From Halloween to Black Friday and Beyond: Beating the Holiday Slump

“After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working.– Kenneth Grahame, British author of The Wind in the Willows.  

From Halloween to Black Friday and Beyond: Beating the Holiday Slump by Laura Stack #productivityBeware, it’s almost here: the dreaded holiday slump, when all of us are so ready for a much-needed break that productivity threatens to slip. Many of your team members will disappear for weeks at a time to visit relatives located clear across the country, and those who don’t will be so distracted by holiday planning that they might as well stay home. The result? Lagging productivity… unless of course you take up the slack.

Every silver cloud has its lining, and this one is the post-holiday productivity that tends to rise significantly as everyone starts a new year rested and ready, full of happiness, good cheer, and short-lived resolutions. But that’s later. What do you do in the meantime?

Well, you and your lonely teammates don’t have to stretch yourself like Mr. Fantastic to meet your team’s productivity quotas. First, plan for a break and time off for yourself. Second, thank your lucky stars you don’t work in retail (unless you do—sorry)! Third, take some simple steps to maximize your productivity during the holiday slump. You may not make up for everything a full team would accomplish, but most managers will be pleased if you can even come close.

Step right up to the plate

Yes, you’re probably ready for your break, but this is no time to allow productivity to slip. So don’t daydream, or dawdle, or stop caring about your duties just because you and your colleagues are poised to scatter as soon as the clock ticks over to 5 PM. That’s a dangerous way to think in times like the holidays. Though the rest of the world may go black, you need to stay on your toes.

One simple thing you can do is get ahead on all your regularly scheduled products and tasks. This hold special importance if you’re planning to head out for a Thanksgiving or Christmastime gathering. The more you can produce before you leave, the less your colleagues will have to cover for you later or do when you get back. One way to accomplish this is to stay a bit late every workday until you’ve got a nice buffer ready; an hour may prove sufficient if you plan carefully. Have some advance work “in the can” and ready to go ahead of time.

Another way to save time while you’re in the middle of the holiday slump is to email less (you’re just going to get a ton of out of office messages anyway). Condense your communications into shorter, clearer messages with exactly the answer or information you need. Cut back on the water-cooler socializing, and stop checking your Facebook and Twitter accounts at work. You’ll gain an extra hour to get work done and get out of the office earlier.

It’s especially important to follow to your task list closely, and to make sure it’s triaged correctly. Do only the most crucial items, leaving the rest for the post-holiday productivity spike. Don’t ignore things you must do, but don’t waste time of things on limited importance, either. If they can wait, then let them. Does your company allow telecommuting or work-at-home days? If so, put them into action during the holidays. Save the commute time and bake pies instead.

Keep your energy level high. Take a few breaks during the day: you need to recharge so you can head back into the fray energetic and clearheaded. Skipping breaks just to get a little more work done will only cause you to flame out early. Make sure you have some coffee on hand (I like to joke that coffee’s my #1 Productivity Tip). More importantly, maintain your health on all fronts. Don’t overwork yourself so you’re too tired to sleep, or skip sleep altogether. Never miss meals, and make sure you eat as healthily as possible so your meals pick you up, not slow you down. Exercise healthy portion control. Hydrate regularly, and do a little physical exercise when you can. A brisk 15-minute walk can do wonders for your energy level. Finally, you may not be able to avoid stress, given the circumstances, but do your best to maintain your mental health. You might be surprised at how a good laugh can give you your upbeat attitude and energy back.

Oh—and don’t forget to celebrate the holidays with your friends. Whether your traditions include Christmas, Hanukah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, or Festivus, attend your company’s holiday party and do a little carousing (but only a little). Social activities, while still undervalued in some venues, have their place in team cohesion, so get out there and have fun with your team…leading to increased productivity after the holidays.

© 2015 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and in 2015 was inducted into its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit her website.