include an illness or a holiday — for a few days last week for spring break. We went to San Marcos and San Antonio and visited Wonderworld, Sea World, and the Riverwalk.

Wonderworld contains a dry cave created by an earthquake on the Balcones Fault Zone over 35 million years ago. The web site’s tour information only documents part of its fascinating history.

Though we took a laptop and our smartphones, I rarely checked e-mail (!!!) and returned to over 1000 messages. Of course, spam made up the bulk of the messages. So I downloaded my email and went to work elsewhere while the email client filtered the garbage. Much better.

Unfortunately, Google Mail went bonkers. Once in awhile, Gmail sends spam into the inbox instead of the spam and trash folders. It decided to do that while I wasn’t checking e-mail. This created more clean up work.
Several clients went on an emailing binge (it happens, and that’s OK).

Rather than making the client wait for me to wade through the messages to get up to speed on the conversations — I sent the client a quick e-mail saying I’ve returned and would address the messages as I work through them. I suggested that they let me know if something needs top priority.

The steps for catching up quickly…

  1. Download e-mail in your primary e-mail client. Let its experienced filters do the cleaning up. Skip any temptation to use the cell phone or another non-primary e-mail client to catch up on email or else you’re stuck looking at a lot of unfiltered stuff and it takes longer to do this than on your primary e-mail client.
  2. Scan e-mail quickly filing or deleting newsletters and regular e-mails you only read when you’re caught up or work is slower than usual. Newsletters I subscribe to fall into two categories: Always read/scan (shortest list) and sometimes read/scan (these either get filed or deleted). When returning from a break, I don’t read or scan the “sometimes.”
  3. Reply to quick e-mails. Some e-mails may just involve answering a few questions or doing a quick task. Do them and then file/delete the e-mail. This further cleans the e-mail clutter and makes you feel better because your inbox shrinks.
  4. Complete bite-sized tasks for each project or client. On the first day back at work, I did bite-sized work for my regular clients rather than only complete work for one or two clients. It’s a way to get something done and touch base with all of them without feeling overwhelmed. Plus, checking off the tasks as completed gives you a sense of accomplishment. I also skipped blogging.
  5. Skip administrative work. No balancing the checkbook or doing other business maintenance activities. Those can wait until you settle back in your routine unless you returned on tax day.
  6. Skip personal tasks. I have a birthday party to plan, but I skipped personal stuff on the first day back at work (this could be a problem for those who wait until the last minute).
  7. Limit meetings and appointments. I had a prior commitment on the first day back that couldn’t be avoided, but I sacrificed a non-profit organization meeting today.

Though I still have plenty of work to do, I feel better knowing I’ve touched base with my regular clients and cleaned my inbox.

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