5 tips to survive the busy end of year period

December 19, 2016

You know that co-worker that glides effortlessly through the holiday period, organizing the staff holiday party, fitting in more client meetings than usual to account for office closures, putting her hand up to help others get through their workload, and doing it all with a smile on her face? No, neither do we, this person doesn’t exist.

But some people do seem to handle the busy period leading up to the end of the year better than others, staying calm in face of chaos and longer working hours as we try to wrap everything up before the year ends. These people probably make it look easier because they are following a few simple guidelines that help them keep their sanity at this time of the year.

We’ve put together five simple tips you can use to help make this holiday period the most productive and enjoyable yet.

Write it down and prioritize. Have client report deadlines, thank you letters to write, appeals to get out, and people to follow up? Get it all out of your head and into your calendar or a to-do list. We at CRE use a lot of different methods for prioritizing during busy times, but these two are easy to implement and work time and again:

  • If you aren’t yet sure what tasks are urgent, and what can wait, a great tool to help you do so is Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix. By marking to-dos in one of four grids – important and urgent; important but not urgent; urgent but not important; and not urgent and not important – you can begin to understand what you need to do today, what you postpone, what you can delegate, and what doesn’t actually need attending to.
  • But you still need to make sure you’re finding time to map and complete these urgent tasks. One way to do this is not to turn on your computer for 15 minutes when you first get into work. Instead use this time to list out everything you need to get done and establish what is urgent, what you can do quickly, what other people can help you with, and what can wait until tomorrow. As soon as you turn your computer on, block time for the tasks and stick to your schedule where possible.

Both of these not only help clear your head to focus on whatever task is at hand, but work as a helpful reminder of what needs to be done so that nothing slips your mind.

Slow down and honor your time. Slowing down may feel counter intuitive to being productive, but rushing around can actually heighten your anxiety and create tension. Rushing to fit in more clients than usual or get all your end of year emails done can also lead to mistakes, double bookings, and then even more anxiety! We’ve all read about the importance of focusing on one thing at a time – we’re not giving you any new information here. But we are telling you that now might be the time to start putting it into action. Need to get that report done? Turn off your email and log off the internal chat, even move to a meeting room for an hour to focus on one task at a time.

Remember to take care of yourself. Now that you’ve put some systems in place to manage the extra work, it’s time to take care of yourself. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But the truth is, it’s not always that easy. Working in a community based organization or for a charitable cause can take a lot of personal energy and extra time. While it’s always important to take care of yourself, the busy end of year period makes it extra critical. Not only do we have extra demands on our time at work, but our lives outside of work get busier as we try to attend all the end of year events and prepare for our own. Take breaks to get outside and get some fresh air, try breathing exercises, and eat well. Even mundane tasks like taking the recycling out and doing the dishes can help you feel like you are taking care of your environment, and therefore, yourself. And where possible, try to keep a regular sleep schedule.

Find time to laugh. Community based organizations and nonprofits deal with serious and often intense subject matter on a daily basis, but it doesn’t mean they cannot also be a place for joy and laughter. Laughing helps keep stress in check by reducing the levels of stress hormones, as well as increasing the production of serotonin and endorphins, making you feel good. Maintaining a sense of humor also helps to keep the good things front of mind. If you need a little extra motivation to laugh during the busy end of year period, download a funny podcast you’ve been hearing a lot about (try Earwolf or see if any comedians you like do a podcast), sign up for a daily email of light news (theSkimm has a host of short news items, quotes of the day, and short stories to browse through, delivered to your inbox every morning), or ask coworkers if they’ve seen any funny TV shows or movies lately.

Find strength (and help!) in your peers. If you’re feeling stressed, the chances are that those around you are also. Even the act of talking about it to someone else can help take the pressure off. Surrounding yourself with people who know what you are going through and how much is at stake is an incredible way to remember that you aren’t alone and what you are doing is valuable. Someone may even be able to help you delegate your workload, or have a good tip for getting through it better. By talking to your colleagues about how you’re feeling, you might even help relieve the stress of a coworker who is also feeling the pressure but hadn’t wanted to say anything.

The end of the year and start of the next will come before you know it. With these tips, you can hopefully slow down and prioritize self care and productivity, ensuring you are more capable than ever to provide much needed help to others. And hopefully have a smile and a laugh while you’re doing it!

By Marketing and Communications Manager, Hannah Collins

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