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3 Ways to Be Productive When You’re in a Holiday Mindset

Blame four straight days of overeating, or the malaise that sets in after a few days off, but many of you are probably not feeling super productive today. The bad news is that this isn’t just a post-Thanksgiving problem: from now until New Year’s, there will always be a hundred reasons why you can’t make things happen at work. (Short list: upcoming vacation, holiday planning, holiday shopping, everyone else is away and therefore it’s impossible to get an answer, and so on.)
Image Credit: JD Hancock/Flickr

The thing is, precisely because everyone’s dragging a bit the Monday after Thanksgiving, today is actually a fantastic workday — if you can get your head in the game. Think of how much you can get done, while everyone else is procrastinating, and therefore not emailing every five seconds with questions.

The key is to focus on the little things, and chip away at your workload:

  1. Pick 30-second tasks.

“I cannot tell you how many times I have written, ‘Send an email to such and such,’ or ‘Follow up with such and such,’ upon my to-do list, then it sat there for a while,” writes Murray Newlands at Inc. “When I, at last, go to finish these chores, they take under 30 seconds; therefore, what was I waiting for?”

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Today’s an excellent day to return an email, make a phone call, reorganize your desk, or follow up on one last detail. You’ll get a sense of accomplishment from crossing that item off your to-do list, and you’ll take care of the small things that often slip through the cracks.

  1. Stop beating yourself up.

Berating yourself for not being more productive is tempting, because it feels almost like getting something done. (To-do list item: “Beat myself up for not crossing more items off my to-do list.”) In fact, it saps productivity and motivation.

“The negative emotions we create by being overly hard on ourselves not only erode our happiness, but change our physiology,” Margie Warrell, author of Brave: 50 Everyday Acts of Courage to Thrive in Work, Love, and Life, tells The Muse. “Beating up on yourself actually narrows your peripheral vision so that, both metaphorically and literally, you can see less opportunity to address your challenges, fix your mistakes and create the opportunities you want.”

  1. Don’t fall for seasonal distractions.

If you’re reading this on Cyber Monday, you might be tempted to deal with your lack of motivation by concentrating on online shopping instead. Think twice before you give up on getting stuff done. If you focus on life-stuff during work, you’ll wind up doing work-stuff while you’re trying to live your life. That’s a recipe for frustration.

Instead, block off time to work in sprints and shut down anything that isn’t related to the task at hand. That means closing browser windows full of online shopping sites and saving social media for off-hours, unless your job is to tweet on behalf of the company.

Remember: most of us can only do one thing at a time. Focus on work, and you’ll have more time and energy for holiday fun after.

Want to do something for your career today? Find out how much you should be getting paid. Take PayScale’s free Salary Survey and find out the appropriate range for your experience and skills.

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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