The holiday season can be stressful, particularly if you’re juggling a professional life and family responsibilities. You’re expected to tie up loose ends, plan for next year’s projects and stay productive through the holidays on your daily tasks—all while friends and relatives are asking for more of your time.
Fortunately, a few productivity and planning strategies can go a long way in keeping you on task during what should be one of the happiest times of the year. Keep the following tips in mind to provide for a happier, healthier and less stressful holiday season.
The BLS says Americans spend about eight hours per day at work, but the average worker is only productive for three hours per day. Even if you’re far more efficient, those stats paint a clear picture of just how many meaningful tasks can be accomplished in a given day or week. Cramming three weeks’ work into two won’t turn out well, and packing your schedule with impossible deadlines may actually lead to less productivity than realistic time frames.
Ultimately, you’ll need to prioritize. Determine which tasks really need to get done between Thanksgiving and New Year, which ones can wait until January, and which ones you might squeeze in if you have the time. You’ll accomplish far more with less stress by focusing on the most important items.
Get an Early Start
A few weeks’ procrastination can really come to a head during the holiday season, so start now on the projects that are making you anxious. The more items you can finally cross off the list the better, particularly if you can finish them before your relatives arrive or before you have to leave town.
Likewise, get an early start each day. If you’ve prioritized a few key tasks and projects (see above), making headway in the morning will leave you with the rest of the day to tend to smaller jobs, administrative matters and unexpected tasks that inevitably pop up.
Set a Schedule
If you’re not used to sticking to a planned daily schedule, now may be a perfect time to start. A daily plan forces you to estimate the time specific projects will take, rather than cramming four or five items into an uncertain day. You’ll likely find that you don’t have time for everything you want to get done, and that’s OK. You will more efficiently finish key tasks, and you won’t have the unnecessary stress of feeling like you’re constantly behind.
If you’re allowed to telecommute, the holiday season is a perfect time to do it. Similarly, if you’re in charge, now is a great time to allow your team to work from home. The weather is harsh, commutes are long and people have more to get done at home than at any other time of the year. As long as you enforce deadlines and check up on employees’ progress throughout the day, you can still keep productivity high.
Take Time Off
When you’re at work, work—but don’t take it home with you. Work-life balance is essential for happiness at any time, but it’s especially important during the stressful holiday season. It also will be easier to stay on task in the office if you have distinct periods of work and downtime.
Use Project-Based Employees
Some holiday seasons just get too hectic to handle all of the work in-house. Deadlines from earlier in the year pile up, budgets and forecasts for the new year have to be done, and full-time employees are cashing in on their paid time off. If this is the case at your company, consider using project-based employees. Qualified, experienced contractors can help you keep your head above water at year’s end, and they can be far more cost-effective than hiring part-timers or unnecessarily beefing up your full-time staff.