In January of this year, I found myself still in the stage of re-entry from the holidays, well after I would have usually been fully back into the swing of things.
I did my best to not couch that as a negative thing, or be critical of myself. I let myself take the time I obviously needed, returning at my own pace instead of some arbitrary schedule. But I still found it interesting. Most of my professional life I’ve focused mostly on the stopping work stage; I haven’t given much thought to how I re-enter.
Why do we need re-entry time between downtime and returning to a full schedule? And why did I need more time after this particular break from work? I realized it was because I wanted to re-enter differently.
Downtime gives us the chance to ask, do we want to do things exactly the same way we were doing before we left? Or are there things we want to change?
In December I had struggled to stop working, to set things aside and do a full stop. Part of that was realizing how much more I was doing than I thought. I didn’t like the pace I’d been at, especially because it was so hard to set down the workload I’d accumulated. One worry was that if I slowed down or stopped, I wouldn’t ever start again. Have you ever had that thought?
So as I re-entered my work life, I was making a conscious decision to not let that same workload build up. That meant giving myself permission to take that extra time and extra care.
Think of it this way: There are many ways to get into a pool. You can do a cannonball off the diving board into the deep end, or you can also dip your toes into the kiddy pool. Either one gets you there.
So once you’ve decided to give yourself time to re-enter more mindfully, just how do you do that?
Here are a couple of things I tried:
- Protect your time. I blocked out some extra sections on my calendar so I could really ease back in. That meant that people using my online booking system had fewer slots to choose from, and had to wait longer for us to speak. And they pushed back. Some people asked me to make time for them sooner. And like a broken record, I pointed them back to my online calendar.
- Question urgency. Many things may seem urgent, both to us and to others, but often that’s not the whole truth. One person said they need to speak to me sooner because their issue was urgent. I asked for more details, and it certainly wasn’t, at least not to me. Pausing to question urgency will be helpful for both you and the other person, even though it might not be comfortable or appreciated at the time.
- Be realistic. I’m also learning that while I can buy into the myth that I can do lots of things well, the reality is I can do a lot of things passably. But if I make just a couple of things my top priorities, that work can go extremely well and bring about the outcome I want.
Re-entry after downtime can be a wonderful opportunity to slow down and re-assess our priorities. We just need to give ourselves the permission and time.