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It’s the Thought that Counts: Top Tips for Productive Pre-Christmas Planning

It may seem early to be thinking about Christmas, but look around: chocolate Santas are already tempting us in supermarkets, save-the-dates are filling your in-box and the usual suspects are releasing Christmas albums (Neil Diamond, we’re looking at you). Don’t leave it until twelve days before Christmas to plan your work calendar around your holiday: now is the perfect time to be thinking ahead. So with this in mind, we’ve collated the top suggestions from our own facilitators, from outside the productivity industry and from the Internet about how to successfully manage your Christmas deadlines. At PEP we’re all about achieving what matters – and in this case, it’s a well-earned break from work concerns

Plan for looming deadlines and ongoing projects:

  • PEP facilitators Rona Fairfield and Tracey Ward suggest scheduling time to plan specifically for Christmas deadlines. Identify exactly what work projects need to be completed before you leave and plan time into your calendar to achieve them. “Plan now to complete everything before the break,” says Ward, “or those deadlines will suddenly appear and it will be a rush to get them completed.” And remember, says PEPworldwide:nz managing director Kathryn Anda, “What must be done is not necessarily what you’d like to do or what feels good to do.
  • Productivity consultant Julie Morgenstern stresses that when you’re making your pre-Christmas to-do list, it’s important to stay focused: this is not the time to start new projects or add extra tasks to your pile. Identify your “core functions” and list those first.
  • Identify your priorities, whether they are work, social or family-oriented, adds Fairfield: “The lead-up to Christmas affects every part of our lives. Seek balance.
  • Do look ahead to the first two weeks after you return from your holiday, suggests PEP facilitator Susan Sliedrecht. “Complete any prep work that you need to do before you go on leave, so that you’re not stressing about it while you’re on holiday.

Use your upcoming holiday as motivation to complete tasks you’ve been avoiding:

  • Of course, if you’ve read our blog on Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination this won’t apply to you. But if you do have a bit of a backlog, productivity specialist Laura Vanderkam recommends looking through this pile and identifying which task will give you the highest value – and the most relief on its completion – before you go.

Plan your holiday exit strategy:

  • Setting up Out of Office notifications on your phone and email is, of course, essential. However, if your role involves providing support to customers, then take this concept a step further and give your customers a personal heads-up as to your availability and whom they can contact in your absence, says Stu Jones, sales strategist at Salesforce. “Your customers will appreciate you reaching out, rather than receiving a generic Out of Office notification when they contact you.
  • In the vast majority of companies, research shows that workloads are delegated to other employees when team members are on holiday. Within your own office, identify what work needs to be managed while you’re away and who will be responsible for it. Ensure managers have approved or signed off any necessary work before they leave for holiday. And let key people know whether you can be contacted over the break if necessary, says Jones. “Some people don’t mind being contacted over the holidays. Some people do. Figure out which one you are.
  • Outside your office, ensure you understand your customers’ plans as well, adds Jones. “If you’re aiming to close business you need to understand your customers’ timelines and availability. You don’t want to put pressure on clients to sign off business at the start of the year; nor do you want to start the year by putting pressure on yourself to close deals.
  • Think globally: “Remember that both customers and staff from overseas don’t necessarily know that New Zealanders take a long break over Christmas,” says Jones, whose company is based in the US. “Ensure they understand your availability over the holiday.

Do a pre-Christmas purge:

  • This is a great time to organise both your physical workspace and your electronic files, especially email, says Fairfield. “Make sure everything has its place, and bin or delete what you no longer need.

Plan for your return:

  • Schedule time into your calendar now for post-holiday admin – clearing emails and catching up on any developments after your holiday. “Schedule a meeting with the person covering your role to go over what you’ve missed,” says Fairfield.
  • Buy yourself some time: “Protect your first day back by extending your Out of Office notifications for an extra day, allowing you to clear the backlog of emails and work that’s accumulated while you’re away,” says PEP facilitator Jason Hewitt. “Give yourself time to get back on top.

Now fortify yourself with a chocolate Santa and start putting these ideas into practice. And with a bit of judicious preparation, by the time the last of the Christmas mince pies have suspiciously disappeared from the lunchroom, your only concern over the holiday break will be the weather.