It doesn’t matter really. If you’re a solopreneur, a director of a corporate business unit, a team member at an international enterprise or any other kind of role designation, you run into this.
Work and business don’t stop. In a lot of cases, they speed up at this time of year. Yet, you KNOW that you have holiday-related events and such involving family, friends, co-workers and neighbors that are unique and important. As if pressures weren’t high enough, they just got higher. How do you prioritize it all?
Those of us who have more structured professions (go into the office, meetings, clients, projects, etc.) have to block it a bit more. That is, there are so many hours a day that are a bit more obviously devoted to the company. However, in those cases, we may be used to operating well outside those boundaries for any number of reasons: too much to try and get done while at the office, passion or dread about the work itself, 21st century digital working habits, or Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). This is the season when the opportunities and, in come cases, requirements for physical attendance at parties, meet-ups, dinners, and local or remote visits show up and they don’t go away.
Prioritization in these cases can mean:
- Saying “No” to some meetings – many organizations have a tendency to bring people into a room for meetings who are, at best, only peripheral to the project. If you find yourself in that scenario, do your best to beg off. There are some meetings that are purely political which are especially difficult to avoid. Do what you can in those cases. Meetings eat up tons of productivity in the workplace and anything you can do to minimize them will only help you get everything done in the time allotted. Impromptu meetings (people dropping by your workspace) are also another major meeting-like distraction and productivity killer (See this Forbes article for more on these problems at work)
- A seasonal shift in your work hours – this can be helpful if your events and activities take place in the evening during the week. Consider going into the office an hour early. Not only will you be more likely to get work done at that time (you show up before your co-workers, and the meetings haven’t started yet…), but your commute may also be a bit shorter due to the change in traffic patterns earlier in the morning. Who knows? That bit might become permanent!
- Take more control of your regular processes – here you can make alterations that could positively influence your productivity all year long. The big one is e-mail. Alongside meetings, email is an enormous distraction and productivity killer. A lot of companies have forgotten that it is an asynchronous method of communication (that is, it’s not real-time….if you want real-time, come to my office or call/IM me…). Try not starting your day in your inbox. Try only opening your mail periodically throughout they day so you aren’t “shiny thing” distracted by that envelope showing up on your task bar. Constant jerking away from your work to scan a new mail disrupts your flow for the project at hand and is one manifestation of the FOMO mentioned earlier. Close it down and stay focused for awhile
For those of us who operate more independently with our calendars, it gets even stranger. Depending on your life situation, the pressure is likely on to “go and do” in a lot more, shall we say, creative ways, that usual. What do I mean? Well, the various people that surround you, personally and professionally, may assume that your time is more fluid than it actually is. One of the secrets of working independently is to define and stick to some kind of routine. The mind likes routine. Just because it is holiday time doesn’t mean you don’t have clients, development and deliverables. Nonetheless, there are additional obligations like those mentioned earlier, plus inevitable “errands” that feed into some holiday party or meet-up in some way.
How does prioritization work for these independents? I our own way, we need to work out the the points mentioned above. We also need to add particular discipline around the routines we set for ourselves. This isn’t to say we can’t be a little more flexible (after all, consideration for others is a foundation of being human) with our schedules. We also need to be just as firm when it comes to blocked time for deliverable development and service delivery. Co-workers and others need to understand that when you’re working, you’re working, but that you also have “holiday time” set aside and scheduled.
Still and all, my wish for all of us is that we allow our thoughts to rest upon the hope for a more peaceful world at this time of year, despite all appearances to the contrary. Practical prioritization and making room for the holidays should help make things a bit more peaceful for you.
That is my hope.