Yes, I know Christmas is still a few months off, but like most of corporate America, I'm talking about Christmas (and Halloween and Thanksgiving) early. Frankly, with the trouble most of us have in attaining balance between work and home, we can use all the pointers we can get.
Working from home during the holidays may seem like a dream situation. You finally have an opportunity to take care of holiday matters around the house while getting work done. That is of course until you realize you've spent the entire day watching, "It's a Wonderful Life," and meticulously draping garland around the house. Unfortunately, with the holidays comes ten times the distractions. Here's how to make sure you are cheery and productive over the holidays.
Stick to Your Regular Routine
It's easy during the holidays to tell yourself that taking a break from your regular day-to-day routine won't hurt anything. While changing up the routine for a couple of hours or days can be harmless and, is of course, one of the perks of running your business from home, changing the routine for longer periods can significantly affect productivity. In many cases, it's best to follow your regular non-holiday schedule as much as possible while working from home. Then, celebrate the season after work, just as you would in a traditional work situation.
Create Must-Do Lists
Even if you're able to stick to your regular work routine, there's no guarantee you will actually get anything done. The holidays have a way of filling our heads with gift lists, holiday parties, family obligations, baking plans, and a plethora of other tasks that aren't usually on the everyday agenda. During the times when it is the most difficult to focus, it can help to start out with a list of work or business tasks that must be completed for that day. This way you are more likely to get the important stuff taken care of, even if your mind does veer off into visions of sugar plums.
Further, you may want to take it easy on yourself at this time of year and avoid adding massive projects or complicated tasks to your must-do list. It may be easier and more satisfying instead to complete a smaller list of simple and straightforward duties.
Unplug: Eliminate Potential Distractions
Although it might seem easier said than done, if you can pinpoint your distractions, it's best to avoid those areas, especially during the holiday season. For instance, it might be best to work offline. It's no secret that the Internet can be one of the biggest time-wasters and distractions in the workplace, whether you work from home, in an office or some other location. In fact, according to recent data, when it comes to determining the biggest productivity killers, cell phones and texting, and the Internet are #1 and #2, respectively. I recommend you regularly take time away from your screens, in whatever form they come, not just during the holiday season, but during all seasons.
Avoid Television. Choose Music
During the holidays especially, television can become a huge distraction. Between commercials and ads for those special holiday shows that only air once a year, you can find yourself completely pulled from work and in Santa's workshop in no time. If you are able to remain focused while listening to music, you can set up a holiday playlist to listen to while you work. This way, you can still surround yourself in holiday cheer while getting work done at the same time.
Separate Personal from Work
Most people who work from home are already aware of the importance of separating personal matters from work matters. During the holiday season, this can become even more challenging especially if children are on vacation from school or other people in the household are off work. Closing yourself off in your home office and focusing on work while others are celebrating and full of holiday cheer can be the hardest part of dealing with distractions this time of year. If you are finding it difficult to be productive at home, you may want to consider joining a co-working situation with other people in a similar position.
A Final Note on Self Care
While self-care is important for those who work from home throughout the year, it can be even more crucial to avoiding distractions during the holidays. This means making sure you get enough sleep, which can be difficult when you are also juggling holiday events and running a business from your home. Eating well can also have an enormous impact on your ability to focus. During the holidays, you may be more tempted to live on sugar cookies and popcorn balls, instead of the more well-balanced meals you are used to. Also focus on making sure you are properly hydrated, and not just by way of egg nog.