It’s been three weeks since I returned to my job after being away for close to 15 months. The time’s truly flown, but I must admit in the weeks leading up to my ‘start back’ date, I got really nervous. There’d been some major changes in my office while I’d been away and I also wondered if I’d lost my knack as a journalist…
The first week back was nice and slow. I had time to delete the 8000 odd emails that had accrued in my inbox, old contacts were keen to catch up, I remembered most of the buttons I needed to press to make myself go to air and words flowed easily from my mind, to my fingers and onto the screen of my computer. It felt good to be back.
I want to use my career break to my advantage though. I’m trying not to fall back into bad habits and want to create a good work/life balance for myself, so I’m doing a few things to try and make sure that happens:
Creating a work space I want to be in
I’m one of those millions of people around the world who works at a cubicle desk. It’s an office standard grey / pine veneer setup, under fluorescent lights, with next to no natural light. As much as I’d love it to be one of Pinterest perfect desks, overlooking an amazing view, it’s not. I gave it a deep clean and removed everything off it (bar my computer and phone) so I could start afresh. I bought myself some matching organisers to store files, pens and notebooks and removed all the bits of paper with phone numbers sticky-taped to my cubicle’s wall and organised them into a folder that’s within easy reach. I bought myself a cute notepad to write daily tasks on, have a special mug to drink my tea out of and a brightly coloured water bottle. Over the next few weeks I want to find a plant to live on my desk (recommendations welcome!) and frame a nice picture of Adam and I. I want it to be an organised space that’s functional as well as personal.
Taking a lunch break
I think we can all admit to eating lunch at our desks at one time or the other. I often used to tell myself I was too busy to take a break. Although I’d eat, I wouldn’t switch off, jumping from one window to the next on my computer and taking phone calls with a mouth full of food. I’d get home exhausted and lethargic. When I walk away from my desk I can switch off better. I can eat uninterrupted. I’m lucky enough to live close enough to work that I can slip home in my lunch break. Or if I eat at work, I make sure I go and sit at our picnic table outside. The fresh air does wonders and sometimes I’m even able to squeeze in a little walk, a phone call to a friend, or a moment or two to just to think about something other than work. I come back afterwards feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the next task, not resentful of the hours left to tick by until home time.
Leaving on time
This can often be a hard one, but for me I think it really comes down to be an effective and efficient time manager. Some days I will work back because something unexpected or big is happening and it needs to be dealt with, and that’s fine. Before I took my career break though, I’d end up working back because I hadn’t set myself up for a productive work day. I’d give myself an unachievable to-do list, not ask for help when I should’ve or faffed around on internet when I should’ve been doing something else. Now I’m trying to set myself up each day with a prioritised list of jobs to do, tackling the most important things first. I’m not taking on more than I can handle and I’m still allowing myself that Instagram browse, but only after I’ve finished a task and for no longer than a few minutes. I use it like a reward: it gives my brain the rest it needs, but doesn’t become a distraction from the work at hand.
Have you ever taken an extended break from work? Did your working style change after your returned? And what did you do to make the transition back to work easier? I’d love to know!