In recent weeks you might have been enjoying the sea and sand or the fresh mountain air on your summer holiday, but now you’re back in the office faced with a busy commute, a backed-up inbox and lengthy to-do list. Getting back to work after time away can sometimes feel overwhelming and lead to feelings of work-related stress. So how can you manage the transition back into work and beat post-holiday stress?

You don’t have to do everything at once

From replying to all emails instantly to getting busy with the next opportunity as well as your existing workload, piling everything onto your plate without any filters will inevitably lead to a stressful situation. It’s also counter-productive as it usually ends up compromising the quality of your work.

An easy way to tackle an overloaded agenda after you’ve been on leave, is to plan and stick to a daily to-do list. Think beyond simple bullet points; it is far more helpful to separate each task into high and low value, urgent and non-urgent to effectively prioritise. As well as this, try hard not start a new task before you’ve finished a planned existing one.

To keep this to-do list as streamlined as possible, perhaps consider delegating where this is an option and appropriate. Taking on every task which comes your way means that your priorities can sometimes be compromised. This lack of critical review will which only puts you under more pressure to deliver on your return. Beat this by understanding everybody’s remit so that where you can, you delegate effectively and if something extra comes your way while you’re getting back up to speed, seek support from the next appropriate person.

Work smarter, not harder

While sticking to an effective to-do list will hopefully make catching up less overwhelming, post-holiday stress isn’t just about time management. It’s increasingly about feeling like you need to compensate for lost time by appearing overly busy.

Alistair Cox, CEO of Hays, acknowledges this in his most recent LinkedIn article: “No longer should ‘busy’ be seen as a badge of honour, something to be proud of or even boast about. Instead, it’s time we all got into the habit of stopping and pausing once in a while – after all, making the time to think is where we’ll find the real route to success.”

Rid yourself of perceptions about overcompensating for being away – you’ve taken a well-earned break, and you don’t have to burn out to pay for it. To relieve this pressure, it might be helpful to set SMART goals, which are Specific, Measurable, Relevant and Time-scaled. These will help you focus your time on the tasks which are really of value, preventing you feeling weighed down by expectation now that you’re back from your break.

Remember the benefits of a routine

If after considering the above points you’re still overwhelmed with a backlog of work, sticking to a balanced routine (but one which you regularly review for relevance) should help keep you feeling like you are in control. Having a routine means that you factor in time for tasks which both need to be done, as well as those which are important to you, reducing your stress around not achieving what you need to day-to-day.

Keep in mind that a successful routine doesn’t have to just be the same thing day in, day out. To build a sustainable routine which keeps you engaged in your work, it needs to have variety and be critically reviewed from time to time. For example, if you feel restless at your desk by 3pm then maybe a brisk walk at lunchtime might help. For those who have flexible office spaces, perhaps moving to a different area will keep your focus throughout the day and help you get through that to-do list.

By pairing an effective to-do list with a well-planned but agile routine and shaking away negative perceptions and expectation around coming back to work, you can realise the benefits of a reinvigorating holiday and beat unnecessary post-holiday stress.