Benjamin Franklin said it well: “Procrastination is verily the thief of time.” Failure to achieve everything that you know you can do in a set amount of time can be disheartening, can make you feel less than you really are. But there are ways and means of besting procrastination. Not every suggestion here may suit your taste and temperament, so try them out buffet style; if one doesn’t do it for you, move on to the next:
How to Manage Time During the Holidays
Can It Be Outsourced?
Sometimes a task that needs to be done can be delegated or outsourced to someone else. Nobody can micromanage every little thing, so take a long hard look at the task at hand to see if you can give it to a partner, colleague or even a friend or family member to do for you.
See if you can barter something else for it — babysitting, dog walking, attending a dull seminar for someone, etc. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. It’s a sign you know how to prioritize your time. If it’s something that only you can do, then the following tips will come in handy.
Focus on the Benefits Once It’s Done
Try to visualize how good it will feel to get it done.
Think of how doing this task will solve a problem or move a project along, or just get that nagging feeling off your back. Just do it. When it’s done, tell yourself two things: First, that you feel better now that’s it done, and second, that it wasn’t all that difficult after all. Most people look forward to positive consequences — this is how you harness that characteristic.
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What Happens if It Doesn’t Get Done?
What are the consequences if you don’t get it done on time? Who will it hurt or irritate? This is known as ‘negative motivation’. Some people are able to harness their worry and nagging doubts in order to get their work done fast and efficiently.
If you don’t like how a looming task is making you feel, then get started on it NOW. In most cases you’ll start to feel better immediately. You don’t have time to worry about something when you’re actually doing it.
Don’t Try to Swallow It All at Once
It’s possible to eat a whole elephant by yourself, but not in one piece! It’s the same with any assignment. Cut it into manageable pieces, and don’t leave them too big — otherwise you still might choke on them
Don’t worry about doing it all in order, either. There’s no reason you have to start with the ‘trunk’ if taking care of the ‘tail’ eases you into the task sooner. As each piece of the project gets done, the whole of the thing becomes smaller and less challenging. Soon, there’s nothing left but elephant lips!
Build Momentum with The Two-Minute Rule
One method to get started on daunting tasks is the “Two-Minute Rule.” If something takes less than two minutes, do it immediately. Even if a task takes longer, commit to just two minutes and start it.
Often, the hardest part is beginning, and once you’re in motion, you’re likely to continue. This tactic breaks inertia, creating momentum which can carry you through a project.
The holidays present a rush of activities; by applying this rule, you can tackle small tasks immediately and initiate larger tasks, making them feel more manageable.
Promise Yourself a Treat Afterwards
Pick a small reward for when it’s all over and done with. A personal moment to listen to some music, taking a quick walk, or buying a boutique cupcake and keeping it in sight as you toil away — knowing how good it will taste when you’ve finished your task.
If it’s a big, involved task, you can use a timer so that every 45 minutes or so you take a break to nibble on the cupcake or stretch your legs, or whatever it is that you’ve promised yourself as a reward. And then don’t cheat; work tirelessly that whole 45 minutes.
You can do it, because you know it has to come to an end and you can enjoy a little something when the timer goes off.
Focus Isn’t Hocus Pocus
It can feel overwhelming when you have too much on your plate at one time. It will drain your energy and motivation. This is especially vexing when there are constant reminders of other tasks ahead of you as you plod on.
So clear the decks, physically and mentally, of all the other stuff that needs doing. Focus on the ONE THING you are doing right now.
The other stuff will keep. Or, as financier J. Pierpont Morgan was fond of saying: “No problem can be solved until it is reduced to some simple form. The changing of a vague difficulty into a specific, concrete form is a very essential element in thinking.”
Keep Track of Your Accomplishments
Isn’t it funny how you can spend eight hours getting things done well, and then at the end of the day still feel as if nothing was accomplished? You need to keep a list of everything you accomplished each day — then, when it’s over, you can look at the list and be astonished and heartened all over again at how much you really did get done — despite all the distractions and upsets that the normal day brings.
Take a Chance
Juggling multiple tasks can sometimes make work feel monotonous or overwhelming. However, introducing an element of surprise can reinvigorate your routine and add a touch of excitement to your day. One playful and effective method is the “Note Card Shuffle.” Here’s how it works:
- Write Tasks on Note Cards: Begin by jotting down every task you have for the day on separate note cards.
- Shuffle Them: Once all tasks are written, flip the cards over and give them a good shuffle.
- Pick the Top Card: Without peeking, commit to completing the task on the top card. Dive in, no matter what it is.
- Move On to the Next: Once you’ve finished the task on the first card, select the next one and continue the process.
- Adapt as Needed: While this method introduces an element of fun, it might not be suitable for every situation. Use your discretion and adapt if necessary, ensuring critical tasks are addressed when needed.
Use visual aids like charts, graphs, or even simple post-it notes to visualize your tasks. This can be particularly useful for complex projects where you need to see the big picture and how individual tasks fit together.
For example, if you’re planning a big holiday meal, having a visual breakdown of preparation times, oven schedules, and serving order can be invaluable.
Who is Your Alter Ego?
What would Superman or Wonder Woman do if faced with your current task? They’d get it done in record time, no doubt, while smashing villains left and right.
So pick a super hero to emulate and really get into their mind as you tackle that PowerPoint presentation or report that was supposed to be done yesterday. Hum the theme of your super hero as you triumph over that villain of all villains — procrastination!
Use the 80/20 Rule to Your Advantage
The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, suggests that 80% of outcomes come from 20% of causes. Apply this to holiday tasks: focus on the 20% of activities that provide 80% of the desired results. Instead of spreading yourself thin trying to handle everything, identify key tasks that will make the most significant impact.
This way, you can invest your time and energy where it will yield the most reward, ensuring your holiday preparations are both efficient and meaningful.
Know When to Fold
First drafts and first attempts are never going to be perfect. So don’t get frustrated when your initial attempt turns up a little lacking in something or other. You’ve made a heroic start on the project, for which you should congratulate yourself.
Continue on with the next draft and/or attempt, and keep going until you’ve got what you want. And if you find yourself never reaching that point, then, in the words of the The Gambler, “Know when to fold em”.
You’ve got to be able to realize when something may not be perfect, but is good enough to do the job and satisfy the boss.
Decide to Decide
You may be faced with a multitude of roads to take to achieve your project. So you become paralyzed with the What Ifs — ‘what if I do it this way but the other way would have worked better?’ And you don’t get started at all.
Decide to decide on one way of doing it — then do it. If it turns out not to be the correct way, so what? Now you know of at least one way of not doing it — which will come in handy with future projects. Don’t beat yourself up for wasting time; just chalk it up to experience and decide on a new route.
Or decide to shelve it and come back to it when you’re rested and relaxed.
Embrace the Power of No
During the holiday season, requests and invitations will flood in. Remember that every time you say “yes” to one thing, you’re inadvertently saying “no” to another, potentially more important, task or event.
Recognize your limits. Politely decline offers or requests that don’t align with your primary objectives or those that might spread you too thin.
By being selective in your commitments, you maintain control over your time, ensuring you can fully engage in and enjoy your chosen activities.
All work and no play makes Jack, and Jill, a burned out slacker. Make sure to schedule time for yourself, for your friends and family, for your hobbies and pleasures. Successful people have said it so often that it’s almost a cliche: “When I can’t find a solution to a problem, I go skiing (or camping or jogging or whatever), and while I was enjoying myself the answer came to me unbidden!”
And if the inspiration doesn’t come in the middle of a game of Scrabble, then so be it — at least you’ll be rested up and ready to tackle that same beast of a task the next day.
The holidays are a dynamic time with often unpredictable elements. While it’s essential to have a plan, it’s just as crucial to remain adaptable. If something isn’t going as planned, stay calm, reassess, and adjust accordingly. Flexibility can save you a lot of stress and time in the long run.
Remember, the holidays are a time to celebrate and be with loved ones. While being productive is essential, it’s just as crucial to enjoy the moment and the company of those around you.
Batch Similar Tasks Together
Grouping like tasks can improve efficiency. For instance, if you’re sending out holiday cards, write all the messages first, then address the envelopes, and finally put on stamps.
This method, known as batching, reduces the mental load of switching between different kinds of tasks.
By dedicating blocks of time to similar activities, you create a workflow rhythm, which can lead to increased productivity and a smoother task completion process during the bustling holiday season.
And Always Keep in Mind:
Planning isn’t doing.
The research has probably already been done, so just start in on it. Time yourself with a device, not with your ‘inner voice’ — which is pretty lazy and unreliable. If at first you don’t succeed, find somebody who has and adapt their ideas to your project.
How to Manage Time During the Holidays Summary
|Time Management Tips||Description / Explanation|
|Outsource Tasks||Delegate tasks when possible. Trade or barter if suitable. Asking for help is prioritizing, not showing weakness.|
|Visualize Benefits||Think about the positive outcomes of completing tasks to motivate yourself.|
|Consider Negative Consequences||Use potential negative outcomes as a motivator to avoid procrastination.|
|Break Tasks into Chunks||Split large tasks into smaller, manageable pieces. Starting with any part can lead to overall progress.|
|Two-Minute Rule||If a task takes <2 mins, do it immediately. This rule can help initiate bigger tasks by committing to just starting them.|
|Reward Yourself||Set up small rewards after task completion. For longer tasks, set periodic breaks with rewards.|
|Maintain Focus||Stay concentrated on one task at a time. Remove other distractions to improve efficiency.|
|Track Accomplishments||Maintain a list of daily achievements to reflect and feel accomplished.|
|Introduce Surprises||The "Note Card Shuffle" is a fun method to make tasks unpredictable and engaging.|
|Use Visual Aids||Charts, graphs, and post-its can help visualize complex tasks or projects.|
|Emulate a Superhero||Channel the energy and determination of a superhero to tackle challenging tasks.|
|Apply the 80/20 Rule||Focus on the 20% of tasks that yield 80% of the results, maximizing efficiency.|
|Recognize Imperfection||Understand that first attempts may not be perfect. Keep refining until satisfied.|
|Decide to Decide||Overcome paralysis by analysis. Make decisions and learn from outcomes.|
|Learn to Say No||Prioritize tasks by declining offers or invitations that don't align with primary goals.|
|Schedule Downtime||Allocate time for relaxation and leisure. Breaks can often bring unexpected solutions to challenges.|
|Stay Adaptable||Keep plans flexible. The holidays are unpredictable; adaptability can reduce stress.|
|Batch Similar Tasks||Group related tasks to increase efficiency. E.g., for holiday cards: write, address, then stamp in sequence.|
Holidays Time Photo via Shutterstock
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