Back from vacation? Here's what to focus on—and what to skip

HBR: Leaders should capitalize on the 'just back from vacation' moment

Coming back to the office after a vacation is the perfect time for leaders to realign employees behind the organization's most vital objectives, Peter Bregman writes in the Harvard Business Review's "HBR Blog Network."

Bregman—the author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done—asserts that employees are more easily influenced when they haven't heard from the boss in a while.

"Don't squander this opportunity by trying to efficiently wrangle your own inbox and to-do list," Bregman writes, adding that leaders should take the moment to ask themselves questions like:

  • What is the company's top imperative at the moment?
  • What will make the biggest difference in the long-run?
  • What behaviors need to be encouraged to reach such imperatives?
  • What is less important?

In answering these questions, leaders should select three to five goals that will make the most difference and spend 95% of their energy moving towards those goals, Bregman writes.

Moving forward, filter every email, request, decision, and conversation through the lens of accomplishing those goals, Bregman recommends. When an employee asks a question, answer with this formulation: "Given that we're trying to accomplish X, then it would make sense to do Y."

Stop Wasting Time: Strategies to be More Productive at Work

"Don't be afraid to de-prioritize issues that don't relate to your top three to five things. This is all about focus, and in order to focus on some things, you need to ignore others," Bregman writes. He adds, "You've got this wonderful opportunity, a rare moment in time when your primary role and hardest task—to focus the organization—becomes a little easier. Don't lose it" (Bregman, Harvard Business Review, 9/3).

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