You’ve barely had the chance to stash your decorative gourds from last year—when suddenly—your mother-in-law is debating the best way to make hot chocolate and holiday party invites start taking over your inbox. There’s plenty of seasonal fun, sure, but the festivities also bring enough distractions to make to-do lists and last minute projects nearly impossible to wrap up at the office.
Two-thirds of workers report they are less productive during December. What should you do if you become overwhelmed? Be the exception to the rule (and impress your boss). We’ve assembled the top strategies and research-backed tips that will help keep you focused and in the spirit of the season.
‘Tis the season for monotasking
There are few facts all experts can agree on, but this is one: Multitasking doesn’t work. In fact, research has found that just 2.5% of people can multitask effectively. Not only that, but trying to multitask can be associated with a drop in performance. In a recent study, subjects who attempted to multitask on a standard comprehension quiz scored 11% worse than those who kept their focus on the task at hand. Make this the season to break that bad habit and monotask (perform one task at a time). Set clear boundaries for holiday prep by creating a dedicated time and place for researching gift and recipe ideas—and avoid getting sucked into a Pinterest rabbit hole in the middle of the workday. Focusing on what’s in front of you will result in less stress, higher quality work, and a more relaxing holiday season.
‘Tis the season for planning
Simply taking the time before holiday mania begins to plan and organize can leave you feeling calmer and more prepared to juggle the demands of the season. This year, try the 30/10 rule. Set aside 30 minutes for weekly planning before the week starts, and 10 minutes each morning before the start of work for daily planning. Make sure to prioritize what is absolutely vital, and devote clear blocks of time to manage ongoing responsibilities, like party planning or booking travel. It’s a small commitment that will yield huge rewards and ensure you’re devoting your valuable time to what actually matters most. Time management apps like Kyber are an effective way to make the most of your planning sessions.
‘Tis the season for your OOO message
Trying to handle the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, including looming year-end deadlines, cocktail parties, and short-staffed offices, can cause even the most meticulous of us to feel overwhelmed. One oft-underutilized solution? Taking advantage of your office’s mental health or personal days. Use one day to get serious about holiday planning and focus all your energy on outstanding tasks like making your travel reservations, testing out cookie recipes, and checking off your gift list. And don’t forget to carve out an hour or two to actually enjoy the season. Wander a holiday market, find a local ice skating rink, or simply queue up your favorite winter movie.
‘Tis the season for community
The holiday season brings plenty of opportunities for togetherness with friends and loved ones. It’s also a perfect time to make more meaningful connections in the office—which has the happy consequence of improving performance. Research has shown that meaningful workplace relationships significantly increase productivity. So if you hit it off with that rock climbing aficionado in accounting at the company party, keep the conversation going. She might have the perfect gift inspiration for your brother who just bought a membership to his local climbing gym.
‘Tis the season for logging off
Planning to work through the holidays? You might not have to. More than half of US workers leave vacation days on the table, and that’s bad news all around. Not only do 84% of managers say employees are more creative and focused after taking time-off, but a break from work commitments has been shown to reduce stress, lower the risk of heart disease, and lead to greater productivity. While some might have to work through the holidays, whenever possible take advantage of office closures and flexible hours. Not only will you come back to work energized and ready to concentrate, you’ll also be able to truly enjoy the time spent with family and friends.