How to stay focused at work dur… ooh, cake!

Office and school parties, shopping for relatives, hosting a few events at home and planning your holiday travel arrangements...trying to stay focused with so many different activities is difficult. Not to mention, the changes in weather and loss of precious daylight hours tends to depress even the most joyful holiday spirit.

Holiday stress often leads to distractions at work, loss of productivity and increased mistakes. Many employees try to cram their personal holiday priorities into their workday schedule. Plus, the holiday season represents one of the biggest vacation times for managers and C-Level executives. Typical oversight and supervision is absent during Christmas making it difficult to motivate employees and maintain a high level of productivity when people are out of the office.

If you find your motivation slipping away or just can’t keep your head in the game, these simple ways to stay focused should help push you back on your feet.

Leave your personal chores at home.

The most distracting element during the season is bringing your personal holiday errands to work. No one can completely focus on two important areas at once. One or the other will suffer, most likely your work productivity. Instead of using company time to plan personal events, explain to the boss that you need a couple of days off to work on holiday preparations.

Try to avoid multitasking.

Yes, it is true that professionals need to be able to work on several projects at once. You have to choose the tasks that are multitask-friendly. Never cram two or three projects into one work day. You may think this saves time for holiday planning. In the end, you most likely will make a mistake and have to redo the work, which wastes more time.

Start fresh each day and clear your mind.

Before the holiday rush starts and you're desperate for ways to stay focused at work, sit down with pen and paper, draw two columns on the page and outline things you have to do and things you would like to accomplish. Take those ideas and schedule a few tasks for each day. Complete the easiest ones first and then move on to the more complex activities. Looking at your prospective holiday activity often provides a less stressful outcome. Nothing looks as bad on paper as in your mind.

Stress builds up rather fast. Don’t drag the extra baggage from day to day. Each night, mark off your completed activities and take time to breathe. Enjoy the satisfaction that comes with completing your goals. The following morning, think about your plans for the day. Don’t worry about tomorrow, focus on the immediate. Taking one day at a time reduces anxiety and stress. It helps you stay focused on the immediate and eliminates distractions.

Limit your distractions.

How many times have you caught yourself looking out the window, daydreaming about an upcoming holiday party? Or maybe you get sidetracked trying to figure out how to meet your Wednesday deadline and make it to your son’s game. We all face distractions in the office, but one of the easiest ways to stay focused at work is to limit them. Sometimes we just stare into space or take a short nap. Limit those distractions.

Remove anything from your work area that has served to distract you in the past. Whether this is a photo of your children, one of those political bobblehead statues or bouncy ball. Take those items home during the holidays and save them for January. Do you spend too much time scheduling emails? Set aside – this means scheduling – time to check your emails each day. If you’re concerned about missing an email from your boss or important client, setup desktop alerts for those people.

Tell your family and friends to respect your working hours.

Another easy way to stay focused at work is to keep your workday distraction-free – no personal calls, texts or emails. Co-workers understand this; our professional friends get it. However, our family rarely does. Family and friends, particularly children, parents and unemployed loved ones, don’t understand that some things take priority over family. This doesn’t mean you don’t love them or are unavailable during emergencies. It means you must set professional boundaries.

Put your phone in a desk drawer and leave it there until after work. Ask your loved ones to not call or text you during working hours. Explain to them how it distracts from your work, sends the wrong message to co-workers and hurts your professional image. Give the alternative numbers for urgent matters or ask them to call your office if there is an emergency.

Unplug from Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook during your office hours. Social media and texting are two of the largest distractions to employees. Most companies have instituted procedures and rules around social media usage while at work. Even if your company hasn’t taken those measures, don’t log into social media at work, unless it’s a job requirement. Save your posts, Tweets, Likes, Follows, etc. for home. If you must use social media as part of your work, set aside time each day to update feeds and reply to comments.

Take care of yourself regularly – mind and body.

Failing to exercise and take care of your health causes stress, anxiety and depression – all contributing triggers to office distractions. Take a walk around the office building or have lunch in the park. Park your car further from the door and use the stairs instead of the elevator. Look for any opportunity to get on your feet and move around.

Don’t forget to take care of your mind as well. Consider meditation, tai chi or yoga. These activities help reduce stress, keep you focused and eliminates some distractions. Don’t stay up until the wee hours of the morning. Try to force yourself to get at least six hours of sleep every night. Adequate sleep leaves you feeling more alert and re-energized in the morning. Working until dawn and then catching a few hours leaves you sluggish and tired.

Resist the urge to overcommit.

It’s a good thing to volunteer and take on more work. This shows initiative and flexibility. However, now may not be the best time of year to overburden your schedule with extra work. Resist the urge to take on new tasks. Explain to your co-workers that you’ve committed a certain number of hours to holiday hours and work-related projects. Apologize for not being able to help and offer to pick up the slack after the holidays. Most team members understand that holidays are hectic and everyone’s schedule is a little overloaded. Hopefully, they won’t get their feelings hurt.

Overcommitting also applies to holiday activities, whether they’re personal or organized by your company. Go through your schedule in early November. Determine how much time you have to for holiday planning, shopping, festivities and other activities. Don’t be afraid to tell someone no. They may seem a little pushy, but your sanity and ability to focus on work is more important.

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