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Happier Holidays: 10 Tips to Cut Distractions and Hassles

By Dr. Geri Markel On holiday-hassles

How Can Leaders Keep Focus and Productivity High & Stress Low During the Holidays?

Loaded down with holiday packages, Steve braces himself against the bitter wind as he searches the mall parking lot for his car. When he finally reaches his sedan, he sets a large box on the roof and digs into his pocket for the keys. While he loads shopping bags into the backseat, a neighbor calls out a greeting from a few rows over. They wish each other happy holidays, and with snow flurries stinging his eyes, Steve climbs into the car and turns on the heater full blast. Pulling out of his parking space, he hears a sudden crash as the package on the roof goes tumbling …

This is a classic example of a holiday hassle brought on by distraction. Steve’s effective leadership skills didn’t protect him from the sabotaging effects of distraction.

10 Tips for Greater Focus and Productivity During the Holidays

During the holidays, most adults take on extra responsibilities to meet the increased family, social, and workplace expectations of the season. Everyday pressures like stress, rushing, over commitment, technology overload, and multitasking are intensified. All of this makes it easy to become distracted. These ten tips help you manage distractions and avoid holiday hassles.

  1. List your tasks and activities, and then schedule them into time slots. Santa had it right when he advised checking your list twice: Can you reasonably accomplish everything within the allotted amount of time? Does your schedule truly reflect your priorities and values?
  2. Communicate to others what you want and need in order to accomplish mutual holiday goals.  Be assertive; your feelings are just as important as those of others. Use your schedule to help you say no to over commitment. For example, say no to nonessential meetings and gatherings.
  3. Control the technology you use, not the other way around. Institute an electronic lockdown for tasks that require full concentration: turn off or silence everything except the piece of equipment you need to use (including the alert sound for new e-mail or text messages).
  4. Manage the places and spaces you occupy. Holiday decorations and music in public spaces can be excessively distracting and over stimulating. To allow for quiet focus or relaxation, it helps to leave some areas minimally decorated in your workplace and home.
  5. Recognize the physical and emotional symptoms of stress: headaches, sleeplessness, digestive upset, jitteriness, irritability, and comments from others about your behavior. To manage stress, use proven methods such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and better nutrition. For example, stick to your exercise schedule, even if you reduce the number or duration of your exercise sessions.
  6. Address the issue of fatigue! Holiday activities mean extra driving, and fatigued drivers put themselves and everyone around them at risk. Fatigued workers commit more errors on the job. Make sleep a priority, and take refreshing breaks frequently.
  7. Consider the effects of illness and medication. If you’ve been ill, cut back on holiday activities and give yourself the gift of recovery. Keep to your medication schedule despite changes in your routine. Remember that alcoholic beverages and medications don’t mix!
  8. Tame your racing mind (See 7 Tips to Rein in Your Racing Mind – 10/31/16). If holiday pressures have you lost in daydreaming, obsessing over minor details to the exclusion of more important ones, or spinning your wheels with racing thoughts, bring yourself back to the present moment. Seek support when needed.
  9. Remember that being a leader when the energy and activities of the season are in high gear is no easy feat, especially with the predictable stress felt by employees. You can help them by discussing ways to reduce distractions and related stress—and by setting a good example.
  10. Finally, as much as possible, put off important tasks until January. Discuss expectations for the holiday season, allow for some flexibility in schedules, smile, and do your best to support a positive atmosphere.

It’s possible to limit the distractions that lead to holiday hassles. With increased awareness and some simple strategies, you can get more done, help those you lead, and have more fun during the holiday season.


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