10 Tips for Your First Day Back at Work


Returning to work is never easy when you’ve been gone. It doesn’t matter if you were on maternity leave, you left to raise your kids, you went on a vacation or you just started a new job; going back to work is a chore no matter how long you’ve been gone. I mean, I think we can all agree on that one Monday mornings, right? The good news is that the first day back to work after any length of time off can be productive and peaceful, and it does not have to be the crazy disaster that so many people expect it to be. Whether you are nervous about getting back into the swing of things or just nervous that you might have no time to get everything done, I have some amazing tips that will help you get back to work after any length of time off.

Working from home, you’d think that the weeks would be easier on me, but they’re not. I struggle every single day to divide my home life and my work life, and those schedules. Add four kids (two of whom are 1.5 year-old twins that are home with me all day) to the mix, and you get a little bit of craziness. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a regular Monday after a relaxing weekend or a Monday after a long vacation, getting back into my office takes a little skill, dedication and motivation. Over the past 7 years, though, I’ve gotten pretty good at it, and I find that it’s made me more productive and more able to do what I need to do when returning to work. So here are my (pretty darn good) tips for going back to work.

Prepare the night before

No matter how long you’ve been out of the office, planning ahead the night before makes going back that much simpler. We do this every night, even though I work from home. I clean off my desk, set it up the way that I like, lay out my clothes (and the kids’ clothes and lunches and school supplies) and have everything ready to go by the time the morning rolls around. It eases some of my morning stress, especially on a Monday, and makes life that much simpler.

Get some sleep

Adequate rest is imperative when it comes to functioning and being as productive as possible. Aim for at least 7 hours, but try for more like 8 hours sleep if you can get it. This is going to recharge your imaginary batteries and make you more productive, more alert and more prepared for that the day has in store for you.

Get up early

I find that waking up at 5 am is the best way for me to prepare for a day ahead. I shower, work until 6, drink my coffee in the peace and quiet while the kids are still sleeping, do my hair and makeup at 6:30 and wake the kids at 7 to get them ready. This gives me plenty of time before we have to leave at 8:30 to get everything accomplished and handled so that we aren’t rushing, late, panicked or stressed. It also gives me time to get the house back in order after the morning chaos so that when I return from dropping my kids off at school, I can get straight to work.

Work out

Nothing motivates me in the morning like a fresh workout, even if it’s just a few minutes worth of yoga before I hop in the shower. I don’t really have the time to do a full workout in the mornings, so I save mine for later in the day. But, even just some stretches, a walk or a little bit of yoga helps me to relax and it helps to energize me and get me ready for the day ahead, all at the same time.

Make a list

This is so important. I live by my lists; I need to know what I have to do during the day, I need to be able to check things off and I need to be able to see what’s in store for me. It helps keep me more organized and on track, and that’s what I need in my life and in my work day.


What’s most important? What’s least important? What’s in store for me today that has to be done first? Sometimes the way I prioritize does not make sense to others, but it makes me feel calm. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting just one article written before I take the kids to school so that I feel less anxious about the number I have to write when I get home. That’s how I prioritize, so you should do the same; whatever makes you most comfortable.

Tackle one difficult task first

Like anyone that has a job or a life, I have things that I enjoy more than others, and things that I don’t enjoy very much at all. I like to tackle at least one of the things I don’t want to do throughout the day first so that it’s done, over with and out of my mind. It leaves the rest of the day feeling a lot more doable and enjoyable.

Tackle a bunch of simple tasks next

And then there are days like today when I have to write 17 articles, book airline tickets for my parents to go with us to see my 97-year-old grandmother for a long weekend next month, cancel two checks I wrote and mailed twice and then paid online once (I mean, this is why I have to write things down because I do things like think I lost a bill and write a check, mail it and then realize that I’d already written the check and mailed it and then my husband paid it online! Who has to pay one $748 bill THREE TIMES?) before they clear and we spend months working on a reimbursement from this particular company, I have to balance my checkbook since I’ve been neglecting that task for a month and have 727467458 receipts that need my attention, and I have to repack the baby’s diaper bag for our dinner plans tonight, lay out clothes for everyone for tomorrow, get lunches packed for tomorrow and do two loads of laundry.

Sometimes I feel better just by crossing off a bunch of simple things all at once so that I seem like I’m getting things accomplished. So, I did all the little things, crossed them off and made myself feel much more accomplished. Now my day is much more relaxing – in my mind.

Take a break

We all need a mental break. You might not want to take one because it seems counter-productive, but take one. It’s going to help you refocus your energy, reenergize you and make the rest of the day more productive. I work the hardest when the babies nap for three hours during the day, trying very hard to accomplish as much as possible in that time frame, but sometime I feel myself typing too fast and making more mistakes than progress, I find my mind wandering and I cannot focus. That means I have got to take 15 minutes to have a water or a coffee and sit on my porch and just enjoy that time. I always feel better when I’m back in my office.

Plan something to look forward to

On a particularly rough first day back to work (a Monday after a long weekend or vacation) I like to plan something fun to look forward to, even if it’s just a trip to our friend’s frozen yogurt shop with the kids. It makes the day seem so much more enjoyable.

Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images for O2


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