Sometimes taking a break is the most productive thing you can do.
It re-energises and clears your mind, acting as both a mental and physical reset. For me, summer break is a chance to regain motivation and clarity for the season ahead. While most people wait for the New Year for a new beginning, mine comes in October. It’s the time when I start to travel a little bit less, take on new projects and hone in on what my priorities are.
This year, I have some very exciting projects that I’m looking forward to. However, even with new ventures in the works, I often have trouble getting my head back in the game, after several weeks of globe-trotting. Luckily, I also have a few tried-and-true strategies that help me maintain razor-sharp focus on the things that matter most when it comes to career.
Surprisingly, the thing I do first when I return home after a long summer trip is to pause and take a break. While this may sound counterproductive, sometimes what you need more than anything is time and space to clearly see where you are in your life. It’s this moment, in between my holiday and the work to come, where I critically analyse the past year. What has been working? What hasn’t? And what in my old routine can I cut out to be more productive?
Next, I revise my to-do list. One thing that I always keep up is ongoing notes of all the ideas, plans and things that I have to do once I get back to work. And when I’ve just come off a long break, this list is usually miles long and disorganised. One productivity app I really love is Wunderlist.
It helps compartmentalise all the areas of my life and I can set due dates, break a task down into sub tasks, set reminders, and even add files. I can also prioritise tasks by importance, which really helps narrow down my priorities.
Moving more slowly and deliberately is far more effective than filling your day with unnecessary ‘busy’ work that may make you feel productive but leaves little achieved. I’m a believer in the 80/20 rule. If you identify and master the most crucial 20 per cent of what needs to get done, you enjoy approximately 80 per cent of the effects. And since so much of my job is communication, one trick I’ve found is to just pick up the phone instead of waiting for responses to emails or texts. In a society that uses phones for nearly everything, it’s easy to forget the power and efficiency of direct communication (quick tip – picking up the phone often makes you more memorable to a person than if you send an email).
Lastly, I set aside regular time throughout the week to regroup. Whether it’s a 10-minute meditation in the morning (I love the app Headspace), or designated ‘desk days’ where I power through projects without meetings or interruption. I love social media, but I even occasionally delete my social media apps so the temptation of a quick scroll is no longer right at my fingertips.
Seeing clearly often means stripping away the unnecessary before tackling the essential. This may feel a little foreign the first time you try it, but you’d be amazed at how much of a difference it can make when it comes to achieving your goals.
This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia
Photography: Ethan Mann. Outfit, Carla’s own. Hair and Make-Up: Blow Out & Go.