Here at Clearbox, we are entering our busiest part of the year. Although this busy spell may fall on the cusp of Christmas (not ideal), it’s the time we love the most and can’t wait to get into the rhythm of it. Zoe Kerr has kindly shared some advice on how to maintain efficiency and keep the momentum high during this time. Let’s hear what she has to say...
There’s always those one or two months of the year, especially on the run up to Christmas, that feels just a little bit busier than others. As the Christmas trees are going up, so are the number of emails flooding your inbox.
Well fear no longer! I’m here to give you some advice to get through your busy days and let you know it will all be ok. You will make it through this stressful period just in time for some turkey dinner.
So set aside your to do lists, pause those notifications and have a look at how to manage your workload.
Yes, I know, you’ve heard it before – prioritise your tasks and your day will be a breeze, but this really does help. As easy as it is to start with the itty bitty tasks, to say it bluntly, you’re procrastinating. Avoiding the important duties will only make things worse for you in the long run.
Instead of diving headfirst into your never-ending inbox, take a bit of time to plan your day’s to do list. Once you have everything down in writing, start to organise your tasks by:
· Do immediately – tasks with defined deadlines or important tasks that have been put off for a while
· Schedule for later – tasks with no defined deadlines but should be done in a short amount of time
· Delegate – tasks that someone else can do
· Extras – tasks that are not critical but can be done when there is free time
This way, even if you don’t have time to finish everything on your list, you can have peace of mind knowing the priorities have been ticked off.
Organisation is important throughout the year but especially during the busy times. Having a clean desk to work on is key. Visual clutter can be a distraction while working and can affect your stress levels during an already stressful time. For a calmer working environment, throw away the unnecessary papers and create a clean, spacious area.
As well as organising your desk, organising folders and documents can be a great help – clean desktop, clean mind. If you think you’re making too many folders within folders, you’re probably doing it right. If everything is labelled clearly and saved in the right folder, it can make a big difference, especially for your co-workers which leads me to my next point!
If you feel like the workload is taking over, it’s most likely the same for your co-workers. This is the time when things can fall through the cracks if not communicated between team members. Team meetings can go a long way to keep everyone updated and in the know about what’s happening and what’s to come. Strong communication within a team can make the busy times a little less stressful and a bit more enjoyable.
In addition to meetings, spreadsheets and trackers can be of value when maintaining workload across a team however they only work if you keep them updated. Updating trackers can be simple if done straight away and it really only takes five minutes (not to be confused by an extra task that can be done when there is free time 😉)
“But I don’t have time to have a break!”
Uhm yes you do, and you should. Take your full lunch, step away from your computer for a minute, take care of those personal tasks. Working without breaks and long hours will make it difficult to maintain focus and concentration. Skipping breaks can lead to faster burnout and more stress and who needs that during the holiday season...
The key is to schedule your breaks and make them time limited in order to prevent them from becoming a procrastination tool. Make breaks part of your schedule. When you finish a task on your to do list, give yourself five minutes to breathe and recharge for the next task.
Schedule your work
This can really help you to manage time at work. The Pomodoro Technique can help you check off your to-do list drastically. This time management strategy was created by Francesco Cirillo who used a tomato shaped timer (pomodoro is tomato in Italian) in college to keep himself on track whilst he studied.
The Pomodoro Technique:
1. Create and prioritise a list of all things you need to do
2. Set a timer for 25 minutes and start working on your most important task
3. If another task pops up during the 25 minutes, write it down and come back to it after – it’s crucial to keep working during this time slot
4. Once the timer rings, you have finished a pomodoro. Take a five minute break and then start another pomodoro.
5. Once four pomodori are completed, take a 20 minute break and work on some of the little tasks on your list.
This technique can help manage distractions and control your time, increase motivation and can remove procrastination out of your day.
Switch off after work
Last but not least, grab your coat and head home for the night.
This can be difficult, especially during those busy times at work. You may find your 9 – 5 turns into a 9 – is that really how late it is?!
It’s crucial that you leave work at the office during this time or you may find it starting to take over your life – remember you do not live to work, you work to live. As much as your friends and family love you, they don’t want to spend their evenings going through your workday and what you couldn’t get done because of your busy schedule.
Instead, use your downtime for yourself and switch off completely from work. Find a series to binge or read that book you’ve said you would for months. As long as you’re not thinking about work, you’re doing it right.
The key takeaway
Obviously, there will be techniques here that won’t work for everyone but if you practice each one, you will find what works best for you.
Just remember, it won’t always be this busy and you will get through it. If I can do it, so can you!