How to stay productive during the holidays

christmas holly clipart

It’s holiday time, when too many of us go into paroxysms of busyness. Since mid-November—heck, since October, even—certain people have told me they won’t have time until January because of the holidays. It’s our all-expansive, all-excusing excuse for losing our calm and clawing hold of control. (No, I don’t believe either that anyone whose fiscal year doesn’t end December 31 is that busy or that “the holidays” is the cause.)

But let’s stick to getting through this period ourselves as communications professionals. Especially when we depend on those other people to answer questions or supply part of our work or keep deadlines moving along.

The members of the LinkEds & Writers group see planning as the answer whether they expect a holiday rush or not. Planning, they say, is the key to coping with any situation, including too much work or too little.

Some members see more assignments this time of year as offices empty and deadlines pile up. “There are always a few clients who look around and panic because the end of the year is coming,” says a health and medical writer. “I start gearing up in the fall because I know there is always going to be a rush around the holidays. I try to finish assignments before Christmas so I can have the holiday and the week before New Year’s Day free. Most of the time I manage it.”

On the other hand, several group members experience fewer assignments and responses late in the year because editors and managers are distracted or away. How best to use the extra time? Some answers:

–Recharge. You may not want a vacation, but if you’re forced to take one, make the most of it. “I plan for downtime and at least a week off,” says one writer/editor. A friend of mine arranged her work to take three weeks off and get out of town with family.

–Get organized to organize. “I’m making a daily schedule with time for book promotion, writing, revising, and chilling in my easy chair with a great book,” says one writer. “Reading puts me in the mood for writing.”

–Update your website. “All year long, I put my stories and photos in Dropbox for my editors. Now at the end of the year, I would like to take those stories and assemble them,” writes a farm writer.

–While you’re at it, clean out your Dropbox, too, along with email and so on.

–Clean and perk up your workspace. This one comes from Shon Bacon of the Blood-Red Pencil blog. “Create a beautiful, bright, active atmosphere that will spark beautiful, bright, and active writing,” she says.

–Start on your taxes. When winter starts in earnest, you’ll find me at the dining-room table, surrounded by calculator, receipts, financial statements, and so on. It’s got to be done, so why not spend these dark, cold hours when you’re not otherwise working rather than a beautiful spring weekend or two when the pressure’s on?

–Find an accountability partner. Also from Bacon: If you need a kick in the pants to get work done, “hook up with your accountability partner (AP) now, each of you telling the other what you’d like to get done between now and the week after the first of January. Be reasonable and realistic. You know how much holiday work you have to do, so don’t overtax yourself—but do keep creativity in your life. Make weekly check-ins with your AP to make sure the creative work is getting done.”

Bacon is thinking about more creative, self-generated work than the outside assignments most of the LinkEds & Writers do. Nonetheless, we can probably all benefit from some of her year-end advice: “Use [the] first and last moments of your day to get in touch with your creativity.” Happy productive or relaxing holidays!

Copyright 2014 Ellen M. Ryan. All rights reserved.

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