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How to Maintain Your Productivity Throughout the Holiday Season

How to Maintain Your Productivity Throughout the Holiday Season
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    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 July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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