Staying focused at work during the holidays can get difficu— look, jingle bells!
Office parties, shopping for relatives, hosting events at home, planning travel arrangements — the holidays bring about an abundance of activities and keeping track of everything can be difficult. Staying focused at work while you're juggling all of these responsibilities? You'd have better luck wrapping gifts with your eyes closed.
Holiday stress can often lead to distractions at work and loss of productivity. For one thing, many employees try to cram their personal holiday tasks into their workday schedule. On top of that, the holiday season is one of the biggest vacation times of the year for managers and C-level executives. Typical oversight and supervision are limited, often making it difficult for employees to stay motivated and maintain a high level of productivity.
If you find your motivation slipping away or you're having trouble keeping your head in the game, these simple ways to stay focused at work should help you get back on track.
Leave your personal responsibilities at home.
The most distracting element during the season is your personal holiday errands, so don't bring them to work. Let's be real — no one can completely focus on two important areas at once. Eventually one or the other will suffer, affecting your work productivity. To use your time most efficiently, you have to separate the two areas. Instead of using company time to plan personal events, consider taking a PTO day or two to wholeheartedly tackle your holiday preparations.
Try to avoid multitasking.
Yes, it is true that professionals need to be able to work on several projects at once, but in the same vein as separating your professional and personals tasks, you have to choose which projects are multitask-friendly. It's never worth trying to cram two or three projects into one workday. You may think this saves time for holiday planning, but in the end, rushing through work only increases the likelihood that you'll make a mistake. If that happens and you have to redo the work, you'll ultimately waste more time. So if you have major projects coming up, tackle them one by one for maximum productivity.
Organize your tasks.
Before the holiday rush begins and you're desperate for ways to stay focused at work, sit down with a pen and paper, draw two columns, and outline the things you have to accomplish. Next, take those ideas and schedule a few items for each day. Having a comprehensive list of tasks will help put your mind at ease, and breaking up your to-do list into small pieces will make it more manageable. Nothing looks as bad on paper as in your mind.
Start each day fresh and with a clear mind.
Stress builds up rather fast, so don't drag baggage from one day to the next. Each night, mark off your completed activities and take time to breathe — enjoy the satisfaction that comes with completing your goals. The following morning, think about your plans for the day. Instead of worrying about the days to come, focus on the immediate tasks at hand. Taking things one day at a time reduces anxiety and stress, and that will ultimately help you stay focused.
Related: Holiday Overload: Steps for Balancing Work and Life
Limit your distractions.
How many times have you caught yourself looking out the window, daydreaming about an upcoming holiday party? Or maybe you get sidetracked by trying to figure out how to both meet your Wednesday deadline and make it to your son's winter concert. We all face distractions in the office, especially when the stress of the holidays comes around, but one of the easiest ways to stay focused at work is to limit them.
Remove anything from your work area that has distracted you in the past. Whether it's a photo of your children that lets your mind drift to old memories or the fidget spinner that you play with just a little too much, put those items away in your desk during the holiday season and save them for January. Do you spend too much time responding to emails? Block off a specific time each day to open up your email and check your inbox. If you're concerned about missing an email from your boss or important clients, set up desktop alerts for those people.
Ask your family and friends to respect your working hours.
Another way to stay focused at work is to keep your workday free from personal calls, texts, and emails. Co-workers understand this; our professional friends get it. However, family members tend to have more difficulty seeing the boundaries, children and parents in particular. And because of the planning and gifts that need to be discussed, the number of calls and texts tends to increase during the holidays.
Put your phone in a desk drawer and leave it there until after work. Ask your loved ones to not call or text you during working hours. Explain to them that it distracts from your work, sends the wrong message to co-workers, and hurts your professional image. Ask them to call your office if there is an emergency. Of course, this doesn't mean you don't love them — it means you must set professional boundaries so you can ensure your productivity.
Unplug from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram during your office hours as well. Social media and texting are two of the largest distractions to employees, and many companies have even instituted rules around social media usage while at work. Even if your company hasn't taken those measures, resist the urge to log in to social media at work if it isn't a job requirement — save your posts, tweets, likes, follows, etc. for home or your commute. If you must use social media as part of your work, set aside time each day to update feeds and reply to comments so you can ignore it while doing the rest of your work.
Take care of yourself in mind and body.
Exercising is a great way to clear your mind, helping to limit distractions while you're at work. If your holiday responsibilities are keeping you away from the gym, you can still find ways to be active in your daily routine: Take a walk around the office building or have lunch in the park. Park your car further from the door and use the stairs instead of the elevator. Test out the standing desk at the office. Look for any opportunity to get on your feet and move around.
Don't forget to take care of your mind as well. Consider meditation or yoga. These activities are great tools to help reduce stress and keep you focused. Don't stay up until the wee hours of the morning — try to force yourself to get at least six hours of sleep every night, even if that means you won't finish wrapping gifts until the next day. Adequate sleep leaves you feeling more alert and re-energized in the morning, which will help you stay productive when you get into the office.
Resist the urge to overcommit.
It's a good thing to volunteer to take on new projects at work — it shows initiative and flexibility. However, now may not be the best time of year to overwhelm your schedule with extra work. Resist the urge to take on new tasks. Explain to your co-workers that you've committed a certain number of hours to work-related projects, and you need the remaining time to accomplish your holiday responsibilities. Apologize for not being able to help and offer to pick up the slack after the holidays. Most team members understand that the holidays are hectic and everyone's schedule is a little overloaded, so hopefully, you can find a balance as a team and accomplish everything that needs to get done.
Keep in mind that not overcommitting applies to holiday activities as well, whether they're personal or organized by your company. Just like you may have to pass on taking on new tasks at work, it's okay to decline an invitation to an extra holiday party or cookie exchange. The time you'll gain can be used to tackle some of the responsibilities you already have or get some extra sleep, both of which will help you stay focused when you get to work the next morning.
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