Monday, December 1, 2014

Five Tips to Get Through the Holidays Productively

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on…………………"

Thanksgiving and Black Friday are over.  And now we begin the holiday season.  And that means increasing pressures on limited time, and countless obstacles to productivity and to getting anything accomplished.

Here are five tips to get through the holidays on the business front (hopefully they will be helpful to you):

1.  Recognize and Accept the Reality that is the Season:  While a month seems long enough that we still have time to get through our end of the year TO DO lists, we really don't have a full month.  The reality is that business will be fairly normal for the next two weeks until around the 15th.  After that things will pretty much shut down as people turn their attention to travel arrangements, gift buying, holiday gatherings and anticipation of the new year. Work will go on of course, but attention spans will often be elsewhere.  Pressures on time will mount.  Last minute things will arise.  It will become increasingly harder to get anything done.  Understanding that reality and accepting what you cannot do anything about is key to getting something done during the next month, and positioning yourself for January 3rd.  Remember the Steinbeck quote from Of Mice and Men:  "The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray".  Expect things to go differently than your plans - especially in terms of available time to do everything.  The world will still be here January 3rd  and so will most, if not all, the problems, challenges and things to get done that you don't get done by the end of the year  (and the reality is that work really begins again normally and in earnest the week following New Year's - not the day or two after).  That's ok.  Focus on the big stuff and get done what you can early in the month.  Don't expect that people will be as responsive to you during the season.  It just doesn't happen that way.   And two more things:  Take good care of yourself. Eat right and get sleep.  Getting sick in the holidays is a disaster.  And second, give yourself some time for yourself.

And while the holiday season is unkind to productivity, it nonetheless offers great value in winding down, networking with colleagues (old and new), taking stock and availing oneself of all the performances, exhibits, parties, dinners and celebrations.  Make the most of that.  But don't overdo it.

Finally, remember that it is easier to get finished with something if you break it up into smaller things that have to be done and concentrate on those - one at a time.  Here are a couple more tips from Daniel Pink:

1. "Honor the 2-Minute rule.
This one comes from the great David Allen, whose Getting Things Done methodology I’ve used for 15 years. In short, if you’ve got something to do that takes less than two minutes, do it right now.

2. Don’t waste your most productive hours.
A growing stack of research shows that each day, we reach our peak productivity a few hours after waking.  Don’t devote that window of time to checking email or playing around on social media. Use it to do your most important work."

2.  Prioritize Now:  Make two lists and do it today.  The first list is the things you absolutely must get done by the new year.  The second list are the things that, if you were to get to them, would make it so much easier to move forward on January 3rd.  Break down the first list into the things YOU have to do to get through that list, and the things you need OTHER PEOPLE to do if you are going to succeed.  Calendar what you need to do in the next two weeks.  Focus on the other people's work because if you can get from them what you need by mid-month, you can operate on the rest yourself during the last two weeks, when it will be axiomatically much more difficult to get others to finish their work. And don't be surprised when it is hard or impossible to get what you need from other people after the 15th. You will need to carve out as much uninterrupted time as you can to focus on what is on your priority lists after the 15th.  And if, by chance, you have a late December deadline that you just may not make -- notify those expecting something from you and try to negotiate a postponement.  You will go crazy if you end up with the old college standby of trying to pull an "all nighter" to meet a deadline.  (In my coaching sessions I advise people to never schedule a deadline for any important report, study, memo etc. between Thanksgiving and the New Year.)

3.  Minimize Meetings of all kinds:  Don't call any meetings yourself unless they are absolutely necessary, and beg off attending as many meetings called by others that you can.  If you have to schedule meetings, cut way back on the time they take.  If you need feedback and brainstorming ideas, try to get people to email you their brief and concise responses.  Be clear on what you need from others, but remember the pressures of the season impact us all.  Don't have unrealistic expectations of input from other people, but DO make unambiguously clear what you expect from staff subordinates and from co-workers alike.  Try as you will, you won't be able to squeeze 30 hours into a 24 hour day - though one wishes one could.

4.  Manage your communications:  Clean out your email box asap.  And do that daily.  Remember you don't have to respond to every email you get.  And the more emails you send, the more responses you will get.  Same with phone calls.  Cut back.  Way back.  Again, prioritize what information you need from others and what information you need to communicate to others.  The reality is that you don't have time to communicate as you normally do most of the year.  Forget social networking.  You've got to say NO to a lot of things.  The key is to focus on your lists.

5.  Plan out that first week in January now: Know in advance what you will need to do to begin the new year on the right foot.  Schedule essential contacts / meetings now that will be important for you then.  If you wait until January, you could easily waste an entire week just trying to schedule calls and meetings.  It will be much easier to do that now.  Put yourself in a position to be productive on your return to work.  Don't squander that first week or postpone things until the second week.  That is wasted and valuable time.

The holiday season can be stressful and exhausting. And its aftermath may be to make you feel as though you are behind on everything - and that's not good for your morale or for the morale of those who work for you or with you.  Forget New Year's resolutions.  Instead, resolve now to be really organized and productive for the next two weeks, and to position yourself to hit the ground running come January 3rd. And to the extent it is possible, try to get your subordinates and co-workers to adopt a similar attitude.

Good luck and enjoy your holidays.  And bear in mind that the holidays, and all their ups and downs, will pass.  Keep your perspective.

Have a productive week.

Don't Quit
Barry


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