A lot of you go back to work today after a break. Whether you return from a long weekend, a summer vacation, or extended time “on the beach”, there are three things you can do to optimize your return: 1) Leverage the broader perspective you gained on your break. 2) Re-engage with and re-start the most pressing priorities. 3) Get ahead of the curve on longer-term priorities.

Leverage your broader perspective

Many of you were on paid time off. If so, your employers thought it was in their best interest for you to take time off. They invested in you. They were less concerned about the immediate benefits to you of resting, reconnecting with your family and playing than they were about the benefits to them of your coming back rejuvenated. Their expectation is that by disengaging for a period of time, you were able to step back and look at yourselves, your teams and your organizations with fresh eyes.

(By the way if you’re not excited about coming back to work after your break, you have to ask yourself if you should be finding somewhere else to go back to that you’re going to be more excited about. But that’s for a different article.)

That wonderful, rested, relaxed and content feeling is going to vanish within moments of reengaging with the day-to-day stress of your work. You know that. That’s why it’s so important to stop right now and memorialize the most important of your break thoughts.

  • What really matters? Remember what you really care about in general and how your organization and role allow you to contribute to that.
  • What are the few, critical priorities? Focus. Focus. Focus. At this moment you know what’s really going to make the biggest impact. Remember those one, two or three things. Write them down and discipline yourself and your teams to drive them first.
  • What’s in the way? Every minute you spend on anything other than those few, critical priorities is a waste of time and energy. You didn’t worry about them on your break. Don’t let them steal your time and energy now.

Re-engage with and re-start the most pressing priorities.

It’s September. You’ve got four months left to deliver your 2019 goals. Some of the few, critical priorities you just thought about are going to help you this year. Deal with those first.

Guess what. You weren’t the only one on break. Others took time off as well. Some of them took time off without even leaving the office.

That means one of your very first tasks is going to be pulling your team together to re-calibrate what’s going to get done by whom by when to deliver your 2019 goals. Of course, you want to take a moment to reconnect personally and hear about their breaks. Schedule a sixty-minute meeting and let them wax on eloquently about their various adventures for the first three minutes. Then use the remaining fifty-seven minutes to get down to business. (Those of you that know me, know I mean every word of this paragraph.)

Get ahead of the curve on longer-term priorities

This is the real benefit of taking a break. Somewhere deep in your subconscious you always knew what mattered most. Reaffirming over a break is nice. You probably lost momentum on some of your most pressing priorities over the break and have to re-start them. But pausing to accelerate your thinking and progress on longer-term priorities may not have happened without the break.

Now that you’ve reaffirmed what those longer-term priorities are, take advantage of this moment to get ahead of the curve. The specifics will be different for each of you.

  • Some will start bouncing your ideas off others to see what sticks.
  • Some will get others to start working some of your hypotheses.
  • Some will put in place processes to get your organizations to start thinking differently about the future.

Whichever you approach you choose, don’t let the moment pass. Get going.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.