10 Ways to Work Smarter During the Holidays

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 18, 2012
Typically, the month of December brings a lull to the workplace. With school vacations and holidays resulting in time off for many employees, it sometimes seems futile to try to actually accomplish anything of value. In fact, some see it as a good time to "resolve to get things done next year."

But it doesn't have to be this way if you use these tips to work smarter, not harder.

Just because it seems like a ghost town around the office doesn’t mean you have to play dead. Consider the change of pace and disruption to the workplace routine a golden opportunity to be proactive, productive and well-positioned to hit the ground running when everyone else finally gets over their holiday hangovers.

If you are like many people with extra obligations during this season, it may seem a little overwhelming trying to balance work and home life. That’s why your daily planner, calendar, to-do list or whatever tool you use to stay organized is more vital than ever.

Once you write down a schedule for your non-work-related tasks, you’ll find they don’t nag you so much. Before work in the morning, write down any upcoming errands and when you will do them or how you will delegate them. Keep a pad of paper next to your bed if you’re the type who wakes up obsessing about things.

Now that you’ve compartmentalized your personal chores, thereby reducing your stress levels, you’re ready to be more productive at work. Let’s start with a task that seems impossible during the hectic busy season, but which can be calming and even enlightening when you set aside time for it – cleaning out your email inbox.

Going through a year’s worth of emails is a good way to remind yourself of your accomplishments and your goals. Take notes about projects, both completed and ongoing. This will help you get organized, plan for the New Year and fill out progress reports (for yourself and employees).

It's easier to focus when you're not faced with clutter, so treat your folders and drawers to the same pruning treatment you gave your inbox - taking inventory and notes as you go. Just don't overdo the cleaning: Studies show that inspirational photos and artwork on office walls can enhance productivity.

Now that you’ve refreshed your memory and gained a newfound (or re-found) appreciation for all you’ve done during the year, it’s the time to finish up anything you can and make a plan for the tasks that need a little extra effort and resources. It’s also a good time to email good wishes to colleagues, clients or vendors and stay connected.

Remote access technology gives employees the mobility to work from their laptops and smartphones – anywhere there’s an Internet connection. This is a great productivity booster for people who need to work from home or while traveling during the holidays. It also allows scattered colleagues to meet virtually.

Taking a break from work during the day can actually increase your efficiency. Whether you use the time to eat a healthy meal, take a walk, chat with a friend, or make a dent in your personal errands list, this time spent on yourself will help you de-stress and recharge your batteries so you’re rarin?to go in the afternoon.

One last word of advice: Don’t blow all your efforts to work smart at the end of the year by letting your guard down and forgetting that the office holiday party is a “work?party. Use it as good opportunity to expand your horizons and learn from colleagues you may not work with daily.

Now, when you come back to the office in early January, you won’t be worrying if you overdid it at the office party or dreading any loose ends you left behind. You’ll be starting off the way you should ?with a clean slate, a clean desk and a clear plan for achieving your new goals.