Staying Focused on Work over the Holidays

The Holidays. They deserve the capitalization. It’s the month and a half between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day that turn our world upside down. Between gift buying, gift giving, party throwing and attending, and the rapid holiday decorating, it can be too much. Some call it Silly Season. There’s a reason most C-suite executives take time off during holiday season—which can exacerbate our problems, removing a level of management and oversight on which we may normally rely.

If we can’t take time off, we need to make sure we’re focused on our work. Here are a few tips for keeping up or even getting ahead over the holiday season.

Plan Ahead

There’s absolutely no reason to cram all the shopping and planning into December. Start now. Make a list of holiday things that need to get done and start checking them off. Whether the things on our list are strictly work-related or personal, the holiday time crunch will make everything more difficult. We need to get as organized as we can.

One of the most successful women we know plans out her wardrobe for the entire week on Saturdays and Sundays. For the rest of the week, she doesn’t even have to think of it, unless some dramatic change in the weather occurs. Dressing for the office is a necessity, but one we can plan ahead for. What else can we plan ahead for?

Review your calendar and to do lists:

  • Move non-time-sensitive things to after the holidays.
  • Finish must-do items as soon as possible. This is no time for procrastination!
  • Resist taking on more than you can get done.

Still Only 24 Hours in a Day

Just because a lot more needs to be done does not mean we have more time to do it. We need to stick to our schedule.

Limit meetings:

  • Make sure all meetings are necessary. If not, they can wait until next year.
  • Make sure all meetings have set agendas. If they don’t, make them or cancel the meeting.
  • Make sure all meetings stay on topic. If they don’t, suggest another time when the new topics could be discussed (preferably after the holidays).

Take Advantage

Personal obligations may increase during the holidays, and this will also remove some distracting people from your workspace. Many offices tend to slack a little over the holidays. This means less chit-chat. The financial markets are closed more often, people go on vacation, and expectations are lowered. If we can block out the distractions, it’s a great time to charge ahead on preparations for next year’s projects.

While the office is emptier, with less people putting projects on your agenda, we can finish up some of those big projects we’ve been working on.


As much as possible, we should try to keep work duties and personal needs separate. We’ll never be as good as we can at one if the other is on our mind. We’ll get overwhelmed. It’s a recipe for stress dreams, and that’s the last thing we need. If at all possible, don’t take your work home. Limit personal errands to after work. Even lunch hour errands can damage our work performance. We need to be our best at work, and that means taking a break on occasion.

  • Do personal things during personal time.
  • Do work things during work time.
  • Don’t let one get in the way of the other.
  • Keep a calendar with individual tasks set in 60 or 90 minute blocks.

Don’t Multitask

It’s a bad time for multitasking. When at work, stay on task. Gift shopping online from your desk will likely punch a hole in your don’t-take-work-home pledge. It may feel like we’re getting more done, but in reality, we’re just scattering ourselves.

  • Stay with a task until it’s finished.
  • Check it off your list.
  • Move on.
  • Do not check your social media during work hours—at least until the holidays are over. All those cute baby Santas will be there still.

Don’t Get Swept Up

It’s a holiday. It’s not our last day on Earth, so there’s no expectation of perfection. There’s no reason to get involved in crazy fads. Hit toys and must-have gifts are not actual necessities. Keeping our job—that’s a necessity. Don’t go crashing through the barricades of some Black Friday sale unless it’s something you actually enjoy doing.

Stick to Your Plans

This time of year, we all tend to bite off way more than we can chew. We shouldn’t take on new responsibilities we might normally pass on because we’re feeling generous and other people are overburdened. And, we shouldn’t feel like everyone’s holidays depend on us. They don’t! We all choose to celebrate these holidays. Whether we find ourselves happy for the opportunity to rejoice or dreading the added stress, it is entirely up to us.

Stay Positive

With all the holiday buildup, it’s easy to feel let down (or, more often, that we’re letting others down). We need to take some of the pressure off ourselves and get in the holiday spirit. It’s a time for merriment, not fret. If we don’t have the money for the gift we want to give, that is all the more reason to celebrate what we have and concentrate on making more. We find our colleagues are much more likely to work well with us when we’re relaxed and happy than when we’re stressed and grumpy. We realize it’s asking a lot, but greet that holiday to-do list with a smile.

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