How to stay productive during the holidays
The holidays bring lots of distractions that can slow down productivity even among the most dedicated employees.
But by being proactive, you can increase your output during the common end-of-the-year slow down and throughout the year.
“Harnessing one's attention and managing distractions are the cornerstones of productivity, especially with the business of the holidays approaching,” says Alicia H. Clark, a licensed clinical psychologist in Washington D.C.
Many workers still believe that multi-tasking is effective. But Clark says that is a myth and it should be avoided. If you must multi-task, reserve it for only the easiest and most routine tasks that do not demand hard thinking. Instead, be clear about your goals and objectives every day.
Other experts offer their best tips.
Rita Kerins, a personal productivity coach in Austin, Texas, says managing external distractions is key to attention management. You should start by controlling mental stress, a main contributor to the pressures of life that busy people experience.
“If you always take immediate action on whatever thought pops into your head, you’re not in control of your attention and you are not making the best use of your time,” she adds.
Focus on high pay-off activities
Tom Northup, a leadership management coach in Newport Beach, Calif., says if you must decide between being efficient and being effective, you should opt for the latter because it implies doing right things and doing them in order of priority.
“Because you can be spending your time doing things right, but if you are not doing the right things, you are not getting the results you expect,” he says.
You should focus on what describes as high payoff activities, those activities that generate the most success for you.
To remove distractions from your life, determine your high pay-off activities, set goals to reach them, then focus your time on working on them. Eliminate or delegate those tasks that are unproductive or that others could do better or as well.
Treat work like studying
Jennifer Martin, a business coach in San Francisco, says one of the best ways to help people stay productive is to approach work as you would effective studying.
“Work in 50-minute segments. Set a timer if you need to and then during your 10 minute breaks, actually take a break,” she says. “Physically move around. Get up and move away from your workspace. Go outside if you can. Give your brain a rest and give your body some time to stretch.
You should also motivate yourself by creating a unique reward system, which you can custom design. For instance, it could include dong a “want to do” activity after completing three “must do” tasks.
Limit email and instant message usage
McKinsey Global Institute found that average workers spend 28 percent of their work time managing emails. As such, Martin suggests creating rules around email and instant messaging. Turn off automatic pop up notifications for incoming emails, for starters.
“We all want to connect so some of us can't help ourselves from checking emails as soon as they come in. The problem is that some of these notes aren't worthy of our time and attention,” she says.
Clean your workspace
Take the time to clear everything off your desk. Allison Flinn, a professional organizer in Raleigh, N.C., says you can always put back items as you need them.
“You¹ll be amazed at all of the stuff that you don’t actually use frequently that is taking up precious space on your desk,” she says.
To keep your desk clean, act on papers as they come in. The golden rule is to not touch the same piece of paper too many times. Flinn says for those pieces of paper you must deal with later, use a vertical file sorter to prevent piles from forming. Sort active files by priority, so you don't waste time shuffling through papers.
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