How to stay productive over the holiday period

20 December 2017 -

Christmas WorkWith Christmas party hangovers and stressing over what to ask Santa to bring the kids on the big day, the holiday season is notorious for productivity freefalling. Here’s how to avoid your productivity falling off the cliff

Matt Scott

Charles Dickens famously said: “Procrastination is the thief of time”, and in the run-up to Christmas, this particularly thief often makes it way to the top of the end of year to do list.

But when the procrastination elf comes knocking, it often comes with the same old distracting, confident-sapping questions. Here’s how to answer them.

1. “I don’t know where to begin”

If your head is in a fuzz following the office Christmas party or you just can’t get the panic around how to best cook the turkey out of your head, knowing where to start on a difficult work task can be hard.

But when faced with a particularly difficult task, it is important to remember that you need all the time you are given to complete it. There is no sense in wasting valuable time panicking over what to do and how to do it, just get stuck in.

To do that, you need to break your task down into its component parts. While psychological research advocates breaks every 20 minutes, work on the same task for chunks of 60-minutes, thus completing a separate activity in each hour block, before working out what is next on your path to success.

This then allows you to focus your brain for more manageable periods of time, removing the fear of an overwhelmingly difficult task and allowing you to complete the project step-by-step.

2. “There are too many distractions”

Look out for self-sabotage of your own productivity. When a big task is looming, it is all too easy to become distracted. Meaningless emails suddenly become important, mundane news events become must-reads and, at Christmas, those mince pies in the office kitchen inevitably need to be eaten (several times).

So, when you find yourself putting off a lengthy task, slow down and visualise what will happen if you continue to delay.

Distractions numb you by shifting your attention away from reality and away from these consequences.

Reminding yourself of what will happen if you continue procrastinating is a great way to make distractions less appealing, allowing you to better focus on your work and get the job done.

3. “It’s too easy”

Tasks that are too easy can be surprisingly dangerous, because when you put them off, it is all too easy to underestimate how much time you will need to dedicate to them.

That means that when you finally sit down to work, you discover you have not given yourself anywhere near enough time, and you inevitably end up cutting corners and cutting down on quality.

So if you feel like you are starting to put off an easy task, link it to the bigger picture of what you are doing in your work. You might hate data entry, for example, but when you think about the role the data plays in the strategic objectives of your department, the task becomes worthwhile.

When the smaller, seemingly insignificant things don’t get done or (worse?) get done poorly, it has a ripple effect can have devastating consequences.

4. “I don’t like it”

Putting a job off is not always the result of it being too hard or too difficult, sometimes you just don’t want to do it. And at Christmas, with carollers singing out on the street and The Great Escape on the television, doing a task you really don’t like suddenly becomes even less appealing.

Sadly, there’s no fool proof way to find something more interesting, because, sometimes you will just never find something interesting.

But rather than pushing these tasks to the back of your mind, make it a rule that you cannot touch any other project or task until you’ve finished the boring one you’ve been putting off for weeks.

In this way, you are policing yourself by forcing yourself to eat your vegetables before you can have dessert.

5. “I can’t do it”

If you fear failure, it is all too easy to put a daunting task off. However, procrastination itself is failure - failure to utilise your own talents and abilities. 

Just like when learning to drive, when you could only look straight ahead because if you looked at something off the road you’d unwittingly turn the wheel in that direction, worrying about everything that might go wrong if you fail has the same effect – it pulls you toward failure.

To combat this, you must shift your mind by focusing on all the positive things that are going to happen when you succeed. This visualisation of success helps you equip yourself to succeed.

Simply worrying about everything that could go wrong binds your hand, preventing you from climbing off the path to failure and getting back on the route to success.

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