TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Recover from a 3-Day Weekend

Three-day weekends are awesome, but here’s the rub: Going back to work today, many of us probably feel about as motivated as a deflated beach ball. It’s understandable that your mind might still be in vacation mode, but it’s not inevitable that your first day back is spent scrolling through pictures of your barbecue on Facebook or perusing celebrity gossip blogs.

For the best advice, we asked bosses how they do it. Here are the top tips from company owners and managers for jump-starting a post-holiday week.

Start early. Since you’re just putting off the inevitable anyway, give yourself a leg up with a head start. “Try and go in a few hours early on your first day and catch up prior to the actual start of the day,” says Andrea Keating, founder and CEO of video production company Crews Control.

Make a plan. Having a to-do list is never a bad idea, but on the first day back after a holiday, it’s especially helpful to keep you mentally focused. “Spend 10 to 15 minutes at the beginning of the day mapping out your desired accomplishments, [and] prioritize the tasks that are most important,” suggests Kimberly Stiener-Murphy, a branch manager at staffing company Accountemps. If your attention starts to drift, the list will help keep you on track.

But don’t start with email. Wading through all your email first thing is just going to bog you down, says Gay Gaddis, who heads up marketing technology company T-3. “I think the biggest mistake someone can make in the morning after a long weekend is to sit at his or her computer and respond to emails because it doesn’t set a good pace for the rest of the day,” she says. You’re relaxed, you’re refreshed — take advantage of that momentum by tackling something that requires action. Plowing through a list of cold calls, setting up a conference room for an upcoming meeting or teaching a new employee how to do something are all good candidates.

Skip the holiday playback. “Reserve water cooler chatter for lunchtime,” Stiener-Murphy advises. “Conversations about the holiday weekend will abound, but try to postpone them until lunch,” she says. Getting sucked into trading stories about what you did over the long weekend will just make it harder to get back into work mode.

Indulge your creativity. Since science has proven that nice weather makes workers more distracted, ease back into the swing of things with more creative or group projects. Collaborative work and projects that require some imagination both benefit from the more stream-of-consciousness frame of mind you might be in on your first post-holiday workday. “Identify the project or initiative that you are most passionate about,” Keating says. Then take whatever next step you need to get the creative juices flowing, whether it’s convening a brainstorming session or heading up a team meeting.

Fix your attitude. We know — yesterday you were on the beach, and today you’re stuck in a cubicle in front of a screen. But try not to resent it, advises Allison O’Kelly, who founded and runs Mom Corps, a staffing and career development company. “We often think of work and the rest of our lives as opposing forces, which makes it hard to get back into a ‘work’ frame of mind after a holiday,” she says. So even if it takes some mental gymnastics, try to adjust your outlook. “You’ll have a better sense of your priorities,” she says.

Next time, plan ahead. Ideally, you should start laying the groundwork for your return before you head out the door on your last day. “Do your re-entry prep before you leave,” Keating suggests. Send out emails early, so you can get back to anybody who responds immediately that day — it will cut down on the number of email responses you have to tackle when you return, she says. And use your out-of-office messages to buy yourself a little extra time. “If possible, put your out of office message to say you will be back in the office after 1 p.m. on your first day back. This will give you an extra morning to prioritize and respond to emails,” she says.

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