5 Ways to Stay Productive During the Holidays

man in santa hat, stressed

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Between parties, shopping, and vacation time, it’s a wonder anyone gets any work done around the holidays. Whether you’re trying to cram in last-minute gift buying, stressed about your mother-in-law’s looming visit, or simply suffering from year-end burn out, there’s a good chance your productivity tends to dip the closer you get to the New Year.

You’re not alone. Twenty-two percent of people surveyed by Accountemps said they were less productive in the week before a major holiday. Thirty-two percent of people said they actually worked harder before a holiday break. The survey didn’t ask why some people felt like they weren’t getting as much done as they normally would, but it’s easy to guess why. Even if you’re not distracted by your own plans, your performance can suffer because your co-workers are less focused or your boss is on vacation.

“The holidays are a hectic time for many professionals, and people react differently under pressure,” said Bill Driscoll, a district president for Accountemps. “For some, upcoming holidays spur them to move faster and more efficiently, while others are slowed down by the feeling of being pulled in many directions.”

If you feel a severe case of holiday-induced panic setting in, take a deep breath and relax. It’s possible to enjoy yourself at this time of year and still show your boss that you’re a stellar employee. Here are five tips for staying focused and productive at work during the holiday season.


 1. Don’t overbook yourself

Your social calendar is probably pretty crowded at this time of year. Parties are part of the holiday fun, but if you book yourself solid through the entire month of December you run the risk of burn out. Make sure you leave some down time in your schedule so that you can rest and recuperate. Celebrations that drag on into the wee hours can also be a problem. People who get poor sleep are less productive at work, according to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and one over-tired employee costs an employer nearly $2,000 a year.

2. Avoid overindulgence

drunk at holiday party

Source: iStock

A little overindulgence is almost inevitable at this time of year, but knock back too many cocktails or sample cookies by the dozen and you’ll start to feel the ill effects. Hangovers cost the American economy $77 billion every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An unhealthy diet can also make you less productive at work, a study at Brigham Young University found. Try to stick to mostly healthy foods and you’ll find it easier to stay focused at the office.


3. Prioritize your to-dos

You’ve got a vacation coming up and a to-do list a mile long. Prioritizing your tasks can help you get the most important things done before you head out for your holiday break. Focus on the most important items first and try not to get caught up in the small stuff and distracting, last-minute projects.

“The psychological relief of clearing your mental clutter and then removing some burdens is immense,” productivity expert Casey Moore told Forbes. “It makes your holidays more joyful and energizes you to accomplish your front burner tasks.”

Another tip: Write tomorrow’s to-do list before you leave the office for the day. You’ll be able to hit the ground running the next morning and may even be able to cut the amount of time you spend worrying about work when you’re not on the clock.

4. Curb online shopping

online shopping cyber monday

Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Roughly half of workers surveyed by CareerBuilder in 2014 said they planned to do some online holiday shopping while at the office, and 10% of senior-level employees said they’d probably waste three hours or more browsing for gifts. While the lure of a Cyber Monday deal can be hard to resist, spending too much time scratching items off your shopping list or booking holiday travel can seriously cut into your work productivity. Limit your shopping time to your lunch hour or save the browsing for when you’re at home.


5. Get in the spirit

Don’t be a Grinch this holiday season. Happy workers are 12% more productive than unhappy workers, a study by researchers at the University of Warwick found. So, if draping your cubicle with tinsel or listening to Christmas tunes on repeat puts a smile on your face, don’t hold back. It may well improve the quality of your work. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle, take a few minutes for yourself and there’s a good chance you’ll return to your desk more motivated than before.

“The driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality,” Daniel Sgroi, the economist who conducted the study, said in a statement.

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