A month ago, I wrote about how you can take a relaxing vacation. But as the calendar shifts from August to September, vacation season is coming to an end for most of us. Fortunately, going back to work doesn’t have to mean going back to the same old grind. Here are some tips for finding a new, better rhythm when you head back to work.

Set Better Goals

In my experience, many people set their work-related goals the wrong way. They ask themselves, “what am I best at?” and “what do I like doing?” While the answers to these questions certainly matter, they’re only part of the story. You should think beyond the “supply side”—what you want to do and what you are best at doing. You must also consider the “demand side”—what the world, your organization, or your unit needs most from you.

For instance, in my career as an executive at several mutual fund companies, many brilliant analysts came to me with their plans to start new, exotic mutual funds. While their ideas were always fascinating, I usually directed these analysts to focus on maintaining the performance of our existing mutual funds—our company’s highest priority.

Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with creativity. Indeed, some organizations need their employees to take risks and be creative, even if that is outside their comfort zone. The point is simple: your organization’s particular needs—whatever they are—should heavily influence the goals that you set.

Manage Up

At all levels of your organization, your boss will be under pressure from above—maybe, to cut costs, or perhaps to expand globally. When considering how you can be most useful to your organization, you should keep your boss’s own pressures in mind. In general, if your boss gives special weight to a particular goal, you should too.

(Of course, if you work for a “bad boss,” you probably won’t want to go along with him or her: here are some tips for dealing with this situation.)

More generally, you should consider “managing up” to be a critical goal in its own right. You’re unlikely to be very productive (or very happy!) if you don’t have a mutually beneficial relationship with your boss.

So make an effort to do your work in a way that’s compatible with your boss’s personality and habits. As a simple example, you can match your boss’s communication style: if he or she tends to communicate through email, that probably reflects his or her preferred method of incoming communication as well. In a broader manner, use your interpersonal skills to learn to anticipate what your boss wants.

Establish a Solid Routine

Put bluntly, professionals can’t be at their best if they regularly sleep less than 7-8 hours each night. They might be able to spend more time at the office by burning the midnight oil, but in my experience, they’re often too tired to actually get much done.

Likewise, professionals might skip their regular workout in order to stay in the office a little longer. However, a short workout session is a good investment of time: it will leave you feeling happier and more energized for the rest of the day.

So, for your health and your productivity, you should commit to a daily routine that allows you to sleep eight hours and exercise nearly every day. Schedule your workouts around the same time every day, and try to sleep during a particular eight-hour window (for example, from 10:30pm to 6:30am each night). Over time, this schedule will help your body and mind get “ready” for each activity.

After a fun vacation, going back to work can be a drag. But by setting better goals, managing your boss, and fitting sleep and exercise into your daily routine, you can establish a better, more pleasant rhythm—both at home and at work.

(Photo credit: Drumstick on Cymbal via Shutterstock)

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