How to Stay Productive at Work During the Holidays

by The Burns and McDonnell Careers Team on November 21, 2012

how to stay productive at work during the holidaysThe holiday season is upon us, and in the midst of the celebrations, potlucks and time off, you might be thinking one thing: How am I going to get any work done? Depending on what industry you’re in, your schedule might noticeably slow down as the end of the year approaches. But whether your calendar is gloriously empty or still filled to the brim, the holiday season is a great time to get things done.

In fact, this time of year isn’t just an ideal time during which to be productive, it can also give you a much-needed opportunity to focus on tasks you haven’t had time for in previous months. All it takes to stay on track is a little planning and a bit of focus — and the following tips, of course.

Plan your schedule. This is a popular time of year to take vacation. Not only are you likely to have family and/or travel plans, but depending on your company’s vacation policy, you might be eager to take advantage of unused days before a new year begins. Make notes on your calendar about when you’ll be out of the office and jot down some notes about how you can plan for your absence. What essential tasks must be completed before you go? What are your priorities when you return? Keeping yourself organized and having a plan of attack will not only help you avoid missing any critical details while you’re gone, but your increased peace of mind will help you better enjoy your well-deserved time off.

Get the scoop on other schedules. Do you work closely with a small group of colleagues or managers? If so, it doesn’t hurt to check their schedules, too, especially if you have project-related deadlines looming. That way, you have plenty of time to work around their absence, either by finishing early or identifying a temporary point of contact that can help in your colleagues’ absence.

Look ahead. You may notice a distinct slowdown in the typical buzz and activity level in your office as the final days of the year approach. Put this quiet time to use and look ahead to the new year. Do you have a career development plan? If so, are you on track to meet your career-related goals? What would you like to do differently in 2013 to increase your chances of professional success? Are there any skills you want to learn or certifications you’d like to pursue to help you stay up-to-date with your industry? Reflect on the past year to identify your most satisfying accomplishments, as well as areas of improvement — then use those experiences (and what you learned from them) to help you create a plan for next year.

Have fun. Sure, you can still get a lot done during the holiday season, but don’t forget to have fun, too! Enjoy catching up with colleagues during your company’s holiday party, or do something spontaneous like organize a lunch outing with a few co-workers. And don’t skimp on the family time, either! Maintaining a work-life balance is one of the most effective ways to fuel long-term productivity, so if you do have time off scheduled (and even if you don’t), make the most of your family’s holiday traditions and enjoy an opportunity to spend time together.

With a little bit of planning, the holiday season is not only a great time to finish up projects, but can also give you the quiet, reflective time you need to focus on tasks you haven’t had time for earlier in the year — and give you a running start on the goals you’ve outlined for yourself in 2013.

Do you find it difficult to stay on-task during the holiday season? If so, how do you keep yourself focused and productive?

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