How To Get Your Groove Back After A Break

Whoever said that vacation was refreshing, probably didn't have kids. Or, they vacationed without them.

After a fun, two week Spring Break with kids, I greeted my desk grappling with a serious vacation hangover.

I was a tired, drained, and zoned-out zombie.

And I had a crap-ton of stuff to do.

A New Normal: Not Getting Things Done

I’ll admit that I am a getting-things-done kind of gal.

I love creating to-do lists and slaying each check box. In this mode, I get a satisfied, serotonin-fueled buzz as though I'm chewing on a chocolate bar.

At the end of the day, if I can tear off a completed to-do list and toss it, I have had an excellent day.

Unfortunately, my ability to do this after vacation was lacking.

My groove and I went on Spring Break but only one of us returned. (tweet that!)

Four Tips For Reclaiming Your Groove

It took time and energy to experiment with how to get myself going again, but I got my groove back.

It was not easy, but by following these four tips I’m getting things done again. Next time around, I’ll get restarted even sooner.

1.     Recognize Where You Are. For me, this meant simply admitting that I was pretty exhausted  which was weird since I was just on vacation. But, I was a solo-parent for an extended stretch and the trip home took eighteen hours.

No wonder I was so drained.

Yet, I was pressuring myself to produce, to check off my to-do list, to make calls and more.

One of the best ways to recognize where you are is to reflect and check in. I normally do this by journaling daily (you may do something different). The bummer is I had gotten away from this while on break.

Besides no "me" time, all routines (like exercise) also went out the window. Yet, now I see the importance of staying anchored to self-reflective activities. Especially while on vacation. Maybe even more so. (It should come as no surprise that my fledgling meditation practice also went out the window.)

2.     Lower Your Bar. You may be thinking, “Are you kidding me? No way.” And, frankly, I’d be with you.

But, if we are going to return more quickly to a satisfactory level of productivity, we have to remember that in the days leading up to vacation, we likely were in a highly productive mode. Bust your butt so you can take a break, right?

And, then 24/7 with young kids... (for us parents, anyway)

It’s no wonder that we are exhausted after a return from “vacation.”

Lower your bar. By doing so, you give yourself permission to meet yourself exactly where you are (tip #1). Not where you were the previous week, or wherever it was when you were in a higher state of productivity.

Remember, too, that lowering your bar is meant to be a short-term strategy. The point is to be flexible. Match “what has to happen” with “who you are” on any given day.

3.     Set Conditions of “Enough.” When returning to work after time off, it’s easy to tell ourselves we “should” be doing this or “should” be doing that. This is when the inner critic comes at us with a stick. By setting a condition of “enough” we shield ourselves from that voice that loves to tell us we should be doing more.

“Enough” might look like this: First, prioritize your to-do list. Next, pick your highest priority activity to complete. Break it down into smaller chunks. Then, set a time limit for each of the smaller chunks. (I’ve written before about the Pomodoro Technique which may also help to set conditions of enough.)

For some of us, how things get done before vacation looks like something else after vacation.

Here’s what I mean: Before vacation “write blog post” was something I could do in one step. But, after vacation (and after not writing at all), cranking out a blog post was going to take more steps. By breaking it down it looked more like “pick a topic,” “outline post,” “write headline,” etc. And that was okay. It began with recognizing where I was, after all.

4.     Declare Satisfaction. There is no better time to be kind to yourself than in moments like these. Moments where your best accomplishment might be only getting one thing done or picking yourself up off the ground. Or, simply making yourself a green smoothie.

The most important thing is to move forward -- even if it’s at a pace that feels slow -– and being good with it.

Treating yourself with compassion is a great way to allow the next day to bring even more possibility for gaining momentum.

One Important Lesson

I also learned something super-important from this struggle to reclaim my groove.

I’m a big fan of taking breaks to refill the creative well. At the same time, I now recognize how important it is to maintain some aspect of habits or routines even while on vacation.  The key here is “aspect.” In other words, doing a little bit.

Take writing, for example. If I had written a little every day, I probably would have been able to maintain my blogging schedule. Yet, I didn't so I didn't.

Instead, I took a carefully constructed habit and removed it entirely from my daily routine.  And, restarting my writing routine has been incredibly difficult.

Gretchen Rubin, one of my favorite influencers, has collected her thoughts and others’ on this topic of doing a little bit of work every day:

·      Before and After: Do a Little Work, Every Single Day. (guest post from Caroline McGraw)

·      Why I Try To Do Some Things Every Day, Without Exception.

·      Your Happiness Project: Do Something EVERY DAY.

So, there you have it: tips for restarting and getting your groove back and one major lesson learned.

What would you add to this post? Please share in the comments. Thanks!

Photo credit: Dominik Qn