The holiday season can be a tough time of year. At first, life feels crazy busy. Workdays are filled with hurried attempts to close sales, wrap up projects, finalize plans for next year, and complete annual performance reviews. Home life is just as full with travel to visit family, holiday parties, and finding the perfect gift for each person on your list. But, as December comes to a close, the hectic pace may slow down into a period of surprising quiet. The office becomes a kind of dead zone with people taking vacation between Christmas and New Years. Projects get put on hold, meetings aren’t scheduled, and everything seems to slow down. If you find yourself in this situation, here are some ways to take advantage of this unique time.
DECLUTTER PHYSICALLY AND DIGITALLY.
If you’re like me, your desk slowly accumulates Post-It Notes(R), random papers, magazine articles, and other materials. The piles aren’t necessarily messy, but they really don’t need to be there. Clean off your desk. Take some time to go through the piles or re-organize your drawers. Have a little fun by purchasing some new organizers like a paper holder for your desktop or a drawer divider set.
Our desks aren’t the only things that get overloaded. Most of us don’t intend for emails to sit unopened and pile up in our inbox. The end of year is a perfect time to dig out your inbox. Start by deciding if you can archive everything more than 3 months old. If that feels like too little or too much time, pick a time frame that makes sense for you and just let the old stuff go. If you haven’t opened or acted on it yet, will you really do so now or later? Then tackle the remaining emails and decide for each if you should:
File it as reference material.
Act on the email now (only if it will take two minutes or less.)
Move the action to your task list to be done later.
Unsubscribe from email listservs that you don’t open or that don’t serve you.
Be honest about what you’ll actually do with the email content. Making to-dos that will never get done isn’t helpful either.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF UNINTERRUPTED TIME TO FOCUS. With fewer people in the office, you’ll likely have larger stretches of time to get work done. Block your calendar for a few hours and dedicate this time to a specific piece of work. This could be an existing project that needs some focused attention or something you’ve been waiting to do until you’ve got the time. In either case, be intentional about what you want to accomplish during those precious consecutive hours.
FIND A NEW PRODUCTIVITY TOOL OR HABIT TO DEVELOP.
Upgrading how we work is critical to working productively. If technology is your friend, commit to adopting a new work-related app and find a friend who will adopt it with you. Many tools are more useful and fun when there is someone else using them with you. Plus, as with exercise, an accountability partner helps you stick with the new tool or behavior.
There are dozens of lists that can help you find apps for task management, knowledge management, collaboration and more. Just google “best apps for (fill in the blank).” Also, check out this video where I talk about my new love of MixMax, a Gmail booster. Take some time to explore a few different app solutions so you can find one that best suits your needs and style.
If you prefer to avoid technology for any reason, consider adopting a new habit instead. The habit might be as simple as blocking 15 minutes at the start of each day to review your calendar and to-do list. Or, it might be more robust like following a method such as Getting Things Done or Inbox Zero. Healthy habits enable us to elevate our work by turning effective practices into natural routines.
LEARN SOMETHING NEW.
Watch a TED video, read an article or book, or take an online mini-course. There are so many ways to learn. Use the extra time to build your knowledge or skills so you enter the new year even stronger. Looking for some suggestions? Check out this list of my favorite books.
MAKE THE TIME, EVEN IF NOT NOW.
It’s hard to find time to do the maintenance work that we need in order to continue to perform our best. Take some time to prioritize the things that will help you enter the new year at top notch. If the next few weeks don’t slow down for you, how about making a resolution to make time in January instead?
Optimize your time. Cultivate your team. Achieve your goals.
What are you planning to do to make the most of the slow season between Christmas and New Years? Leave a comment below and share suggestions for videos, apps, and activities, or tweet at me @mamieks.
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