This time of year can be tough for many people. It’s supposed to be a time of cheer and joy but, in reality, the time leading up to and during the holidays is often congested with work stress and family obligations. Traveling, shopping, harsh weather, changes in schedule – these are just some of the factors that contribute to particularly high stress levels.
At work, employers have an increasing number of employees requesting time off. With many traveling between Thanksgiving and the New Year, they often have to manage remote workers. Employees are pulled in various directions, facing increased pressure to meet deadlines and reach certain goals before the year’s end.
Managing stress should be a top year-round priority for everyone, but particularly so during the hectic holiday season when we’re often expected to be our most productive. Fortunately, there are preventative measures! Below are some simple ways you can ensure you get through the rest of 2016 as your most productive self, and both end this year and start the new one as you should – happy, healthy and energized.
Plan ahead and prioritize
You can’t possibly get everything done that you want to, so you might as well focus on completing the most important tasks. Writing everything out can help clear your head and present a more tangible and concrete way of working. For me, making “to-do” lists has always been an effective production strategy, but it’s different for everyone. Another way to accelerate your productivity is to schedule all your important tasks on a calendar instead. As Forbes contributor Kevin Cruz explained, research has found that just about 40 percent of items that are put on to-do lists are completed. Additionally, scheduling things in increments of minutes, rather than hours, you can get a better and more specific idea of exactly how you’re spending your time – and, in turn, take advantage of any and all opportunities to maximize it.
When you start working on a specific task, make sure you give it your undivided attention. Even small interruptions, like checking your email or texting someone, can disrupt your workflow mentality, ultimately making the work session longer than it would otherwise need be. If necessary, use blocking tools that ban you from going on non-work related sites during the time you’re supposed to be productive. Let coworkers know you’re unavailable during these times, too.
Identify – and avoid – time wasters
Be mindful of exactly how you are spending time throughout your day. I know this might sound crazy, but you don’t need to check your email every hour. A lot of the activities we do throughout the day are productivity-killing habits and ones we do mindlessly, like scrolling through social media feeds and refreshing our inbox. Notice when you are doing this and make a conscious effort to stop.
Meetings are another common time waster. If possible, try to limit your attendance to the ones that are absolutely mandatory. If you are responsible for conducting them, try to keep them as structured and concise as possible and adhere to a specific agenda.
Learn to say ‘no’ more often
Just because you are asked to do something or invited to go somewhere (whether it be a meeting or a holiday party) does not mean you are automatically obligated to go. Of course, some situations require your participation. Make sure that in your attempt to please other people you are not hampering your own productivity and causing unnecessary stress. This one’s tough—but you can do it, I promise!
If you want to end the year as stress-free and productive as possible, it is incredibly helpful if you are able to manage expectations. Be realistic about what you can and can’t accomplish, then be upfront and honest about it – not only with your coworkers, employer and family, but with yourself as well. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Remember that you are only human and there is only so much you can get done in any given day. Acknowledging and accepting this can help ease stress and, ironically, make your year-end much more productive and enjoyable!
Good luck and happy holidays 🙂