Ready or not!! Here comes that holiday to-do list to help wreck your schedule and kill your productivity!!
Can I just ask you a question really quick?
What happened to the year??
I mean really. Last week I was rubbing sunscreen on my little ones and getting ready for a July 4th picnic, and now today we're discussing where to put the tree that will keep it safe from a one year old, a four year old, a cat, and a dog (it actually might end up on the roof at this rate).
How did this happen?
Okay, so while I wrap my head around the year's disappearing trick, one very important thing is still looming that we must address: the holiday to-do list. Like I said, this is the time of year it comes out and wrecks everything.
And it affects everyone, no matter which holiday you celebrate, your schedule is about to get messed up. Kids are home from school, businesses are closed more often. More and more people are trying to collect on their invoices before the year ends, wrapping up old projects, and waiting before starting anything new. So your clients become more demanding and less productive as we get closer to the end of the year. Right at the same time your kids are home from school, stores are insane, and babysitters are all on vacation.
It's not always a fun time.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to help minimize the damage that the holiday season can have on your to-do list.
Start with a Brain Dump
I love a good brain dump. It's a really funny name for a really wonderful way to organize your thoughts.
A brain dump is literally just that: dump all the thoughts from your brain into a messy list to be organized later. You can do this in a variety of ways, but my favorite is just to write every thought down as it comes to me, then go back and move each thought into a list. Not only will this give me a visual representation of every thought I have and help me prioritize them, but it actually helps me organize them in my brain. As if moving them on paper also moves them in my brain.
Prioritize your Lists
Once your brain dump has helped you get your thoughts organized, you can start to prioritize them and arranging them in a manageable way that will help you get through them. The exact process you use to prioritize your thoughts is going to be up to you. Personally, learning about goal-based to-do lists really helped me learn how to set goals and achieve them.
Prioritizing your responsibilities isn't all about urgency or what has to be done right now. When you work from home, it's all urgent. Every email, every social media post, keyword research, video...they all need to get done. In fact, that's what a lot of us do, we try to prioritize our to-do lists by urgency, and then by the end of the day we're no closer to our ultimate goals (whatever they may be). In fact, it might even be days or weeks of constantly working before we've even made one small step toward that ultimate goal.
And over the holidays, it's even easier to get caught up and distracted away from our ultimate goal just trying to keep up with all the urgent tasks growing around us. Not to mention the crazy schedules everyone seems to keep during these months.
Keep this in mind as you prioritize: at least one item on your to-do list every day needs to be a step toward your ultimate goal. It doesn't have to be a big step, but it needs to be a step. For me, it's my first step. So even if I only get through three or four things that day (instead of the 80,000 things on my list) I know for certain that I am at least one step closer to my ultimate goal.
Give Yourself a Break
Don't forget to give yourself a break over the holiday season. Human beings were not built to go, go, go 24/7. And besides, other businesses are taking their breaks, too. Align your breaks so they don't interfere with your business (if you can). For example, if you're working as a VA, you probably want to plan your breaks for before or after the holidays -- since your clients will be relying on your services so they can take their breaks.
Keep that Line Between "Work" and "Home"
I know how hard it is to look at your laptop, smartphone, tablet or computer and think "the kids are happily watching their holiday cartoons... I can just go check my email real quick."
Don't do it.
While you're working from home, that line between "work" and "home" is already blurred. It's a lot harder to leave work at work when you work three feet away from the dining room table. However, holiday stress usually piles on a bit heavier than regular home-life stress. And blurring that line can make you feel more stressed at work than you normally would be.
Over the holidays, it's more important than usual to try to set your boundaries between work and home and don't cross those boundaries.
Take Advantage When You're Feeling Motivated
Nothing is more motivating than when you're really on a roll. And if you know how to motivate yourself, you can almost force yourself to get on a roll on command.
It's a pretty cool trick, actually.
The idea is that once you are on a roll and banging out items from your to-do list, avoid using the time after you've finished to tackle part of tomorrow's to-do list. Tackling tomorrow's to-do list is a good way to kill tomorrow's motivation. Instead, just set yourself up by making it easier to tackle tomorrow's to-do list tomorrow.
Give Yourself some Room for the Unexpected
While scheduling in time for breaks is a must, so is leaving plenty of room in your schedule for unexpected things -- because you just know they're going to happen. Phone calls that last longer than they should, clients with last-minute tasks, blog technology that goes down, server issues, uninvited guests...
The holidays are filled with events that no one could foresee. But if you have areas of your schedule built in for processing these unexpected events, they won't derail you when they happen.
Learn to Say No
I know, this is something every one says in every productivity and time management post ever. But it really is that important. As work at home mothers, none of us want to disappoint someone else -- least of all our clients or our boss.
However, we can't be so hung up on disappointing them that we run ourselves ragged, sacrifice sleep or our health to take on the added demands. Do what you can, but know your limits and don't be afraid to maintain that boundary.
And this doesn't have to be just business-related. If you don't really feel like going to a holiday party, cookie exchange, or any other event, don't. Overextending yourself during the holidays because of a sense of obligation is a tradition that needs to end.
I know, this is so much easier said than done. But it's important. Whether you take five minutes to breathe, ten minutes to meditate, or fifteen minutes to do some yoga. Hey!! Sometimes a quick trip to the mailbox is just what I need to clear my head.
If you really need help clearing your thoughts and relaxing, my friend Rachel over at Owl Be Me has an amazing article up about how to meditate even if you can't silence your thoughts.
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