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’Tis the Season to Procrastinate: Tips to Stay Productive through the Holidays

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The year is coming to an end, and the holidays are fast approaching.

Who can concentrate with all those visions of sugarplums dancing in their head? Not to mention keeping track of how many days are left before packages won’t get delivered in time for Christmas.

Those year-end project deadlines and timeframes are getting plenty of holiday-related competition for your attention. The interference is a distraction, and as much as we want to multitask our way through the heightened time crunch, science has demonstrated that the approach just won’t work. So, what does?

Making a list, checking it twice

Peter Drucker wasn’t thinking about spiked eggnog or Secret Santa gifts when he once said, “What gets measured gets managed,” but we can put his corporate performance productivity ethos to work on keeping a focus on what matters, anyway. Stay in the mental organization zone by making lists.

The lists help you prioritize. The holidays cause enough stress. According to psychologist and author Dr. David Cohen, we appreciate list-making because they dampen anxiety about the chaos of life. Perhaps more important is their ability to provide us with proof that we’re getting things done.

It turns out there’s a way to make lists work harder. Assign some action details and a purpose to a list item. Many people find that taking it one step further and allotting time on your calendar for each task – rather than just making a list of the tasks – helps them manage what needs to get done.

Just say no

The holidays tend to blur the lines between personal and work-related priorities. End-of-year projects are spinning faster, and so are social obligations – both professional and personal. Overextending yourself by overcommitting is an easy thing to do at this time of the year. The whole work/life balance thing goes right out the window if you’re not careful.

Emotions come to the fore as we move toward the holidays. It can be hard to turn down a holiday lunch gathering with co-workers. It might be even harder to say no to a boss or manager who jumps in with a “can you fit this in before we close out the year?” request.

It’s up to you defend your finite amount of bandwidth. Saying yes is easy, but the associated time commitment can put prior obligations in jeopardy. You can make it easier to say no by rethinking the words you choose.

Make it personal

Multitasking isn’t a good approach, and mixing professional and personal holiday-related projects throughout the day might not be your best choice, either. According to CNBC, about 25% of leave vacation time on the table at the end of the year.

It’s your time. You earned it. Take a few days and focus them on the personal holiday-related projects that you otherwise would have spread in between what’s happening at the office. Consider treating your remaining paid time off as an unfinished work project.

An additional benefit is that you’ll return to the office recharged and refreshed. You’ll have a better ability to focus on the work stuff because you won’t be thinking about the personal tasks still left undone.

Be here now

We love the holiday vibes as much as everybody, so don’t misconstrue this as us throwing some Bah Humbug water on the Yule log. It’s the holiday season – a couple of months where most of us decide to adopt an attitude or spirit represented by only three specific days.

The holiday season is a reminder – not an excuse – to adopt a frame of mind appropriate for this time. Meanwhile, what’s happening today? It’s likely to require you to do the same things you would accomplish if it were a day in April or June. You’ll probably have the actual holidays off. You can totally forget about work and bliss out on friends, family, and fruitcake. It’ll be a lot easier, and you’ll be able to celebrate with more enthusiasm because you did make an effort to focus on what needs to happen at the office. After all, is it really all that different from any other time of the year if you subtract the Christmas decorations?

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