Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Back from Vacation: Now Where Did I Put My Brain?

It was only five days, but returning from the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington I feel like I've been away a year. My brain desires to remain among the tranquil misty rain of the coast, reading novels and doing little else. The only brain stimuli I used was wondering how to win at cribbage. So now that I've unpacked everything (yep, as soon as I get home) I've got to find out where I put my brain.

Many of us have a similar experience on Monday mornings if we've really disengaged over the weekend. Coming through Memorial Day weekend (when we have an extra day) we might feel especially foggy on Tuesday morning. Yet research indicates that we do need the break. The constant connection to others (though our vast array of social media) and the demands of an immediate world (24/7/365) create a cycle that tears away at our creativity and productivity. The saying "all work and no play..." applies to creativity, productivity as well as being a dullard. Yet how do we get started again?

While I was on vacation I purposely chose not to even write my blog. I did not boot up my laptop except to upload pictures of the trip and then I'd turn it off immediately. I lounged over coffee in the morning and stared out the window. I even turned my phone off for large parts of the day. Of course I reasoned I had to keep it on occasionally for emergencies. None came.

But now it's time to get back to work, so how am I supposed to find my brain after this short hiatus? Even as I booted up my computer this morning I felt out of place as though I was not supposed to be perched over this keyboard. Yet, here I am.

What works for me is routine and rituals. Essentially it is discipline. There is a temptation, when returning to work after a break, to take time to read through all the mail, look over emails, etc. But if that is not your normal routine, I'd advise against it. Rather do what you always do in the morning to engage your brain. If you drink your coffee and scan emails for a short period when you arrive at work, then do that. If you are a writer and you sit down every morning at 7, 8 or 9, then do the same thing. Let the pile of mail, or some of the other distractions wait until you have engaged the morning in your traditional manner. You will find that your brain welcomes the routine. Later you can tackle the mail or email. But get your brain going first.

I highly recommend vacation; downtime from the rush and crush. But I also know the demand when you return. Allow yourself to be fully away on time off, but set yourself up for that first day back. Teach your brain to reengage by creating rituals and routines to start the day. Then on Monday morning or your first day back, you know where to find your brain. It's just where you left it.

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