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Shifting Back Into Gear: Coming Back From Something Big

Shifting Back Into Gear: Coming Back From Something Big

    In our lives, we face small problems and big problems. Small problems can be easily dealt with: if you’ve got some sort of productivity system already in place, a minor issue is nothing more than a bump in the road. But what about the big problems? What about the stuff that throws off weeks, rather than days? Or the stuff that takes you away from your system for a month? We’re talking about the major illness, out of the office for a month level of stuff happening.

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    Coming back from just a few days outside of your normal routine is tough. But once you’re measuring the time you’ve been out of things in weeks, it can seem absolutely impossible to get back into gear. I think it may even be worse if you used to have a system like GTD in place. I know that I’ve looked at a month’s worth of mail and paperwork before and wondered how the heck I was going to get all of that processed into tasks I could actually get my head around, especially since now that I was back on the job the boss expected me to get some ‘real’ work done. There are a number of approaches you can take, though:

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    1. Ignore the Entire Pile — For a long time, I was an advocate of ignoring everything that had built up during a long absence. I would file everything in the trash bin, send out word that I’d ‘lost’ everything and ask people to resend items. I could usually get back into the swing of things as things came in at a more regular pace, rather than appearing in a pile on my desk. Just like with email bankruptcy, you might wonder if you’ll miss anything important, but other people are surprisingly diligent about whatever they find important. There are some problems with this system, of course: you might irritate a whole list of people (some of whom may not have previously realized you were gone). And you can run into major problems with anything in that stack that was time sensitive.
    2. Just Get Started — Everyone hates the platitudes along the lines of ‘if you just get started, it will be over before you know it.’ Straightening out your paper mail from a month out of commission certainly feels like it can take forever, let alone thinking about your email and other online accounts and those face-to-face meetings scheduled immediately after your return. Diving in to the pile is awful, but it really can be the fastest way get through the pile. It’s worth picking out a plan of attack, first, though: are you just going to start at the top and work your way downward? Or are you going to go with a ‘first in, first out’ approach? No matter which you choose, set your course and follow through.
    3. Process in Parts — There is a compromise available, of course. Rather than just diving in, you can sort and throw as much away as possible. Then, you handle what actually needs your attention. This solution is probably the most practical of those available. But even with this approach, catching up can take a while and can get frustrating.

    There are a few ways to make playing catch up a little easier, at least on your mental health. They can work with any approach you take — and if you think of any more tips, please add them in the comments.

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    • Get back in your routine as soon as possible — even if you barely remember it. If your routine calls for only 30 minutes of processing email, that’s okay. You can get through your email in 30 minute chunks, and you can always schedule an appointment with your email.
    • Touch base on projects before you get into catching up. There may be something that actually needs to be done before you become immersed in your email — and it may not even be mentioned in your email inbox if no one knows you’re back.
    • Let people know that you’re catching up. Ask them to let you know if there’s something actually urgent in your pile of paperwork.
    • Start with what you think is important. I know I just suggested asking people to let you know what they think is important — but you may not agree with their estimation of the situation.
    • Start with something pleasant, and end with something pleasant as well. It’s pretty likely that somebody got irritated about something in your office. Your mother might need her VCR reprogrammed or a client may be unhappy at your absence. Don’t make that unpleasant stuff the first or last thing you handle in a day — or you might not be up to Day 2.
    • Avoid scheduling anything for your first day back. You may not have control over your own calendar, if anyone’s been waiting to see you, but put people off long enough for you to reorient yourself. Depending on the nature of your return, you may be able to get away with telling people that you’ll be back the day after you’ll really return.
    • Decide what it really means for you to catch up. You probably can get away with not reading every newsletter that made it into you inbox — and there may be a few tasks you can ignore equally easily.

    Remember, it took time to get behind. It’s definitely going to take time to catch back up.

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    Last Updated on March 29, 2021

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

    What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

    The Dream Type Of Manager

    My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

    I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

    My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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    “Okay…”

    That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

    I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

    The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

    The Bully

    My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

    However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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    The Invisible Boss

    This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

    It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

    The Micro Manager

    The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

    Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

    The Over Promoted Boss

    The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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    You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

    The Credit Stealer

    The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

    Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

    3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

    Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

    1. Keep evidence

    Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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    Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

    Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

    2. Hold regular meetings

    Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

    3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

    Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

    However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

    Good luck!

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