12 tips to ensure you don’t stab anyone on your first day back from break


[Image description: A dark brown puppy lying down, facing the camera, with piercing big eyes. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. If you are reading this, it means that 2018 is here, and your holiday break—if you had one—is over. No more stuffing your face with food and binge-watching “The Crown” and “Godless” on Netflix. You must now face the depthless abyss of anguish and despair that is your email inbox, and the half-checked vortex of misery and regrets that is your to-do list.

You’re not alone. If you wish you were back in your warm cozy bed and under a fluffy comforter that seems at this moment like it’s stuffed with puppy snuggles and angel kisses, we can all relate. Most of us feel like crap. Heck, I plan to be surly and scowling this entire morning, starting with today’s staff meeting, led by my Managing Director. If there’s an icebreaker that involves going around the room and sharing New Year’s resolutions or something, I am going to stab someone with a swag pen.

If you’re in a similar state of mind, here are a few tips to ensure that your day, and the start to your year, goes well, and that no one gets hurt in the process. Like with a strategic plan, use what’s helpful, ignore the rest.

  1. Embrace your current mood. Right now you’re probably feeling like you’re served two heaping scoops of bleh with a side of blah and a drizzle of meh, topped with a dollop of blegh. Don’t try to fight it. As with online trolls or people who insist on showing you pictures of their kids, these emotions only get stronger the more you try to fight them.
  2. Go into the supply closet and release an anguished primordial scream. If you don’t have a supply closet, just do it in a bathroom stall. Then pretend nothing was wrong. If you don’t know what an anguished primordial scream sounds like, ask someone who has planned an annual gala or conference.
  3. Repeat this mantra to yourself: “My email inbox does not define me. My email inbox does not define me.” Do it quietly, under your desk, for an hour, while holding your knees to your chest. 
  4. Take your time in answering emails. It’s the thoughtful, considerate thing to do. If you respond fast, it will create a chain reaction, where other people will feel pressure to respond quickly to your response. It always ends badly, probably with someone having to plan an event.
  5. Look at pictures of cute baby animals. Researchers discovered a correlation between looking at pictures of baby animals and increased productivity and probably decreased stabbing. I’m not making this up.
  6. Delete all your voicemails. Voicemail is dead. It is fax-and-Disco-dead. No one responds to voicemail anymore, so you don’t have to either. If it’s important, people will email you so you can respond to them next week. Or maybe they’ll call you again, which you can ignore.
  7. Avoid eye-contact with your coworkers. There is bound to be a few who are so chipper that you will want to strangle them. You can prevent this by not making eye-contact with them. When talking to them, just stare past them like they were a Magic-Eye image.
  8. Divert people who talk about their resolutions. When a donor, volunteer, client, or colleague mentions how excited they are about their new year’s resolutions, say “I heard rutabaga leaves are the new kale.” That will get them to leave you alone to google rutabaga leaves
  9. Take a short walk. To your car. Drive yourself home. Watch something on Netflix.
  10. Read up on Solipsism. This is basically the philosophy that because you can never know if others have a consciousness, it may mean you are the only person who exists and that in fact your own consciousness may have created the people and world around you. If that’s the case, then eff your to-do list!
  11. Cry a single tear while staring out a window: This is a poetic way to cry. Then slam your hand on your desk and yell, “Not today, Life, not today!”
  12. Invent time machine, go back in time, invest in Google, Amazon, and Bitcoin, retire early, and commission a painting of yourself sprawled in front of a fireplace on a fake bear rug. Maybe holding a cane for some reason.
  13. Bonus tip: Be cautious around people who didn’t get a much-needed break (direct service, development, finance folks). While you’re trying not to stab others, they’re trying not to stab you. 

There you go. I hope those pieces of advice helped. If not, then here’s a final tip, something that always helps me when I’m feeling blegh:

Remember the difference you are making. I know, this work is hard, and taking a much-needed break just reminds us all of how difficult it is. The long hours, the constant cashflow worries, the endless funding restrictions, and, for some of us, the lack of heat in the office. We come back to all these and other challenges.

But your work matters. Everything you do, no matter how minor you think it is, makes our world better. Your filing of notes, de-duping of CRMs, calling of donors, writing of reports, running of programs, reconciling of expenses, attending of meetings, none of these things are in vain. With these tasks, you are lifting up families, changing lives, building communities, and making the world more beautiful.

On days like today, it might seem that your work is overwhelming and futile, and you might doubt if you’re having any sort of impact at all. Trust me, as someone whose family has benefited from your work, the effects of your actions reach further than you may ever know. It’s OK to spend some time today feeling like crap, but do not tarry long. As Rumi once said, “Don’t you know yet? It is your light that lights the worlds.”

Happy New Year. Thank you for all you do to light the worlds. 

Related post: “Welcome back to work, you sexy Jedi unicorn!”

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14 thoughts on “12 tips to ensure you don’t stab anyone on your first day back from break

  1. Jennifer A. Kirschnick

    Thank you for taking the time to write this and help us all to feel that we’re not alone! Every single sentence…..so true! I especially like numbers 5 and 6……

  2. Ron McCallum

    Oh you are SOOOO funny. Actually, 2018 looks pretty good if I can just stop reading the president’s tweets and watching the fake news.

  3. Risa Wilkerson

    Thanks for reducing the Monday morning (on Tuesday) post vacation angst of returning to work. I laughed out loud at “Take a short walk. To your car. Drive yourself home. Watch something on Netflix.” That’s about the mode I’ve been in all week!

  4. Laura McAlpine

    LOVE this. Thank you. Especially #8. Cuz I’m that person. I already told my co-workers about my new year’s resolutions, and one of them walked away while I was talking, which I tried hard not to take personally. Now I know they were just taking care of themselves from my chipper self!!!! xoxoxo

  5. Helen Shafran

    THANK YOU. <3 Didn't know whether to laugh or cry reading this (so did both). Perfection. — I DID have one day off. We have a one-holer bathroom and no supply closet, so I typically scream in my car on the way to and from work. Love and light to you and yours, Vu–and to all of you.

  6. Sara Faircloth

    Gosh, I wish I’d read this before the unfortunate incident in the hallway outside my office. May need bail!

  7. Gretchen Bourg

    Thank YOU for what you do—reminding us that misery loves company, that it’s sometimes OK to feel bad about how hard it is to do good, and for basically keeping us from driving our metaphorical buses off very real cliffs. Best wishes to you for 2018! (And don’t forget to schedule that hand massage you’ll need after writing sincere and thoughtfully written notes to all your end-of-year donors.) 😉

  8. Dina Elenbaas

    Spare a thought for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere… we’re dealing with a lack of air conditioning! 😉

  9. GRoseH

    Am I the only one who loves the first day back in the new year because I get to find out how our year-end fundraising did?

  10. Victoria Armstrong

    A much needed read. I snorted at the end of #2. And by the end of the piece got even a little misty-eyed. Thanks for giving me the perspective to keep me in this chair — it’s helpful to know how hard that is for others too.

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