Getting up this morning was tough.

It's great to have had all that time with friends and family, but it doesn't make day one back on the job any easier. Of course, neither does complaining or feeling sorry for yourself.

Wouldn't it be great to look back at that first day's return to work, and think: "Wow, that was a great day"?

I spoke about this recently with Kevin Kruse, whose book I just finished reading: 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management. As a serial entrepreneur and author of several best-sellers, Kevin knows a bit about managing time. Additionally, he interviewed hundreds of people for the book, including billionaires, famous entrepreneurs, and elite athletes.

Here are my three favorite takeaways, which I hope will help you have a great first day back at work:

1. Establish your MIT.

Kruse strongly asserts that to achieve peak productivity, you must identify your "Most Important Task".

He explains:

"The key to your productivity all comes down to understanding what is most important to you--and what activity will provide the greatest leverage to getting there--right now."

This is especially useful when coming back to work after a long break: There are so many emails to check, so many things to double-check, so many projects to follow up, that it's easy to get overwhelmed.

But this mindset provides a singular focus. Sure, you could be working on any of those things--but there's only one M.I.T. Identify it, and you can be sure you're using your time in the best way possible.

Remember: One thing at a time. Identify your M.I.T. and work hard to knock it out. Then, move on to the next one.

2. Clean your email slate.

Chances are, you're coming back to hundreds, if not thousands, of emails. (Don't these people go on vacation?) But Kruse gives a tip that will quickly get you to inbox zero.

He calls it: Email bankruptcy.

First step, identify all emails that arrived 48 hours before your holiday began until now.

Next, create a folder called "Old Emails". Then, take every email before that 48 hour mark, and move them into that folder. Presto! You're starting with a clean slate (almost).

Kruse explains:

"Is this sort of cheating? Maybe. Couldn't you just archive all your emails instead of creating a new folder? Yes. But this doesn't give you any type of fresh start. Chances are, if you completely deleted all of your old emails the effect would be negligible. You would probably never even look at most emails from over a year ago. And in the rare case that there is extremely important information that you do need again, most likely there is another way to retrieve that information.

Consider [the "Old Emails" folder] an insurance policy, an extremely large junk drawer that you can go through if needed."

Of course, you can revisit the "Old Email" folder once you've caught up. This is just an organized way of making the task more manageable. 

Finally, go back to all the emails from 48 hours before your vacation until now, and do one of the following:

  • If you can answer or act on it in less than five minutes, do so.
  • If you need to delegate, forward it. (A short summary from you can help keep the recipient from thinking you're a jerk.)
  • If it's better to defer, move the mail into a folder or tab with a reminder.
  • Don't need it? Delete it.

Set a timer if possible; you'll be more productive if you have a deadline. (Of course, depending on the number of emails you have, you may need to split this task over the course of the week.)

Clear that email slate and make 2016 the year of inbox zero.

 

3. Go home at 5:30.

As a recovering workaholic, this is by far my favorite tip from the book.

Kruse notes how Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg leaves work at 5:30 p.m. every day so she can have dinner with her kids at 6:00. Of course, Sandberg wants to maximize the success of Facebook, but the success of her relationship with her children is even more important.

As Kruse puts it:

"There will always be more to do, and always more than can be done...Super successful people don't just burn hour after hour trying to cross more items off their task list. Instead, they think through their priorities, scheduling time for each.

Once time is up, they realize: Enough is enough."

For you, it may not be 5:30; it might be 5:00. Or maybe it's 6:30. The point is, make a clean break.

And I love Kevin's suggestion to take a prioritized action, even if it's simply going home to your family, and treat it like a doctor's appointment. It's non-negotiable.

As each of you begin the new year, I wish everyone a productive and joyful first day at work...And many more to come.

Published on: Jan 4, 2016
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