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How to Maintain Your Productivity Throughout the Holiday Season

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How to Maintain Your Productivity Throughout the Holiday Season
    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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…

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    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.

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    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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    Royale Scuderi

    A creative strategist, consultant and writer who specializes in cultivating human potential for happiness, health and fulfillment.

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    Last Updated on October 21, 2021

    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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