Finding extra time at year-end

The end is near! In addition to wrapping up projects for year- and quarter-end, reviewing budgets and planning for next year, we also have time off for holidays and sick, stressed and overworked employees. Here are a few ways to carve out time to ensure we remain healthy, productive and clear-headed during the most wonderful time of the year.

Barrel through

With only a few weeks left of the year, it can be tempting to close our eyes, grit our teeth and just push through. This is a bad idea for two big reasons.

First, it increases stress and pressure when there is already more than enough to go around. Second, variables beyond our control abound during November and December, making it even less likely we will accomplish our ambitious tasks.

Alternatively, create a dynamic master task list, adding any new ideas as they come up. Keeping it all in one place will help reduce the likelihood we forget something as our attention is constantly pulled in different directions.

Then, instead of looking at the list and trying to find ways to fit everything in, break the list into two categories. Start by asking: What can be put off until next year? Put everything possible onto that list.

Second, ask: Of the remaining items, what absolutely must be completed before year-end? If it does not have a drop-dead deadline of Dec.31, it goes on the first list.

Once the two lists are complete, go through each item and ask: Do I have to do this, or is there someone else who can and should handle it? It can be so tempting to knock easy items off our big list to get that sense of accomplishment. Yet they still take time.

Delegate as much as possible, but don’t just dump work onto people. Be clear about when it is due and whether it can wait until after the new year. Then, spend the last few weeks of the year focused only on the items in the new, shorter list.

Give more

Because the spirit of giving is usually more predominant this time of year, many of us end up overextending to help others. We say yes to every invite, participate in every activity, and often forego our normal schedule with the excuse that it only happens once per year.

Unfortunately, these are great ways to wear out, become overwhelmed and even get sick.

Instead, take a minute to prioritize. Figure out which activities must happen (child’s play, spouse’s office holiday party, etc.); which activities are fun, rewarding or enjoyable symbols of the holiday season; and everything else. Then, prioritize participation based on the positive impact the activity will have on your life.

Finally, as counterintuitive as it sounds, add something to the list that reflects an overlooked need. For example, would a little extra sleep help? Time shopping by yourself? A good workout? Some uninterrupted quiet time? Consider the positive impact that will have, then prioritize it into the activity list accordingly.

The bottom line: The end of the year can be full of special exceptions. To close out the year feeling productive and healthy, we must make sure the tasks on which we are focused and the activities in which we are engaged reflect our real priorities.

Check out this article for more tips on how to reduce stress this season.

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