Returning from a wonderfully restful week away on vacation we invariably face a wall of work. So how do we manage the full inbox, countless phone calls to return and a pile of ToDo action lists on the first Monday morning back in work?

The first step is to relax. Remember how good it felt last week when you were away and took space from the ever increasing demands of a busy and successful workplace? You need to bring those feelings into this week too. That’s the value of the week off.

Now, if you have been like me and taken care throughout the week away to keep on top of the incoming emails and calls then you have a great start because there should be no surprises lurking in the lists in front of you. Everything that could wait was placed carefully into the ‘next week’ pot and so what should be in front of me will be everything else, important but no urgent.

And so the filtering process of planning my week can begin… in a controlled and relaxed state.

I start by being grateful for all the hard work ahead. This is vital in framing a mindset that embraces and is grateful for all the wonderful business and mindful opportunities ahead. The same things could be perceived as a wall of negativity and regret that the vacation is over. This differentiation is vital to ensure you take on board all the wonderful things that will happen this week. Perception is everything.

So next it’s a case of bringing out the sticky notes and writing each and every thing on them. Large things, actions, small things, reminders; everything is included and shuffled into a random order.

Then using the table in front of me I put each sticky note into one of three columns, headed Must, Should, Could. Be ruthless. If I ‘must’ do this note because it’s essential then it’s a Must. If I should do it but life doesn’t depend on it then it’s a Should. The rest of the things I Could do. Be strong. You will want everything in the Must column but the reality isn’t like that. Remember to think both strategically (long term benefit) and tactically (short term benefit) as you order your notes.

Then take the Must column and shuffle the sticky notes again. Place each one in a further three columns on the table, headed Now, Soon, Later. The Must sticky notes in the Now column are my highest priority things and will be done right now… no procrastination. Those Must sticky notes in the Soon column, will be done this week and those in the Later column, could be left until next week.

Depending on how many notes you have you can repeat the exercise so you have a near perfectly prioritised action plan for today and the rest of the week. As inevitably new things come into play then you can easily slip these in using the same prioritisation rules.

The beauty of the process is that you avoid wasting your time on the ‘quick wins’ that might in themselves provide little value but just happen to be easy to do. You will end your first day back from vacation, invigorated, refuelled and feeling like you can’t wait for tomorrow…

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