You are not alone if you are finding Christmas periods more nerve-wracking than joyful. To help, we have gathered 10 tips to help you maximise your productivity at work, so at least your workload doesn’t add to the festive stress.
Christmas is a great time of year. Beautiful lights on Oxford Street, a legitimate excuse for drinking hot chocolate every evening and pubs are selling mulled cider again. Great! I also love walking along festive streets (I also love space, so I stay well away from Oxford Street), buying family – and some lucky friends – presents. Then there’s making the advent wreath, decorating the tree, and baking a whole variety of Christmas puddings — some of my favourite family traditions centre on Christmas.
But Christmas is a terrifying time of year. My stress levels usually go through the roof, what with having to finish all-important work before flying off to see the family, and spending a lot more than I can afford on presents, flights and boarding for the cat. Is it any wonder I’ve now gone from excitedly planning Christmas dinner to sitting in front of my online banking screen a nervous wreck?
So, if you are starting to feel a bit like me, I’ve got some tips for you from Movemeon’s hard-working team. These are our own coping mechanisms, tried and tested over the years, and we can promise that they will make life easier at work, whether you adopt just one or all.
The most obvious – and possibly hardest – tip first: Try to get as much as possible done before Christmas, even if in this period it is easy to procrastinate and think “I can do that when I’m back”. You really don’t want to end up with a huge list of overdue tasks in January!
This exercise will help with the above: stop what you’re doing right now, and go and find a quiet place with a nice coffee. When suitably relaxed, complete with the following steps:
- Divide an A4 piece of paper into four quadrants, the two axes representing potential impact and ease-to-do.
- The top two quadrants will be for your high-impact tasks, the bottom two the low-impact ones.
- On the left, top and bottom, you will have things that are easy to do; on the right the harder tasks.
- So, working clockwise, your quadrants will stand for ‘easy & high-impact’, ‘hard & high-impact’; ‘hard & low-impact’; ‘easy & low-impact’.
- Now work your way round: start by filling in all the easy and high-impact tasks, and finish with hard and low-impact.
- Once this is done you can get on with all the easy and high-impact jobs and communicate to people that you won’t be doing the low-impact, high-effort stuff (and you can also deprioritize easy but low-impact tasks for the obvious reason – no real impact).
The first task you complete should be the one you hate the most. Sound strange? Perhaps, but even the most prioritised to-do list can’t help you if you just delay and distract yourself, which is what you will do if you know you have a horrible/boring/annoying job looming at the end. Get that hated chore out of the way first, and you’ll suddenly find it a lot easier to complete all your other tasks!
Remember to take “you” time every day, even when you don’t use it for an intense exercise in prioritisation. Sure, there’s a lot to do, especially if you are leaving early to squeeze in some gift shopping. But even five minutes away from your desk for a cuppa will clear your head, and let you do a quick appraisal of what you have to do to survive the day.
Don’t put things off. It’s tempting to ignore all the emails with non-urgent requests for minor actions, but if you do, you are likely to forget them – and then those actions will suddenly become urgent. If it takes only a few minutes to do it, do it as soon as you are asked to!
Use the whole run-up to Christmas as a time to take a breath and reflect. Reflection really helps productivity as it allows you to really get to the crux of what’s made this a good/bad year, which allows you to do more of the things that have worked for you through the year. This, in turn, will make you more productive.
If your office, like Movemeon’s, contains an unusually high number of snacks at this time of year, just keep them away from your eye line and reach. Hide those mince pies for most of the day – sugar high causes hyperexcitability. Combine that with the anticipation (or dread) of Christmas and you get a mood that may be destructive to your work morale. Although sugar highs pass quickly, they may leave you feeling agitated and change you into the office Grinch!
As the annual series of Christmas parties begins, keep your mornings low-intensity. You might assume that you are still the drinking juggernaut you once were (say, during university), but the sad reality is that just two white wines and a sherry will probably leave you knocked out the next day. So make sure you don’t plan your most demanding meetings for the morning!
Spend a day immediately before Christmas, when nobody’s doing any proper work anyway, clearing out your to-do list of all the things you’ve been putting off. Delete stuff that you are never going to do. Do the boring admin that’s been on the back burner for months, but is still required. And spend an hour setting out some work priorities for the new year. If you do all this, you’ll go into 2017 with a clean sheet and clear focus.
At Movemeon we firmly believe that productivity is the result of momentum. Having a clear idea of your focus for 2017 will help you feel that things are really going your way. As a result, you’ll build momentum and approach every task with high energy and enthusiasm – making you a far more productive worker next year.
Follow these tips and you will be well on track to as stress-free a Christmas period as anyone can achieve. And if nothing else helps, dig out that hidden stash of mince pies and treat yourself to some of that mulled cider – but only after work!
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