Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

Mary’s Weekly Articles and Valuable Tools

Subscribe below and get Dr. Mary Kelly’s
weekly newsletter in your inbox.


21 Tricks to Keep Focus, Motivation and Deadlines During the Holidays for Busy Managers

The holidays are right around the corner. This is the time of year where time accelerates. We often feel as though there is just too much to do and not enough free time to accomplish everything we think we should do. Some of us just give up and do nothing. Others fall hopelessly behind, then we transform into frenzied Tasmanian Devils and whirling dervishes of disjointed project management.

How do we remain happy, balanced, and productive during the holiday season? How to we carve out the lack of focus, bake up some motivation, stuff in an extra helping of efficiency, and be ready before the timer signals that we are ready for the holidays?

If all else fails, do we have a back up plan? What happens when the turkey isn’t fully cooked and everything else is ready? How to we manage when we fall behind?

Our holiday To-Do lists can spiral out of control, causing us to feel overwhelmed. Here are some ideas for staying focused, motivated, and on schedule.

Techniques for regaining focus:

  1. Take a shower. (I know, it sounds crazy, but have you ever noticed how many great ideas you get in the shower?)
  2. Turn off all online distractions such as Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, etc. Close all computer windows.
  3. Turn off both the TV and radio.
  4. Get away from anything that might give you something else to do. (I go to a diner or a coffee shop and just force myself to sit and work. I have no distractions – I cannot get up to put in a load of laundry or clean a bathroom or play with the dogs.)
  5. Do quick workout. Run or walk, and lift a few weights to get endorphins going and allow the subconscious mind to sort out priorities.
  6. Eat jalapeños or something spicy. Spicy food, research shows, releases endorphins, so you’ll feel better, allowing you to focus.
  7. Use a white board and a large wall calendar. Seeing what is coming up helps us mentally plan the time we need to get things done.

Sometimes we feel overwhelmed and don’t feel like being productive with anything. What then?

Techniques when we lack of motivation:

  1. Make a list of everything you have to do and start with the easiest ones. Cross items off the list to get a sense of accomplishment.
  2. Physically get together with other productive people and work at the same time. (This is like a school study group which keeps people focused and motivated. )
  3. The advantage of group work is that sometimes (not all the time) you can find someone to trade jobs with.
  4. Tell yourself that you really need to get this done, then promise yourself a reward when you are finished.
  5. Remind yourself how good it will feel when you are finished so you don’t have to think about it anymore.
  6. Set deadlines. News flash: We are hardwired to work to deadlines. Productivity is often directly related to how soon a project is due. (Did you ever write a paper for school the night before it was due?)
  7. Set a timer. Tell your self that you are going to focus on that one project for the next 20 minutes. If your mind wanders or you get distracted, you have to reset the timer.

Don’t use the holidays as an excuse. “It’s the holidays.” The holidays show up every year. They should not be a surprise. “What with the holidays an all…”

Think about what happens if this doesn’t get done. What are the consequences? Can you live with those consequences? If so, maybe it really doesn’t have to happen.

How to meet multiple deadlines:

  1. Assign deadlines. Put projects on the calendar that a project is due three days earlier than really needed. Deadline creep by your boss is irritating, but it can work when we are managing many individual tasks.
  2. Reorganize. Spread everything out on a table and start by getting the work needed in order, filed, cleaned up, and ready for our attention.
  3. Get help. When we promise something to someone else, it keeps us accountable.
  4. Be accountable to yourself, with consequences. “If I procrastinate on this project I won’t be able to go out with my friends because I will be here working.”
  5. Set times to work. From 9-10 am I am going to work on the report due Friday. From 10-10:15 I will check email and Facebook, then back to work from 10:30-11:30.
  6. Plan for delays and disasters. Realize that computers break, people get sick, and appointments are missed.
  7. Just start. Oftentimes, the biggest struggle is just getting started. Once we start, it may be easier to finish than we thought.

The holidays are a time of joy and chaos and celebrating with people we care about. Being more productive on the projects that we care about reduces stress and alleviates anxiety. This holiday season, let’s focus on what matters, accomplish what is important, and worry less about what does not. 


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *