On the heels of Halloween and Thanksgiving, December brings with it the busiest time of year for most people.
On top of an already hectic work schedule, you now have holiday parties, a never ending list of gifts to buy, holiday traffic to beat and travel plans – and you still have to deliver on every deadline!
It’s easy to let work get sidelined and pushed off until “things calm down.” Good time management is critical to making sure you can follow through on all your commitments, while still enjoying the holidays.
Here’s how you can effectively manage your professional goals during the busy holiday season, and set yourself up for success in the New Year!
Make a list, and check it twice
If there was ever a time to truly embrace the to-do list, this is definitely it. Whether you use your Outlook calendar, an app, or pen and paper, commit to writing down every single obligation.
In addition to meetings and project deadlines, block out short chunks of uninterrupted work time where you don’t check email or answer calls (when possible). Distraction-free work time does not exist during this busy time of year, unless you make it for yourself.
Include things that you might not usually put on your to-do list like shopping, parties, gym time, holiday baking, meal-prep, travel plans, and even when you plan to wake up and go to bed.
Scheduling every detail of your life may seem cumbersome, but the visual of how you plan to spend all your time is an extremely powerful one, and will help you see how you can fit everything in. Or maybe it will reveal where you are needlessly wasting precious time each day.
As you complete each task, indulge in the satisfaction of crossing it off your list. These are small wins to be savoured every day!
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
After making such a detailed to-do list, it’s tempting to just try power through it as fast as possible and get everything done, but this often results in burnout or a series of half-done jobs that need to be re-worked in the New Year.
Be honest with yourself about what items are business-critical and which are not. It’s better to do the important things very well than try to everything, and will speak volumes about you as a professional if you can effectively prioritize.
Get what you need from others
Business continuity is often a challenge during the holidays, with people on vacation or out sick. You’re more likely to get an out-of-office email than an actual response, so it can seem impossible to move projects forward or get any real work done.
The last thing you want is to miss an important deadline because you forgot to collect a key piece of work from someone who just went on vacation.
Make sure you know what deliverables you need to progress your work, and follow-up with people. Keep track of your team’s and boss’ vacation time so you schedule important meetings before they leave, and talk about a contingency plan if something goes wrong.
Extend the same courtesy to others. Your boss may have approved your vacation, but gently reminding them is always a good idea so they aren’t blindsided when you don’t show up for two weeks.
Don’t put professional development on the backburner
Remember that stack of whitepapers you’ve been meaning to read? Or that industry holiday party that you still haven’t RSVP’d to?
Despite competing demands for your time during the holidays, professional development should always be top of mind for those who want to stay at the top of their game in today’s job market.
Take advantage of your morning commute, long drives to visit out-of-town family, and vacation-bound flights to catch up on your industry reading, webinars, and to wish the people in your network happy holidays.
Be realistic – know when to say “no”
It’s important to be realistic with yourself about how much you can get done.
Despite your best intentions to be a productivity master during this busy season, everyone has limits.
Take the time to really prioritize rather than just try to get as much done as possible.
Pick your professional and social obligations carefully, and don’t over-commit yourself. If you set the right priorities for yourself and stick to your to-do list, you can manage your professional goals during the holidays, and have a little fun too!
Have you ever fallen behind on work during the holidays? Tell us your story in the comments!