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4 things to do your first day back from vacation

(MoneyWatch) Coming back from a vacation -- whether it be a long weekend, an exotic trip, a stay-cation or even a teacher's summer break -- can be tough. Sitting back down at a desk after being on a beach or in your backyard is usually uninspiring and sometimes unproductive. "The day after returning from vacation, many people find that they aren't as productive as they'd like. Often, the vacation mindset can linger long after you return to your desk, but it's important to get the ball rolling at work as quickly as possible," says efficiency expert Andrew Jensen, founder & CEO of Sozo Firm, Inc., a business consulting firm. So, how do you get into a new groove when your to-do list seems like it's tripled while you've been gone? Here are four things you can try on your very first day back:

Get in an hour early.
It's tempting to ease into work mode by sleeping in. But that can make the transition more stressful than it needs to be. "Arriving at work early, before the rest of your team arrives, allows you one final chance to quietly readjust. Getting to work an hour or so before the office opens gives you an opportunity to formulate a schedule and a to-do list for the rest of the day," notes Jensen. In other words, find your footing before facing the day -- and your co-workers.

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Touch base with clients and co-workers.
That extra hour is prime-time to not only construct your to-do list, but also conquer your in-box. After you do that, check in with key members of your team to see if there is anything urgent on the agenda that's not in an email or in a phone message. "While you might want to avoid time-consuming meetings, casually asking your team members where you stand on projects and due dates and inquiring about what changed while you were away will give you a good idea of where to start," says Jensen.

Start with small tasks.
Your first few hours back are not the time to be beginning that major long-term project. "Pick a few of the less overwhelming tasks to do. If you can, leave the heavy planning and executing for your second day back," says consultant Al Pittampalli, author of Read This Before Our Next Meeting. That way, you'll come into work your second day back with a pared down priority list -- and ready to dive deeper in.

Beware of false urgency.
In addition to starting small, you'll need to prioritize -- even though everyone on your team may have something "urgent" for you to deal with now that you're back. "These well-meaning people will hijack your agenda if you're not careful. If they were able to wait a week, they can probably wait another day," says Pittampalli. Deal with getting organized as well as truly urgent matters the first day -- and tackle the remaining tasks the rest of the week.

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