Photo credit: cliff1066™ (CC BY 2.0)

The holiday season is perhaps the most difficult time of year to stay focused and get anything done. While summer can be challenging due to vacations and the demands of children off from school, the holiday season can be a killer because of the extra load of activities, tasks and calendar overload.

But you don’t have to throw up your hands in defeat.

There are some very simple steps you can take to keep moving forward while in the midst of holiday chaos.

Be reasonable about your expectations

Accept that your time may be more limited due to holiday obligations or time off. Don’t schedule more than you can reasonably fit into your calendar. And don’t take on anything new unless you’re trying drive yourself into an overwhelmed, overstretched, stressed out state or have been secretly dying to experience burnout.

Get in the mood

Believe it or not, being in a festive mood not only leads to a more fun atmosphere, it also can reduce stress and allow you to get more done. And actually have a good time while doing it! Don’t fight it. Put on those holiday tunes, use your Santa pen, if you have one, and let the holiday cheer flow. (Note: That does not mean that you can drink eggnog all day.)

Shift your focus to more collaborative efforts

Since you’re more likely to be more social this time of year anyway, why not take advantage of that? Plan a shopping, baking, decorating party with friends. Schedule a social lunch with team members. Bring some cookies into the boardroom and work on plans for next year. People tend to be in better spirits and get along better now than at any other time of the year. Capitalize on that positive mood.

Be creative

What might work the other 11 months of the year might not work for you now. Be flexible, be creative and be willing to try something new. If you’re lucky enough to have the ability to shift your schedule and/or tasks that’s one place to start. The other is with your focus. You might find that you are more or less creative now or more or less able to tackle detail oriented tasks. Perhaps you normally prefer to work alone, but now want to immerse yourself in the throng. Or conversely, you can’t concentrate in the office chaos and want to try working from home a couple days per week.

Two strategies that might work for me…

At home: My weekends during the holiday season tend to be so busy that I have found that it works better to set aside 15-30 minutes before or after work each day to clean my house rather than trying to squeeze in the marathon Saturday cleaning session. I’ve also asked for more help; hubby can vacuum and youngest son loves to do windows.

At work: I hate exercising when it’s dark out in the morning, so I’m now trying to start work at earlier (7:30) and taking a time to exercise on my lunch hour. We’ll see how it goes… Also, since I can start working earlier, I have more uninterrupted time in the AM before calls and meetings. I’m shifting my social media time to later in the day and spending my first couple of hours on writing and project work.

It’s all a work in progress. The important thing is to learn to go with the flow instead of paddling against it.

Have you found any strategies for getting things done during the busy holiday time? What do you do that might help others? Please share them in the comments.

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