Stay Focus During the Holiday Season


When people ask you what you’re doing over the holidays, they typically mean outside of work. And without question, travel plans, budgeting, shopping and even weather are probably on your mind too.

But the end of the year is also a time for tasks ranging from seasonal initiatives to the work you’re expected to do day in and out (regardless of the presence of holiday music in your local stores). So, here are some easy ways to increase your focus in the office in November and December.

3. Don’t give into interruptions

The temptation to multitask can be even greater this time of year. Your email dings with a retail promotion or a flash sale and you think: Is a five-minute scan of that website to see if you can check someone off your holiday list so bad? Or, maybe your travel companion asks you to review possible flight details and get back to her ASAP. After all, it’s just a couple of minutes.

Well, according to a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, interruptions can cause the quality of your work to decline — significantly. But the findings also pointed to a solution. Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson explain:

Those who were warned of an interruption that never came improved by a whopping 43%, and even outperformed the control test takers who were left alone…Somehow, it seems, they marshaled extra brain power to steel themselves against interruption, or perhaps the potential for interruptions served as a kind of deadline that helped them focus even better.

In other words, to be extra focused and productive, take the following two steps. First, tell yourself that, over the holidays, there are going to be more interruptions. And then — the critical second part — is not to give into them. Use the possibility of impromptu cookie gatherings in the break room to inspire you to buckle down and work faster. But if that invitation does come midway while you’re working, politely tell your coworker you’re in the middle of something, and will be only too thrilled to have a sweet when you’re finished.

2. Look for the right projects

Different companies — and even coworkers who’ve put in for time off — will work different schedules around the holidays. So, what are you to do when you’re slated to work the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas and all of your contacts have set up an out of office

At first, it can feel like you have your hands tied behind your back because you can’t get a quick reply back on anything. However, you can — and should — use everyone else’s absence to your advantage. Can you imagine how many emails you could catch up if people weren’t replying at the same rate you were sending them off?

This is also a great time to work on self-guided, pet projects. You’ll have the opportunity to research without worrying anyone will ask you to pop into a meeting or answer an email ASAP. It’s easier to focus on these sorts of big picture tasks when you know you’ll have the time you need to really dig in.

Finally, don’t forget to count holiday-related tasks as meaningful work. For example, networking with your team at a holiday party can go a long way to building work relationships. So, don’t worry if team lunch is cutting into your afternoon. (After all, it’s not like you’re going to come back to an overwhelming number of email messages.)

3. Be thoughtful about your off hours as well

Another key to staying focused at work is trying to isolate your office tasks to office hours. It’s tempting to log extra hours at your desk to get ahead of work before time off — or maybe it’s just your usual pattern to be on email 24/7.

But one of the best ways to avoid the aforementioned distractions is to make sure you’re allowing yourself time to shop, and plan, and do whatever else you need to do outside of the office.

So, try to schedule meetings in your calendar for holiday-related needs just as you would for work-related tasks. This includes everything from sending holiday cards to scouring Pinterest for a recipe to bring to your holiday gathering. If you know you’ll have time to accomplish these tasks, you won’t feel the urge to try and squeeze them in during the workday.

Yes, the holidays are a time when there are even more distractions than ever at work. But if you can find a way to cope and get your work done, you’ll be starting off the New Year ahead of the game.