The complete guide to productivity during the holiday season

Krista Krumina 10.12.2018

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the office is so delightful. And since you have so much to do… Get it done! Get it done! Get it done!

While Christmas is the time of the year to be humble, peaceful and with your loved ones, it’s also the time of the year all hell breaks loose and the work-life balance just disappears.

Enter stress, anxiety, fussy co-workers, sleepless nights and frantic holiday shopping.

You’re expected to finish up all your work projects and meet last-minute deadlines, plan your family’s holiday party and buy gifts – all whilst staying a functional human being.

How is that even possible?

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The only way you can manage to do all of this is by being productive. And the main areas you’ll be interested to tackle this holiday season are:

1. How to manage deadlines like a pro
2. How to beat holiday stress with ease
3. How to embrace the holiday spirit with no regrets
4. Secret bonus chapter for those who prefer don’ts rather than dos!

Good things come in small packages, so let’s go briefly through all of the main areas you’ll want to sprinkle over with that extra productivity.

How to manage deadlines like a pro

Some people claim to be naturally more productive when a deadline is closing in. Some even love tight schedules and ticking time bomb deadlines. But those of us that actually thrive in a balanced and peaceful life should take note of these tips to master time management skills.

Assess, prioritize and conquer!

The first and smartest thing you can do is to sit down and take a close look at your calendar. Evaluate what needs to be done and what can wait. Prioritize your projects and start with either the most complex or the most time-consuming task.

If you finish the bigger projects first, it’s much easier to complete smaller tasks afterwards. Save the easy stuff for last.

Hope for some time off but expect over-time

If the end of the year is extra important for you, be ready to pour some blood, sweat, and tears to make it happen.

Invest some extra time and effort in the projects with the closest deadlines.

Remember all those times you thought to yourself – “If only I had started sooner”? Don’t make that mistake again.

Be true to yourself

If you’re certain you won’t be able to make some deadlines unless you split into two versions of yourself – reschedule them. There’s nothing worse than promising results and then not delivering them.

Don’t beat yourself up if this is the case to be… Things happen, priorities change.

The best thing you can do is explain the situation and give details on your next steps to the people involved in the project. Set a new and realistic deadline, and most importantly – follow it!

How to beat holiday stress with ease

Remember Wham!’s “Last Christmas”? It went something like “I gave you my heart…”. Let’s leave this song to be about a failed love relationship and not about your heart failure due to excessive stress. Deal?

Get organized at work

You’ll have way better chances to get things done and be productive if you organize your daily tasks. The best way to plan your to-dos is by planning the whole week ahead. You won’t lose the sight of the bigger picture this way.

Identify your most important tasks and prioritize them. Leave extra time during the day for any urgent tasks that may come up. Use DeskTime productivity tracker to monitor how much time you’re spending on productive tasks. Remember that organizing your day is not about squeezing every task in to be ultra-productive, it’s about helping you to stay on track. We recommend Outlook or Google Calendar to keep tabs on your schedule.

Stay focused on your goals outside of work

Most of us want to chillax after work and get only two days during the week to fully unwind and prepare for the upcoming holidays. It’s easy to lose focus on things that need to be done when there’s so much to do but so little time left.

So don’t fill your head with stuff to remember, fill your Google Keep instead. This handy-dandy app will keep your to-do list on the go! Another similar app is If you fancy one that has features like sharing, organizing and repeating tasks – this is the one for you.

Plan your holiday decorations and meals ahead

Two of the most important ingredients for the complete Christmas holidays – the food and the mood.

When it comes to planning the holiday menu and decorations, the options are endless. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed, and the best and worst place to be in this case is Pinterest.

Pinterest is an awesome platform to visually organize your ideas for the upcoming holidays. Just browse through the recipes or deco inspiration and pin your favorites to your boards!

Pinterest is also a never-ending vortex of ideas and content that will surely stun you. So prepare to be decisive. We warned you!

Keep track of your budget

Did you know that the average U.S. consumer spent $862 on Christmas gifts last year? Unfortunately, there’s no data to indicate if those spendings were calculated or a part of some last-minute decisions.

Either way, buying last-minute presents only brings stress and, in most cases, we end up overpaying because of that.

Stay smart and decide early on your budget for buying employee Christmas gifts and stick to it. We recommend Mint to help you keep track of where your money goes. It’s a great help over the holidays, and you might also like to use it during the rest of the year!

Take your time and relax

The best way to beat holiday stress? Obviously, relaxing. Perhaps this is the ideal time to take one or two days off and unwind from work. Disengaging from work once in a while can make us more stress resilient and more productive when we return to work.

Plan your holidays keeping important to-dos in mind. You won’t want to return to work and face a crazy town of closing in deadlines and unfinished projects.

How to embrace the holiday spirit with no regrets

We have some goods news for you: you don’t have to sacrifice the soul of Christmas in order to get things done. Instead, you can actually take advantage of the holiday spirit and increase your productivity!

Unleash the carols

Have you also noticed that some tasks are easier to do while you have your favorite tunes playing? You’re not the only one!

There are various studies that prove music to have a positive effect on our productivity. Listening to your go-to jams can significantly boost efficiency during repetitive tasks and elevate your mood to increase productivity and focus.

Plus, music just makes us happier. Listening to our favorite tunes causes our brain to release the feel-good chemical dopamine. Of course, depending on the type of music you listen to…

So what kind of music is best for raising your productivity levels?

Populate your playlist with tunes that are generally happy. Your brain will want to mimic the feeling of music so you have more chances of becoming happier.

Consider instrumental over lyrics. You won’t want to catch yourself singing along to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” while your boss passes by.

Most importantly, choose songs that fit the tempo of your tasks. If you’re working on a project that requires attention and thorough thinking, you’ll want to opt for songs with a slower tempo.

Leave food out for S̶a̶n̶t̶a̶ yourself

Everyone has their own favorite food that ties in perfectly with the holiday season. Did you know that there are some Christmas staple snacks that can actually boost productivity? Umm, yes, please!

Clementines are proven to be a natural source of potassium and folate. Folate has been known to reduce the cognitive decline, while potassium has been linked to increasing concentration and neural activity in the brain.

Big fan of gingerbread cookies? Munch on! Gingerbread cookies contain amounts of iron that is proven to have a key role in energy production.

Another famous Christmas snack is cinnamon roasted almonds. Keep on snacking as almonds are a great source of magnesium which helps with lowering blood pressure and distressing.

Become one with the holiday spirit

The true spirit of Christmas is likely something unique to everyone. For some, it’s snowy landscapes, for others it’s sipping hot cocoa under a fuzzy blanket.

While covering yourself in layers of quilts and nesting by the fireplace won’t likely boost your productivity, there are sure ways you can skyrocket your work efficiency with the help of the upcoming holiday vibes.

It’s proven that aromatherapy can improve work performance and reduce workplace stress. Just choose your favored holiday scent and let it surround you. Go for cinnamon if you need that extra hand in fighting fatigue, or vigorous citrus scents like lemon or orange to improve focus and boost your mood.

Another fun and comforting way to improve your productivity by is wearing warm and comfy sweaters. There are studies that tie in wearing casual outfits with an increase in confidence and relaxation. It’s said that a casual work environment can boost morale as employees feel less anxiety about their appearance and can express themselves more freely.

Habits that kill your productivity

You’re probably aware that browsing your Instagram during working hours is a no-no for productivity. But there are more ways you can kill your productivity without even knowing it.

1. Don’t multitask

Doing multiple tasks at once means temporarily giving partial focus to a single task. The majority of your focus goes to the act of switching tasks. So in reality, you devote your energy to switching tasks, and not completing them.

A simple way to stop multitasking is by starting a new task only when you have finished working on the previous one.

Or, if you’re a die-hard multitasker, start batching your work. Group together similar tasks and multitask only those. You’ll be able to preserve your energy more efficiently since there’s a lower “mental fee” for multitasking similar tasks, you can preserve your energy better.

2. Don’t be a yes-man

Nobody likes to hear and say a “no”, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

If you constantly find yourself being the go-to person for other people’s problems and you’re not their shrink – you’re in trouble. All the little favors you’re doing for others can seriously use up your valuable time.

If you feel like this might be your case, just be honest to yourself and others. Tell them “no” and respect your time. Or if you just can’t help yourself, tell them to come back later when you’re less busy.

3. Don’t be indecisive

Indecision can put a big fat stopper to your productive streak if it goes on for too long.

Your brain gets into a circuit session rounding up all pros and cons until you make a decision. If the process goes on for too long, it ends up draining your energy and leaves you dull.

Ask yourself, “Will my decision really matter in a week, month or even a year?”

If it’s a yes, then do spend some time on it. If it’s a no, then an easy fix to solve indecisiveness is to use the 2-minute rule. Most decisions we make don’t actually need the extensive pros and cons process we give them. So limit your time and save your brain from overheating.

The time around the holidays can be stressful both in the office and at home. So many things to do, so many places to be and so little time to do it all… Don’t let that holiday season rush turn you into a Grinch. Maximize your productivity and take the most from this jolly time.

This article was written by Una Savčenko, a freelance copywriter, storyteller, and improviser. She’s a real wizardess when it comes to creating fun and engaging copies

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