How can small company owners and the self-employed maximise their available working days to ensure a relaxing Christmas period? CEO of workspace provider Regus, Richard Morris, offers readers his three top tips for making December productive.
The Christmas holiday season is eagerly anticipated, but the festivities mean that the number of working days in the month is curtailed at a time when planning for the new business year makes life busier than ever.
(1) Prioritise and schedule
It sounds obvious, but prioritising tasks is particularly important for making December productive during the shortened working month. Everyone works to different routines, but organisation and planning will help make each working day as efficient as possible.
It isn’t a case of working longer hours in a desperate bid to get everything done. Rather, look to optimise existing working hours and to eliminate processes that drain time from the day.
Easily available hacks, such as flagging priority emails and setting automated reminders, can help you get on top of tasks. Consider whether meetings need to be face-to-face, or whether technology such as Skype can reduce time spent away from desks.
Also think about what needs to be done before the break and what can be carried over. It’s important to get this balance right. There is no point flogging yourself throughout December but, equally, returning to a mammoth January workload will get the new year off to a testing start.
Get organised, tick tasks off as you complete them and get on top of the challenge.
(2) Cut the commute
On average, UK workers spend around eight hours per week commuting to and from the office – the equivalent of an entire working day. Eliminating the commute – even for just a day or two – can help you when making December productive in the run-up to Christmas.
The trick is to select a professional work environment that’s near to home and that enables you to turn up, plug in and get productive. Working from cafes or from home may sound appealing but these places can often be distracting.
Having this extra time at the beginning and end of each working day can really help you get on top of time-consuming yet essential tasks, such as administration and accounting.
What’s more, you’ll probably feel fresher and more energised from a change of scene and from not having to do battle with timetables, traffic jams and the travelling hordes. You may even save some money on train fares or petrol.
(3) Incentivise and reward
It’s nearly Christmas, treat yourself! Set yourself goals and give yourself a small reward once you’ve ticked them off. A meal out, a drink with friends, a trip to the theatre – anything to make you feel good and to help you get through the task list.
Try not to let business matters encroach on leisure time. Set a deadline to wrap up your work each day and leave on time. This is easier said than done in today’s always-on digital age but never feel guilty about logging out and enjoying some ‘me-time’.
In fact, allowing yourself to escape from work matters is understood to boost wellbeing and to lead to greater productivity, making December productive when you are at work.
The French government, for example, recently passed legislation which gave workers “the right to disconnect” from email when out of working hours – recognising the importance of a sensible work-life balance.
Here, the onus is on individuals to manage their own behaviour – and optimising the productivity of working hours will better enable you to switch off at home.
With a little forethought and planning, the December workload can be skilfully negotiated, leaving you free to fully embrace the Christmas break. Adapting routines to be at your most productive during this month may well lead to a permanent change to your working patterns for the new year and onwards.
Employers are recognising the productivity benefits of a more flexible approach to the working day – moving away from the fixed-office, fixed-hours approach to enable people to plan their working day around their individual lifestyle.
All evidence points to this driving greater productivity, resulting in a happier and healthier workforce. However you plan on making December productive, enjoy your time off – you’ve earned it!
Richard Morris is UK chief executive at workspace provider Regus.
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