I’m obsessed with getting as much done as humanly possible. Every single day.
Is anyone else as obsessed with productivity as I am? Sometimes I trick myself into thinking I’m a robot, and then I get tired or near burned out, and I remember that I’m a mere mortal human.
And during certain times of the year, where the season is especially busy (like summer and holidays), getting as much done as I want becomes a real struggle. During the month of December, we are going on half-horsepower for #TeamTeri behind the scenes here, in anticipation for feeling extra tired and stressed due to holiday season panic.
Between the usually daily grind of family, work and self-care, in addition to holiday parties, gift shopping, and other seasonal fun, here are our top hacks for productivity during this frantic time of year.
SCALE DOWN YOUR TO-DO
As simple as this sounds, we need to make sure that our daily to-do lists are actually shorter during the holidays (I suggest cutting at least 25% to 50% of your normal to-do list everyday for the months of November and December).
With holiday dinners and parties, gift shopping, baking cookies for kid’s schools, decorating, entertaining family for days at a time, and other usual seasonal activities, we need to make room for holiday-focused tasks, which also means intentionally cutting down on our usual to-do list. So if your to-do list is usually 20 items long, cut to at most 15 items (taking 5 items off), so that you can insert holiday-specific tasks that need to be completed.
Don’t take your usual 20-item list and pile on 5 more holiday tasks, which then increases your to-do’s by 25% (and we can’t increase the number of hours in our day to compensate).
TRY TO GET SOME SLEEP
Sleep is usually the first thing that is taken away when we feel overwhelmed with too much on our plate. During a time of the year when you can’t afford to get sick, the power of sleep is the answer to sustaining productivity and keeping your immune system healthy.
Set a time everyday where you must go to sleep, a hard deadline where you must drop everything and go to bed. My personal rule is 11:30pm where I close the computer and get to bed. I hit this about 80% of the time, and I know that this 11:30pm bed rule is even more crucial during the holiday rush. Even if it means moving leftover to-do items to the next day, I have to mentally be OK with that.
SAY NO TO MORE
Holidays are a time when it feels like 100 more requests are coming at you, be it for work, school, family or friends. We must be better at saying No for the sake of our sanity and well being. We can no longer be the Yes person who is trying to people please everyone. As harsh as this sounds, why can’t the person asking the request be the one to accomplish the task? They are taking the time to request us of something, so why can’t they do it themselves? It’s their idea in the first place!
If you must say Yes to a request, but you know that you really shouldn’t, try to minimize the time and energy to complete the “minimum viable product.” For example, your kid’s school asks for 5 dozen cookies for the holiday party. Instead of baking 60 cookies from scratch, Amazon Prime Grocery it so cookies magically arrive at your door, go on TaskRabbit.com and hire someone to run to the gluten-free vegan bakery that’s across town without a parking lot, or even ask your spouse/partner/cousin/friend to go to Costco for you. This is what “minimum viable product” is when we are doing the most minimum amount of work in order to achieve 85% of the result. This is a business tactic for efficiency that can carry over to our personal lives, too.
DETERMINE REAL EMERGENCIES
Why does it seem like everyone has a fire, that only you can put out? Determine what’s a “real emergency” from a “fake emergency.” And here’s my personal hard and fast rule: F.F.I.D. This is an acronym I created to determine what a real emergency is, which stands for FIRE, FLOOD, INJURY, DEATH. A “real emergency” for me must fall into one of those 4 categories of F.F.I.D, otherwise, I don’t drop what I’m doing and move around my schedule to accommodate.
Your friend needs you to come be their guest to their holiday office party which is tonight (and they are picking you up in an hour)? It’s not an FFID, so don’t go. The PTA assigns you the task of buying enough wrapping paper for 100 gifts and you need to drop off by this afternoon. It’s not an FFID, so earliest you can drop off is 48 hours from now. Your partner forgot their wallet at home and texts you to drive it to the mall (because they are in line at checkout right now, even thought you’re in the middle of a doctor’s appointment)? It’s not an FFID, so they need to either drive home to get it or go back to the store later.
This one is probably the hardest “holiday productivity hack” because it means actually denying help to other people. We are natural people-pleasers, and we want to make everyone happy, even at the expense of our own. But we must remember that we are not responsible for everyone else on the planet, and we cannot solve everyone’s problems due to their own lack of preparedness. It’s not our fault that sh*t hit the fan for these other people, so don’t let other people get angry at you because you are up to your ears in your own holiday rush.
PLAN WAY AHEAD
The #1 productivity hack for the holidays is simply to plan way ahead. It’s especially crucial this time of year to plan ahead, even more than you normally do.
If you typically allow 20 minutes of drive time and you’re going to a holiday dinner party, plan for 60 minutes (literally triple it). If you think you’ll get gift shopping done in 1 weekend, plan for 3 weekends. I personally try to double, or ideally triple, the amount of time I estimate to finish a task (and I do this year-round). So if I complete it early, then great, but there have been many times where I needed the buffer or extra breathing room.
The worse thing we can do during the holiday season is to procrastinate and not prepare in advance. Our conception of time is that we have all the hours in the day to get things done, yet the days get shorter during the holiday season, with our task list growing bigger. So we must be extremely mindful where our priorities lay, what we absolutely need (and not need to) accomplish, and plan way ahead to get things done.