Is it possible to maintain productivity through the holidays, while maintaining that work-life balance? Yes, it is, even though it’s a challenge for most people. When clients come to us for coaching, we often map out their productivity through the year. In almost 100% of cases, we see a huge drop-off at the end of the year. When Joe and I can help them fix that, our clients see an increase their income the following year.
The Holiday Trap
Right now, we are officially in the holiday season, being pulled in a million directions and spending too much time on holiday activities rather than productivity. But the problem is that if you slack off at the end of the year, whether you work for a company or yourself, it will directly affect how much money you make the next year. Here’s the mindset: the week before Thanksgiving, people start putting their work efforts in a lower gear. They might have trips, concerts, parties, or other holiday fun coming up. So they begin putting work on the back burner, thinking, “I’ll get to it right after the first of the year.” There’s this mind trap of procrastination in which “after New Years’” becomes a time of suddenly magical productivity.
DEATH by loss of momentum
In a post from October of 2014 RomesFall commented, “Keeping momentum is of the UTMOST importance for anyone with serious ambitions and goals.” He went on to explain that a loss of momentum is often reflected in a loss of productivity, success, happiness, and confidence in one’s own abilities. When you lose momentum for any reason, you lose so much more than just the time that’s vaporized by procrastination! When the first of the year finally comes, it takes about three weeks to start getting into gear. By mid-February, you might be back up to speed. This is often too late for reaching first quarter goals. Perhaps the second and third quarter is great. And then…here comes the fourth quarter with its poor finish again. This productivity pattern is death to those in sales.
The productivity of the fourth quarter directly impacts the productivity of first quarter of the following year.
Five tips for maintaining productivity through the holidays.
1. Detailed plans
Plan your month in more detail than you normally would, infusing your calendar with a dose of reality. That holiday party is scheduled from 6-8pm, but what else goes into it? That taco salad you promised to bring will cost time in shopping for ingredients and putting it together. Then there’s the white elephant gift you have to find and wrap. Don’t forget travel time to and from the party. Make a real plan of what is actually going to happen in real time.
Decide how many hours you’ll work. Because entrepreneurs have a more flexible schedule, it’s easy to slack off. Make a plan for your daily working hours, and stick to it. The same holds true if you work for an employer: give your full effort on your regular schedule. Don’t write off the possibility of setting appointments during the holidays because you think everybody’s busy. This is actually a great time to connect and set up meetings, since work schedules may be more flexible.
Plan for free time so you don’t feel guilty and can enjoy holiday activities, like baking those Christmas cookies. But make sure to plan the entire amount of time it will take, and then double it! Things often take much longer than you think they will. Here’s a big planning mistake to avoid: thinking you can maintain your normal schedule AND squeeze in all the holiday activities. Realize that, if you’re doing more, then there must be less of some other things. Look for unproductive ways you spend time – like TV or social media – and cut back there. You cannot cut back on business time: those tasks that make money for your family.
2. Energy management
In addition to managing your time, manage your energy. What time of day are you most energetic? Are you an early bird or night owl? Make sure you’re doing your highest income producing activities during your highest-energy time. Plan fun holiday activities for when you normally have less energy. The fun of the activity will naturally make you feel more energetic. Another part of managing your energy is watching your sugar intake. This time of year, we are surrounded by delicious things. But that sugar coma can get you! Plan your treats and be moderate.
3. Take the easy road
I learned this one from my mother-in-law. Despite working full time, she managed to pull off perfect Christmases by taking the easy road whenever possible. She was busy but in control. Watching her, I realized that she really only worked hard for the holiday on two days of the month. These were the days that she did the bulk of her meal preparation and clean up. The rest of the month she really paced herself. She’d buy a holiday tablecloth and put up a small tree. All her shopping was done by catalog, and she wrote Christmas cards at night while watching TV. She knew her limitations and didn’t try to be Martha Stewart.
We need to kill the idea that our celebrations must be elaborate and perfect. We don’t need a perfect Hallmark Christmas. Holidays are about people. Don’t be afraid to try something new, like take-out Chinese for Christmas Eve dinner! If you get a brilliant idea like hand-sewing placemats, avoid doing it the week before Christmas. Get in the habit of working on holiday craft projects over summers.
One way to make shopping easier is to buy from your friends who are in direct sales. Many direct sales companies have items that make great gifts, like candles, make-up, or jewelry. I want to support my friends’ businesses, and they have a good feeling about me the rest of the year.
4. Avoid multi-tasking
It’s a proven fact that you don’t get as much done when multi-tasking. For maximum productivity, it’s better to block off a section of time and work on one project. Rather than doing a little work and then a little online shopping at work, save the shopping for lower energy, non-work hours.
5. Keep working
If you’re in business for yourself, the most important thing is not to let up on your intensity or your productivity. Avoid quitting work early. Put in FULL days of work. Continue working in your highest income producing areas. Decide what time of day you have the most energy and work your business during those hours. Make everything else fit around your work schedule. Delegate everything you can.
If you’re working for a company, you’re still getting paid for a full day’s work, so give your employer what you’re being paid for. Stay focused on your work rather than trying to multi-task for holiday activities. Avoid being ‘pulled into’ the less productive habits of those you may be surrounded by.
6. Reward Yourself
Give yourself a gift! Most people neglect this. We run around and do all these things for other people, forgetting that this is our holiday too. Select something you want and use it as a reward for working hard through the holiday season. Go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Do something you enjoy. Buy yourself that gift you really wanted but didn’t get.
It’s vital to our mental and physical health that we take time and unwind but let’s not stretch this out for six weeks. Do take time for holiday fun but be realistic about your plans. If you can successfully maintain momentum and productivity through the holidays, then your New Year will be off to a great start! For more great tips check out Kevin Eikenberry’s tips HERE.