Labor (Day) Pains? Five Surefire Ways to Make Getting Back to Your Post-Summertime Workload Less Painful and More Productive

With Labor Day now behind us, warm weather and vacations will soon be replaced by ramped-up work responsibilities and fourth quarter projections. But it is possible to make the transition from lawn chair to desk chair less oppressive and more productive.

Summer is rapidly coming to a close. Labor Day, which typically heralds the (unofficial) end of summer, is early this year. That means even sooner than usual, we’ll have to make the annual transition from laid-back, low-pressure August to nose-to-the-grindstone, time-to-get-serious September. You may have taken a vacation this summer, but business challenges, customer demands, and year-end sales goals didn’t. Time to shift your brain from standby mode to “all systems go”…and it’s not always fun or easy.

Fortunately, according to creative problem-solving experts Mitchell Rigie and Keith Harmeyer, it is possible to cushion that jolting reentry to our professional reality. All it takes is rethinking some long-held assumptions and exploring new ways of tackling old, familiar challenges.

“You can’t change the calendar,” says Harmeyer, coauthor along with Rigie of SmartStorming: The Game-Changing Process for Generating Bigger, Better Ideas (Dog Ear Publishing, 2013, ISBN: 978-1-4575166-3-4, $29.95, “But you can change the way you think about the calendar. And when you do, you’ll be shocked by the difference it makes in your work life.”

“Many people have a deep belief that summertime is great and going back to work is not so great,” adds Rigie. “But that’s just an assumption we probably picked up in childhood when it was time to go back to school. What’s great is that you can clear out that negativity simply by choosing to view the situation differently, and thereby allowing yourself to see new possibilities.”

Here are a few examples of how you can think differently in order to get a jump on things, plan ahead, engage in a little pre-autumn creative problem solving, and make your “chill mode” to “work mode” changeover as positive and productive as possible.

1. Ease into It—Your mind may still be on baseball, snorkeling, and suntan lotion. But during these final days of summer, it’s time to start thinking, just a bit, about what will be waiting for you on Tuesday, September third. No need for heavy lifting here; just imagine what will be going on when you return. In your mind, envision your coworkers, your boss, your team, and even your clients or customers. What kinds of tasks will you all be working on? What types of meetings will take place?

“The idea is to get motivated, even excited, about being productive,” advises Harmeyer. “Just taking this mental journey through future-gazing can help ease your transition back to the office.”

2. Set Some Tentative Goals—Why not take it one step further and actually identify some things you’d like to get done? Take a few minutes, clear your mind, and create an “aspiration list” of things you want to accomplish during the last four months of the year. What changes would you like to make in your work routine? How can you inspire and coach your coworkers or team to be more productive and successful? What personal and organizational goals would you like to put in place?

“Think big and make it real,” says Rigie. “This will help prevent end-of-vacation dread, because you won’t have to go from zero to sixty the first day back after Labor Day. You’ll have set yourself up for success…and the moment you get back you’ll have something tangible and worthwhile to focus on.”

3. Ask Yourself, What’s So Terrible About Work, Anyway?—If you’re not looking forward to the intensity of autumn, that’s probably based on your belief that whatever you’re doing now is more enjoyable than what you’ll be doing then. Vacation and summertime activities are certainly fun. But so are creative challenges, stimulating projects, positive collaboration with colleagues, and meaningful achievements. So why not choose to embrace what lies ahead?

“Start looking at fall as the season for rekindling possibilities after recharging your batteries over the summer,” recommends Harmeyer. “Plus, you’ll soon have the holidays (and maybe a year-end bonus) to look forward to, as well!”

4. Cross Your T’s and Dot Your I’s—Every good scout knows to always have close at hand whatever tools he or she needs to tackle any foreseeable challenge. But how about you? Are you prepared?

“Is your contact list clean and up to date?” asks Rigie. “Do you have the necessary apps installed on your smartphone, tablet, and/or computer, and have they all been updated to the most recent versions? Is your schedule handy and accurate? Make sure you have everything you need to start the month efficiently and effectively, rather than spending your first few days getting systems in order.”

5. Get in Touch with Your Colleagues—Often, we aren’t in regular contact with our team or coworkers during the summer months. Vacations, days off, and lightened workloads often result in less frequent communication. So why not reach out and reestablish contact with important coworkers before you get back to the office?

“Make a quick call or shoot them a brief email,” advises Harmeyer. “Try to do your personal ‘catching up’ before you return to the office, so that you can all be optimally productive and focused from the get-go.”

“Managing the inevitable transition at summer’s end is really all about being aware of what’s going to happen, acknowledging what needs to be done, and taking some small action steps,” says Harmeyer. “Be creative! Use your imagination and problem-solving skills. Just doing something, anything, to prepare for your return will make a dramatic difference.”

“Heading back to work after time off is as much a state of mind as it is a practical reality,” adds Rigie. “Take a few minutes to readjust your thinking, make a few plans, tidy up your systems and your mind. You’ll soon discover you’re more motivated, more energized, and more productive for your efforts.”

About the Authors:

Mitchell Rigie

A top creative professional for over 25 years, Mitchell’s expertise spans the fields of art, design, communications, strategic marketing, and human development. As a vice president and award-winning creative supervisor for advertising agencies—including Saatchi & Saatchi and Foote, Cone & Belding—and as a consultant for Grey Worldwide, he has managed creative teams in the development of campaigns for Fortune 500 clients, including Johnson & Johnson, American Express, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, and General Electric.

Mitchell is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and Coach University, the world’s leading training organization for professional coaches. He also formerly served as a member of the board of trustees for the Rhode Island School of Design.

Keith Harmeyer

Keith’s professional background includes over 25 years in advertising and strategic marketing, sales and business coaching, and advanced presentation and communication skills training. As a marketing and creative executive at agencies in the Omnicom and Publicis networks, as well as founder and principal of his own marketing communications firm, Keith created countless successful brand-marketing programs and business presentations for many of the world’s best known and most successful companies, such as American Express, JPMorgan Chase, Sony, Time Warner, ABC, Disney, Philips, Fujifilm, Condé Nast, Sports Illustrated, GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, McDonald’s, Foot Locker, and many others. He has also coached and trained numerous business leaders on their sales and presentation techniques.