This is a great time to talk about the “busy work” that keeps us busy but unproductive – especially since there’s so much of it during the holiday season!

It’s fun to prepare for the holiday party, decide what E-cards to send (and to whom), chat over the holiday cookie platter or do some online ‘window’ shopping.  I mean, who can pass up the amazing deals, right?  And you have to get the perfect stocking stuffer…

But these activities, just like the multitude we can find at other times in the year, keep us from being productive.

Now, before you holler “Scrooge!” hear me out.

It’s OK to use some of the time at work to get minor errands done.  But when you look up in January and wonder where the whole month went, that’s a bummer – and not so good for your career, either.

Instead of waiting ‘til January to make your resolutions, resolve now to be productive in December, so you can start the new year with your head high.

Here are a few simple steps.

Prioritize your projects.  There are certain projects that you really want to get done this month, and others that are simply false ‘emergencies.’  Is the end of the calendar year also the end of your company’s fiscal year? If so, you’ve probably got VERY clear goals. But even if not, what needs to get done this month? Make a list, and make sure you’re working toward completion each day (or at least monitoring the progress on each.)

Break the projects you have into manageable chunks. When we have a large project, it can seem overwhelming, and easy to put off.  Instead, decide what the smaller pieces of the larger project are.  Can you delegate some of these pieces? Are you already waiting on information or actions from others?  What small action can you take on today?  Just breaking it down makes it easier to dive in and start tackling the components.

Keep track of progress. If you know you’ve got three big projects to get done this month (and five small ones), figure out a way to ‘check off’ when a project (or portion of a project) gets completed.  The sense of accomplishment will keep you going.

Start your day off with a plan. Yes, our days are crazy and we have to be somewhat flexible. But when you start work in the morning, have a list of the key items you want to accomplish that day. When you have a plan, you can reference it as you go along, and make sure you’re doing the important stuff – and not getting distracted with the ‘fluff.’ Plus, once you’ve gotten your tasks accomplished, maybe you’ll have time to do some of that online shopping after all…

At the end of the day, know you probably won’t be as productive during this month as during others.  It’s OK to anticipate family time, and chat with coworkers about their plans. Just don’t allow the spirit of the season to suck all the spirit of productivity out of you.

When you ring in the New Year, won’t it be more fun if you know you rocked your December?  What do you do to stay on task during this month?

Aurelia Flores is Senior Counsel at a Fortune 500 company and former Fulbright Fellow who graduated from Stanford Law School. Her website, PowerfulLatinas.com, offers stories of success, along with resources and programs focused on Latino empowerment.

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Aurelia Flores is Senior Counsel at a Fortune 500 company and former Fulbright Fellow who graduated from Stanford Law School. Her website, PowerfulLatinas.com, offers stories of success, along with resources and programs focused on Latino empowerment.

 

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