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5 ways to ease back into work after the holidays

(MoneyWatch) With Christmas and New Year's falling on Tuesdays this year, a number of people have been off work since December 21. Sitting back down at the desk after that long away can be a little disorienting. Here are five ways to ease the transition, whether you're just back from vacation or if you've taken a longer break.

1. Take a buffer day. We'd planned to wring every last drop out of the Christmas season. We were going to drive back from our epic Midwestern journey on New Year's Day, just in time to get our kindergartner on the school bus on January 2. Then we realized that was insane. Coming back from vacation at least a day before you plan to start work can give you time to take care of any life maintenance issues, spend some time planning the week ahead and double check that nothing exploded in your inbox (though, let's be honest, you were probably already checking email on vacation).

2. Go ahead and make small talk. Even at work, we're still human. You can share a funny (short) holiday story and let your team members share theirs without killing your productivity for the year. If just you is coming back from a break (like after a summer vacation), spend a few minutes saying hello to everyone. If you're coming back from a longer leave, make a few dates for lunch or coffee with your closest colleagues to get reacquainted.

3. Focus on big wins first. No one cares if you respond to an email that was sent 10 days ago. So don't make that your first order of business. Start fresh with the major projects in front of you.

4. Fight the urge to stay late. Sure, you've got a backlog. But you'll need another vacation if you try to get caught up with everything on day one. Pace yourself.

5. Plan something fun. It's jarring to go back into work mode from not-working mode, but a dinner out with friends or a glass of champagne in front of the fireplace with your partner after the kids go to bed can remind you that even when you're working there's still time for enjoying yourself.

How do you ease back into work?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user bimurch
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