Staying Focused at Work During the Holidays

Photo by Jacob Haas
Photo by Jacob Haas

The holidays are a wonderful time of year.  There’s turkeys to be cooked, carols to be sung and presents to be wrapped, while visions of sugar plums dance through your head.  The only problem is… you’ve got work to do.  And all these wonderful things are really just distracting you from staying focused.  Instead you’re thinking: when will I wrap all these presents? Do I have enough food for everyone? How will I get everything done in time? And despite the stress and extra work, you’re a little excited too.  Your thoughts are pretty much everywhere, except on the work. Nevertheless, there is non-holiday related work to be done!  So here’s a couple of ways to stay focused during all the craziness this winter.

Plan Ahead 

A lot of these conflicts that you’ll have during the holidays, whether they’re concerts, visiting relatives, or food preparation, you’ll know about pretty far in advance.  Make an effort to get creative with your scheduling to allow yourself time to focus without getting stressed out.  The holidays may be rapidly approaching, but there’s still time to take advantage of lunch breaks and after work to do some online shopping and preparation to avoid the craziness of the malls and wasted time driving here and there.  When there are conflicts, explore the different scheduling options that can allow you undistracted work time and enough personal time to get everything done.  Planning ahead is a sure way to save yourself from a lot of stress later on when everyone else is franticly fitting everything in.

Treat Work Like Studying

The most effective ways to study involve working distraction-free for 45-50 minute segments.  The same should apply during your work day to eliminate your mind wandering to other things.  Set a timer to ensure you take a 10 min break after each segment to not just search the web or check your phone, but to physically move around and get away from your workspace.  In the spirit of the holidays, set motivational rewards for yourself after a couple “must-do” tasks are completed, like grabbing some of that pumpkin roll your coworkers brought in or listening to a couple of your favorite christmas songs.

Create a To-Do List

This classic, but always beneficial method of prioritizing the tasks that are the most important will help you remember what needs to get done and when.  Start by just writing down everything that needs to get done and then weed out the things that can wait until after the holidays.  This step alone will make you feel more accomplished by relieving the extra stress of seeing everything all at once.  You should also make yourself a personal to-do list to get all of these tasks out of your head and onto paper.  This will help you stay focused on your work while you’re there, but remind you of what needs to get done in your free-time.  It’ll feel great checking off items on both those lists as you go and will keep you motivated to keep going.

Keep Your Work at the Office

Obviously, there’s lots to be done during the holidays, but all these things shouldn’t blur into one another.  Keep your work separate from your personal life.   Everyone has family obligations outside of work, so try to avoid your work coming home with you.  It’ll help you stay motivated by setting goals to have things different tasks completed as you walk out the door and will make it easier to devote your free-time to your holiday commitments.

Organize Your Space

In addition to mentally getting organized, try cleaning off your work space. Remove the things that don’t need your immediate attention, so you can focus on those that do.  You’ll feel much less cluttered and overwhelmed once the less important things have been cleared out.  To keep your desk clean, act on papers as they come in.  The rule is to not touch the same piece of paper (or task) too many times, so if it doesn’t need to be done right away, move it to your new year to-do list and out of your way.

If your whole station needs a makeover, think about treating yourself to a nice holiday present by letting us help!

Take Care of Yourself

The holiday season means lots of calories and anxiety, and usually a lot less exercise.  Just because you’re busy, don’t cheat yourself of your physical health.  All the sugary foods and beverages will only leave you feeling more tired and less productive.  Set yourself some little goals, even if it means walking or jogging just a mile a day or doing a couple exercises before bed.  But make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep as well.

Get in the Holiday Spirit!

Remember what the holidays are all about.  This time of year is for feeling grateful and celebrating.   A chaotic couple of months are a choice, not a guarantee.  Don’t overcommit to invites by finding a balance between work and personal activities.  Don’t forget you can say no!  And instead, set aside some “you” time with close family and friends to unwind and remember what the season is really about.    Having a good mood at work will only help you and make others want to be around you.