Christmas is now just weeks away. Holiday events, shopping, family to see or get in touch with and yet we still have to show up for work? As much as we all wished reality could pause for a month, the show must go on. Afterall, most businesses thrive off of the holidays one way or another.
It seems impossible to keep motivated right now. Our minds are a million places. Trying to multitask keeping the family happy but keeping in good graces with your boss as well. To be honest, even while writing this blog I have all sorts of tabs pulled up on my laptop that cover everything from shopping ideas to plans for the Ugly Sweater Holiday Show and it’s hard to take my own advice here.
All of this scatterbrained work leads to a lot of holiday stress. The best (but not necessarily easiest) way to combat this type of holiday stress that comes from “falling behind” is to stay focused. BUT HOW? I’ve got some tips that always seem to get me back on track. Some of these I’ve picked up from random articles in Forbes and Good House Keeping over the years and some are just personal habits that end up working. Give these a try a see the difference it makes in maintaining your workflow over December.
1) Use Lists
Are you a list maker? Good. You’re on the right track here. This trick is good enough for Santa, so It’s good enough for me too. There is a reason he makes a naughty and nice list every year. It’s because our memory isn’t the best when you’re splitting your focus and increasing your consumption of treats.
Don’t just make shopping lists. Make daily task lists. Whether it be in your planner, on a sticky note, or on the notes section of your work computer, get in the habit of writing down what needs to get done that day. Not only should you write down the tasks, but also order them by priority. You won’t always get everything done. That’s just life. So you don’t want to get to the bottom of your list and realize that the last thing you wrote was a must-do item.
Something that takes you 2 minutes to do in the morning will greatly increase your productivity this month.
2) Buy Next Year’s Planner Early
I am under the firm belief every adult should have a planner and use it. The act of writing down things helps us commit to memory. It’s also a tangible object to turn to that is solely for the purpose of being organized. The “notes” and “calendar” sections on your phone are nice tools, but there is just too much going on smartphones for it to the best way to stay organized anymore. How many times have you unlocked your phone with the intention of writing a note and then instantly get distracted by a notification? Better yet, how many notes have you made and then never even referred back to because you forgot about it entirely.
When you look to your planner for your daily to-dos and reminders, you are a lot less likely to get distracted and forget about something important.
Now towards the end of the year, it’s easy to start ignoring your planner. Why? Because you’re nearing the end of it. You go to start marking down things for January and poof, it’s not there. So you toss is aside and forget about it for the month of December. This year, buy your 2021 planner early. In fact, if you really want to be proactive- buy a planner that’s a year and a half long. Next time to need to get a new one, it won’t be around the holidays so you’ll already be more on top of things. My extra recommendation is that you get a planner that you can refill. This prevents you from having to keep two planners around until 2021 begins. Just add in the paper for January and when December is over with, dump out the 2020 pages. It will make things flow a lot more seamlessly.
Why is exercise on every tip list you post, Kacie?! You know why. Because it’s that important and it works. Exercise isn’t just to look good. Exercise is for your brain too.
You don’t need to go lift 30 lb weights to reap the benefits of exercise. Wherever your level is, it’s helping. You are increasing your sense of awareness and boosting your metabolism to help your body process that extra sugar you’re likely eating. Doing daily exercise for 30 minutes will also help you stay focused during the day. When you’re on a walk, your mind is stimulated. You can use that time to organize your day, or if you’re someone who is doing TOO much this time of year- use that time to pop in some headphones and tune everything out. You know which type of person you need to be!
Hit the trails around the valley. The weather is perfect for it! Or join a Christmas work-out group online. Heck do one of those calendar challenges where each day it will tell you to do 20 squats, 20 minutes of cardio etc. It’s time you start seizing the benefits of having an exercise routine. No one has ever said, “there were no benefits.”
4) Limit Your Holiday Treats
No, I’m not putting you on strict diet here. Of course we are all still enjoying some extra treats. But there is a difference between indulging in a slice of pumpkin pie and eating half the pie by yourself in one sitting.
When you’re hanging out with friends or family and enjoying a couple drinks, this can be hard to keep track of. It’s not something to beat yourself up about but just be aware that part of the reason why we have such a hard time focusing on work and other responsibilities this time of year is because our bodies are using some of that focus to process that extra sugar.
Holiday bread is delicious and I’m not one to skip out on carbs, but there are healthy carbs and then there are carbs that actually make you sluggish when you over consume. Notice I said “over consume.” Don’t keep yourself from having some holiday banana bread! But cut yourself a slice and give it some time before you go back for seconds. It normally takes about 15 minutes for our body to realize it’s full, so if you wait a bit, you’ll probably realize you already filled your craving.
Nothing wrong with treating yourself over the holidays, just don’t over do it if you want to keep your focus until Christmas!
5) Don’t Take Work Home with You
Wait, what? I thought I wanted to increase my productivity. I mean it though. Don’t take your work home with you!
Burnout is high this time of year. There are a lot of reasons for that but one of them is the way we work. Often we end up sabotaging ourselves. Taking our time during the work day because we figure, we can just work on it later that night remotely. Maybe that happens, maybe it doesn’t. If you do work on it at home, you’re going to end your week fried and feeling like you never get any time to yourself and like you’ve neglected your family. On the flip side, if you say you’re going to work at home and then don’t end up doing that, suddenly you’re cramming in the morning and spend the rest of the week feeling behind.
Do yourself a favor and learn to set those boundaries. Work is for the workplace. Home is for your family. Plan your work week and task it out to fit within your work hours. Many of us are now working from home so this comes with a little more challenge since you are actually working from your space of peace. Stay on the clock. Set an alarm and remember to knock-off when the day is over. Everyone is more focused when they aren’t feeling burned out from their everyday tasks.
6) Do Some Self Care
Another way to prevent that burnout is with some intentional self care. This doesn’t really mean to go get a manicure- but it can.
Self care is really just anything you are doing simply because you want to. No one is forcing you to do it and there really isn’t a string attached to it. This is going to look different for everyone.
For example, my self care is doing my daily workouts. They help me set intentions for the day, make me feel good as a soon as I accomplish them, give me time where no one can bother me, and the energy I need to move forward with my day. I am not under any delusion that working out is going to do that for everyone so think about where you can find a little peace amidst the chaos.
We can’t all go for a spa day daily, especially with holiday spending, but I think most of us can carve out 15 or 30 minutes to do something that is intentionally for ourselves. Even the busiest of people can use some time before bed, wake up a little earlier, or use their lunch break to find some peace of mind if you make a habit of considering self care a priority- which it absolutely is. Physically, mentally- preferably both, you need it.
Taking care of yourself means you can take better care of everything else. A better attitude about your day will take you far!
7) Take Some Non-Holiday Days Off
Maybe you’re doing all of these things and still are showing up to work feeling awful and sluggish. It happens. You might just need a true day-off. Not a Saturday that was filled with holiday shopping and family but a day you would typically work to just catch a breath.
It will almost feel like playing hooky. But remember that feeling of joy you’d get playing hooky from school or when you skipped a class in college? You went back with a fresh feeling. Same concept- only you should really let your boss know you’re taking the day off.
If you already know you are not going to get anything done that day at work because you don’t have the mental capacity to be there, ask for the day off. You’re going to get better results from that than if you show up and do nothing. That sluggish day at work can end up leading to a whole week of drudgery whereas if you just took the day off, you could go back into the office feeling better and kick the rest of the week in the ass. Know your limits during the holidays so that you can end the year on a high note.
8) Make Work Expectations Clear
Speaking of work, open a line of communication there. Before you start really feeling the weight of the holidays, talk to your supervisor. Figure out what the rest of the year needs to look like around the office. What needs to get done? Make a clear timeline of any deadlines for projects so there are no surprises.
Just like they will tell you their expectations, you need to voice yours. Do you need a day off? Is there any flexibility you’re looking for. Make it clear. The worse they can do is say no. But you’ll often be surprised that with a heads up, your bosses can be very accommodating. They’d rather know ahead of time that you needed something than be pushed last minute into a decision because you were scared to ask.
Mental health takes a plunge around this time of year. Tell your boss if you are suffering some seasonal depression and be prepared to present some ideas that could help your morale. Maybe coming in an hour later would REALLY help your productivity or working from home one day a week. Speak up about your mental health earlier instead of later so that they can help you.
I don’t write this article from some high horse. I struggle with these things too. My biggest struggle is sticking to my working hours and not taking work home with me. I work from home so I always feel on the clock. I have to remind myself each day to stop. Stop replying to emails. Stop trying to get ahead because I have other things in my life that need attention. That the work will be there tomorrow. That the only person asking me to do these things is myself. So you are not alone in your struggle!
Outside of work, there is a whole other set of distracting factors! In my house the biggest distraction right now is this baby on the way. It’s invading every thought I have. No matter who you are, you have your own set of things fogging up your mind right now too. We got to buckle down and find carve away a section of our mind to devote to the present and stay on task. Dig deep for that motivation and do some of these proactive things to get you through the rest of year.
You got this!