The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be fun. It can be exhilarating. It can be stressful. It can be distracting. Regardless of what word(s) you assign to your state of being, the good, the bad, and the mix of emotions can impact your ability to focus at work.
From busy calendars of vendor lunches, year-end pitches to clients, and trying to fit in a run over to the kid’s school for the winter chorus concert, it can be tough to avoid the feeling of overwhelm. A few simple adjustments to the way you approach the day can help you to focus on the tasks at hand even in the midst of a little holiday chaos.
Be Willing to Filter
There’s a lot you can do during this stretch between Thanksgiving and the New Year. That doesn’t mean you have to do all of them. Be willing to say no to tasks and activities. From social invites that may strain your already full calendar to a vendor’s invitation to lunch while your department has a mix of team members squeezing in their last few vacation days of the year, it’s okay to pass on invites that create more stress than joy. All these events may be wonderfully fun, but overcommitting yourself won’t be.
Be a Planner
No matter what time of year it is, a big to-do list is tackled better when there’s a plan in place. Take the time to map out what has to be done and by when. Then make a plan on how you’re going to reach those deadlines. Build in space to fit all of the end of year distractions too. Factor in holiday time off, a vacation day or two, an early afternoon off to catch the kids’ school play, and a longer than usual lunch out with your favorite coworkers. You can do all those things and meet your deadlines if you plan for both.
You think you’re a great multitasker, but research indicates you’re probably wrong. Not only have researchers discovered that we’re actually less productive when we multitask, they’ve also found that multitasking hinders recall, the ability to filter out irrelevant information, and subsequently makes tasks take longer to complete. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
We won’t spend a lot of time telling you why multitasking isn’t nearly as productive as you think (at least not in this article). We’ll just encourage you to skip the myth that multitasking will help you get more stuff done. It won’t. Focusing on one task at a time, however, can.
Take a Break
We are more focused and more productive when we are well rested. We are more satisfied at work when we build in time off for the things that we enjoy…and when we’re more satisfied, we’re better at our jobs. You know those PTO days you haven’t used this year? Use a few. Instead of cramming your holiday shopping into your lunch hour and weekends or trying to enjoy your child’s kindergarten holiday party while texting with your client about details of their January campaign, take a day off and just be in the moment with the fun side of the holidays. Your personal and professional life will benefit from it.
Focus on Priorities
You really can’t do it all. You want to. Some marketing campaign somewhere told you could. The reality, however, is that you can’t. What you can do is set priorities and get those things done. Be realistic about the time and resources you have during the holiday season and then identify the priority projects and tasks that fit within those parameters. The rest of that stuff? Delegate or reschedule for the new year.
Whether it’s your schedule or your staff’s, be open to some flexibility on when and where the work is getting done. Whether December means your team is amping up its hybrid work style again with folks splitting the week between the office and their home office, or whether it means some team members come in a bit earlier a few days a week in order to leave earlier than usual, be flexible.