Quick productivity tips to help you get back to work after a summer holiday

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

The school holidays are coming to an end. You've just enjoyed a little time off. You're refreshed and relaxed but no matter how hard you try, you just can't get back into work mode.

It's a common dilemma. And not just for freelancers, either. Returning to our desks after a break can bring on a serious case of the post-holiday blues. And that spells disaster for our production levels.

So how do you get going again? What will be the thing to make you love your job list and tick those tasks off happily? I turned to the creative community on Twitter to see how they boost their productivity after a little summer holiday.

Start with a mini spring clean

You heard me. Clean that desk. Remove that clutter. Go through your shelves and drawers. Get organised to unleash the power of a "tidy desk, tidy mind" mentality. That way, you'll be ready to tackle your list of jobs you've been avoiding since you returned home.

Designer maker Jane Dzisiewski agrees: "Clearing out everything physically is like hitting the reboot button." A spring clean always gets me back into a routine.

Create a to-do list

Lists might not be for everyone but they can kickstart work. "I start by creating a to-list," says Ian Paget, founder of LogoGeek. "Actionable tasks that I can easily tick off. That way I start back feeling organised and can focus on making progress. Crossing things off the list, even small activities, makes you feel good too!"

Even better, have a list ready for your return

"For me, it's a case of planning those back-to-work tasks before going away," says copywriter Matt Ayres. "Once that's decided, I find it way easier to chill out and make the most of time off. Plus there's less time faffing about on returning, as you already know what needs doing."

Set yourself three manageable tasks

"They don't have to be big, they do have to be achievable," advises designer and 'pinball wizard' Ross Middleham. "It focuses the mind and allows room for thinking or embracing the other random stuff that inevitably crops up. And don't beat yourself up. Any progress is still progress."

Whatever you do, take a gentle approach

"Ease yourself back into a routine by doing something you enjoy first before you tackle all the irritating jobs that are waiting for you," says Marie Gardiner, a writer and photographer.

Debbie Clarke agrees: "Piano, piano as they say in Italy! Slowly, slowly! Ease yourself back in, don't feel you need to answer all those emails or hop back on the work train straight away. Work out where your focus is and plan out your day. Overwhelm is not the way to launch back in!"

Only look at your emails, do nothing else

"Don't rush into it, relax for a while, then start by doing the minors (like checking emails). No need to take any action yet, just check all you've missed. You can start responding to messages the next day and gradually go into the more important/major stuff," says designer and illustrator Sam Omo.

Avoid client work on the first day back

"Take an extra day 'off' from client work," says Creative Director Karen Arnott. "Catch up and plan/structure the following day/week. Set boundaries for yourself. Then leap in with renewed energy! Keep that energy going by ensuring you keep fit and healthy with breaks, exercise and nutritional food."

Freelance writer Laura Smith agrees: "Let yourself procrastinate with work tasks. I won't dive straight into client work but I'll 'mess around' by writing a blog post, updating my website, planning my social content, accounts, admin, etc, to get the feeling of being at work before I dive right in."

Tackle a side project instead

You could even start with something non-work related, like a side project. That's what Alan Richardson suggests: "Last year I did a design competition brief outside my work commitments when I came back from sunny Barcelona, I feel doing something creative/personal outside motivates me in my job."

Have something in progress

"I struggle to get back into the swing of things after a break," says Sara Rhys, an illustrator based in Somerset. "But what I’ve found helps me is leaving something (in my case, illustration) unfinished before I stop. I find it much easier to continue a piece than start a new one, and that gets me back in the groove!"

Reconnect with your network

"I like to have 'coffee chats' with close colleagues early in the morning on my first day back," says Madelene Rogers, a marketing strategist. "It allows me to quickly reconnect with work and get caught up mentally. Plus, being in the know helps me prioritise the to-do list that's already in my head."

Get out of the house

"If you don't have dedicated desk space somewhere (that is not your home), consider getting some," says Peter Drought. "Sometimes going out to work and coming home in the evening is a big advantage, not only in terms of productivity but also work-life balance, as it separates work from personal time."

Take some time for self-reflection

"Give yourself the time and space to plan and set new goals," says copywriter Sophie Livingston. What do you want to achieve in this next section of the year? When you know, it'll get you fired up again and help you figure out where to start."

"I leave the whole first morning for planning, dreaming and reorientation," says Emma Nuthall. "So I can get inspired by work again, rather than feeling the deadline dread straight away."

Leave room for ideas

I don't know about you, but holidays always give me the headspace for new ideas. I come home full of them. Photographer Simon Bray suffers from the same affliction: "For me, the breaks are when the ideas come...so I leave space to cultivate those and allow myself to find a way to make a start with something new before digging in to all those pre-existing tasks and they squash those new ambitions out of the way!"

Bring a little of the holiday home

"Introduce one thing from hols into your life to remind you why it's important to take a break: a new object for your desk, a nice print or an action," remarks designer Berenice Smith.

I'd also recommend playing some music from whichever holiday destination you've come from – it'll keep the holiday spirit going, beating those post-holiday blues. Oh, and start planning for your next break! It'll give you the extra motivation to crack on!