My 14-year-old did not have school from Christmas Eve until January 7. This extended break was excellent for his Fallout 76 efforts, but it was a challenge for my work schedule.

I know it's not great parenting to let him play ten hours of video games each day, so I had to adjust my work schedule. Basically, I would get up before him and put in a couple of hours of work, then bring him to a coffee place where a pastry and a drink bought me another hour of work. After that, it was two weeks of movies, mall trips, and beach outings, punctuated by a four-day cruise during which I got no work done.

A daunting pile of work greeted me this morning. I'm behind, and it won't be easy to catch up -- but I have a plan, and it's one that should work for anyone facing a similar stack of work.

A woman sits behind a desk that's full of stacks of papers.

Don't focus on how much you have to do. Concentrate on making your backlog smaller each day. Image source: Getty Images.

Communicate and collaborate 

My bosses and coworkers knew I faced a challenging couple of weeks, and they were aware that I was taking a four-day vacation. Now that I'm back, I'm continuing to communicate my schedule and my plans for what I'm going to tackle first. I'm also open to any requests, and the first things I'll get done are tasks that impact other people.

It's also important to accept help when it's offered. If a coworker or your boss offers to take something off your plate, be willing to accept the help gratefully.

Put in the time

For the next few weeks I won't be working a normal week. I'll extend most days by an hour or two, and I'll do a little more on the weekends than I normally would. I won't be putting in 20 hour days or going full-time on the weekends; instead, I'll do a little more each day to dig out from my pile.

It took multiple weeks of slacking off (albeit for a good reason) to fall behind. Catching up won't happen by putting in one long day, or even a few, so I'll chip away at the problem in a way that doesn't lead to burnout.

Have a plan

When your inbox seems impossible and the pile on your desk makes you consider getting a new desk, take a step back to get organized. Start by doing triage. Organize priorities by which projects have deadlines and by looking at which tasks you need to perform so others can get their own work done.

Make a list and stick with it. You should also communicate your timeline and task list with anyone impacted. It's better for a coworker or boss to know you plan to finish a project on Thursday than to only have a guess.

Take a breath

It's not uncommon for people to fall behind after the holidays or a vacation. Most bosses, coworkers, and even clients are understanding, provided you remain communicative. Be diligent about getting as much done as you can without burning yourself out. It's fine to put in a late night or two if there's something on your pile that needs to be addressed quickly, but in a broad way it makes more sense to take a slow and steady approach.

Don't get intimidated by thinking about the totality of how much work you need to accomplish. Focus on what you want to get done each day, and work to shrink your backlog each day. It may take a while, but if you stick with it you should get there.