Staying focused at work is a battle that everyone faces at this time of the year. It can be challenging to concentrate when the other part of your brain is already thinking about holidays, buying presents or attending parties.
Before you enjoy the much-awaited break, it’s important to take care of your responsibilities first. This way, you can relax and enjoy quality time with your loved ones without thinking about your job. By taking a few simple steps, you can also welcome the upcoming year with a clean (and more organised) slate.
In this month’s article we look at 10 things you can do to help you accomplish your tasks and better manage the work/life balance in the weeks running up to Christmas, as well as creating a fresh start for 2020:
1. Finding better focus and more energy
Whilst the party season has kicked off, most professionals and business owners we know are exhausted and counting down the days to Christmas. However, the end is not upon us just yet and November / December is a time when important legal and business issues come to a head, and you need to stay focused and keep your team engaged.
In order to remain focused and productive it’s ideal to plan ahead and create a list of specific tasks. Remember to avoid multi-tasking as it is inefficient, instead organise your workload into batches and do one thing at a time.
Ensuring you and your team stay motivated and rested during this busy period is important to maintain energy levels. You might find yourself receiving many invitations to parties, casual catch ups and more in the run up to Christmas, however there is no need to say yes to every invitation. Try to manage social functions so that you are not over extending yourself or staying out too late during the week.
If you lead a team or are part of management, it’s important to apply flexibility and understanding for parents trying to juggle their children’s end of year commitments and encourage Christmas spirit to keep staff engaged and happy to be in the office right up until the last day.
2. Clear the inbox
If it feels like you’re receiving a never-ending stream of emails, you’re right! On average, individuals receive 126 emails per day, a volume that can be overwhelming and result in increased stress and anxiety.
Listed below are some email management tips to help you overcome inbox overwhelm and clear your email up over the final few weeks of 2019, so you can start 2020 with a clear inbox:
- Limit the number of times you check your emails (both on your phone and in the office) during the day. Allocate certain times for the task e.g. 10am, 2pm, and 5pm.
- Close your email program down completely when concentrating on an important task. This helps you work more efficiently and remain focused on the task at hand as you can’t get distracted by mail notifications or pop-ups.
- When you do check your emails, don’t just skim them and move on. Address each email and take one of the following actions:
- Do it: Respond to the email or undertake the task required.
- Delegate it: Ask yourself whether it would be more efficient for someone else to undertake the task. If so, forward it to the appropriate team member.
- Delete or file: Remove it from your inbox to its intended destination.
- Structure your mail into categories for easier management. Utilise the features of your mail program such as folders, labels and more to organise your emails into an easy-to-understand system.
- Unsubscribe from unwanted promotional emails. If you find yourself repeatedly deleting email from a particular sender, unsubscribe completely.
- Create templates for frequently used emails. If you find yourself sending similar emails to numerous recipients for tasks such as quotes, FAQs, service queries and more, creating a base template that can be quickly customised for each recipient is ideal.
3. Organise the company tax return
We all like to start a new year with a clean and fresh slate. The same approach should be applied to business. This gives your business the best possible start for the new calendar year, helping you to better manage the financial health of your business.
Don’t postpone talking to your company accountant about your 2018-2019 Tax Return until 2020, after all, January means you’re halfway through the financial year so it’s worth taking a look at now.
Planning for tax time now provides you with many benefits, including the ability to better plan the yearly budget as you have clarity over the company tax liability, plus it provides valuable feedback on the year’s performance to help you better strategise for 2020.
4. Take yourself or the management team out for coffee and contemplation
The end of the working year is an ideal time to take a break from the daily operations of a business and reflect on the year that has passed. This exercise can generate valuable insights which will lead to increased productivity and better business performance in the new year.
Some questions you can ask yourself and management include:
- Where did we succeed?
- Where did we fall short and need to improve?
- Which team members need to be acknowledged for their performance?
- In which areas did we grow and how can we leverage this moving forward?
- What are the business goals for 2020?
Taking the time to reflect on the business year passed will enable you to have a clearer vision moving forward.
5. Bring spring into your office
Many of us feel stressed and overwhelmed with the many demands placed on our time during the final stretch of the year. Creating an uplifting work environment is one way to help keep everyone’s spirits high and energy focused so why not bring some flowers into the office?
Studies show that fresh-cut flowers deliver a multitude of benefits to the workplace. They improve general wellbeing, increase happiness and energy levels, raise productivity at work, improve concentration levels and creativity and boost your mood whilst reducing stress levels and anxiety. Plus, they also look and smell wonderful.
6. Reduce office clutter
Throughout the year clutter can build up in the office making it less user friendly. Research shows that clutter distracts attention away from the task at hand, hinders creativity, and prevents productivity and growth, which often makes one feel stagnant in the workplace.
Making the effort to declutter now means you can start the New Year in a workspace that is more conducive to higher levels of productivity and happiness. Listed below are some tips to help you declutter your workspace:
- Write a list of all the items in the office that are no longer required or have not been used during the year. Consider how each listed item can be safely removed, reused or recycled e.g. you may be able to donate old computers or office furniture to not-for-profit organisations setting up offices. Alternatively, look up when your next eWaste collection will be for old printers, phones and computers.
- Re-evaluate your belongings. Take a look at all your stationery, equipment and more. Does everything have a purpose? Do you need it or is it redundant, out-dated or broken? Get rid of everything you don’t use or need.
- Tame your cables. Tangled cables are a never-ending battle at work. Invest in cable organisers to tidy the stream of cables hanging from your desk, printer hubs and any other areas.
- Create hidden storage. If you’re unable to install traditional shelves, consider using a pegboard, which are an incredibly popular way to hide cables, routers and other devices on the back of your desk.
- Reboot your office every evening, not just your computer. A messy desk while working is ok, but it’s important to clear it at the end of each day so clutter doesn’t accumulate over days. When you shut down your computer for the evening, give the desk a quick tidy too, so when you start the next morning it’s a fresh day.
7. Encourage hobbies outside of work
Having a hobby outside of work provides a raft of benefits. Not only does it help to relieve stress and keep you more relaxed by keeping you engaged in something you enjoy, it allows you to explore yourself, your talents and enriches your social life as you create a bond with those who share your hobby.
Hobbies also benefit the workplace as they increase creativity, improve memory, self-confidence and self-esteem, as well as enrich your perspective across the board.
Regardless of what type of hobby you have or take up, these benefits translate into your work and will help you get to the end of the year with some bounce still in your step. And it’s always interesting to discover the hobbies of your work colleagues..so why not ask?
8. Never stop learning
The benefits of life-long learning are numerous. Believing that you can continue to learn, grow and develop new skills can help you approach challenges with a more positive mindset and lead to great success.
Life-long learning contributes to improved self-confidence, alleviation of boredom, a healthy brain and sharp mind. With so many great reasons to keep learning, and the widespread availability of online courses and wonderful local libraries, exploring a new subject has never been easier.
The December office shutdown is a great time to do the things that you don’t find time to do during the year. Read the non-fiction book that you have had on your bedside table for months, re-learn the musical instrument you have stuck away in a cupboard or pick a new subject to explore and get started.
9. Make contact with clients and friends of your business
The festive season is a great reason to pick up the phone or send a card to clients and colleagues who are valued members of your network. Contacting them now is the ideal time to arrange a catch-up early in the New Year to find out how you can help them or their business grow.
This not only assures them that they are top-of-mind for you, but it also enables you to hit the ground running in 2020, making the most of any business opportunities possible for your business.
10. ‘Tis the season to say thanks
After a full year, everyone wants to go into Christmas feeling like they have achieved a lot and that all the hard work was worthwhile. Nothing is more fulfilling than feeling valued and appreciated.
It’s no secret that people who are happy at work are more productive and inspire those around them to smile, be happy and to work better as a team.
As Christmas is the season of giving, now is the time to make sure you do something special to thank those around you for their efforts in 2019, while shifting their vision to bigger and better things next year.
Here are some ways to say thank you:
- Decorate your office space. By decorating your office, you’ll get the team interacting and bonding with each other. It’s all about getting into the spirit of things and having some fun.
- Organise a Christmas party that appeals to everyone. Your business’ Christmas party is all about your team – thanking them for their efforts and enabling them to spend some time together socially, outside of the pressure of work commitments. Perhaps ask your team what they’d like to do and use that as a guideline when planning the get together.
- Hand out Christmas gift cards. If you have the budget, rewarding your team at Christmas time with a gift card is a great way to say thank you as they can choose their own gift.
- Say thank you. The power of these two words cannot be underestimated. Simply taking the time to say thanks to your team before they head off on their break is a great way to show them you notice and appreciate their efforts.
- Be flexible when possible. If December or January are quiet months for you, why not give team members who work over time or who’ve achieved great things, some time off without impacting their leave entitlements? Little gestures such as this can go a long way to boosting team morale.
We hope our 10 Ways to Make it to Christmas helps you better manage the last few chaotic weeks of the year. But more than that, we hope that it has provided you with a few tips, tricks and strategies that will see you start 2020 off with a clean slate and poised for bigger and better things for your workplace and beyond.
TOP TIPS FOR STAYING FOCUSED AT WORK
- Plan ahead. Create specific tasks with deadlines to help motivate you to work on them. Delegate the appropriate tasks to team members so they can help you meet deadlines.
- Avoid multi-tasking. Instead, organise your workload into batches and do one thing at a time.
- Create a separate timetable for recreational activities. This will help you avoid compromising your work-life balance during the pre-Xmas chaos.
- Shop on weekends. Shopping during lunch breaks or after work can be a distraction during work hours as you focus mental energy on thinking about your shopping list, where to go etc.
- Know the impact of your actions. Reflect on the consequences of not finishing your workload – does it mean a shorter break or that you will be unable to attend your child’s Christmas play at school?
- Online shopping. Shopping online in your free time can save you from many hours spent shopping, the Christmas crowds and feeling exhausted.
- Take care of you. Your health is one of your most valuable assets and without it not much else can be accomplished, so it’s essential to watch your food intake and ensure you get sufficient exercise and sleep.
- Resist the urge to overcommit. Whilst taking on new projects shows initiative and flexibility, this time of year might not be the ideal time to overwhelm your schedule with extra work.