The holidays are upon us, and you're likely juggling the pressures of ending the current year with a strong finish while simultaneously budgeting and planning for the following year, conducting performance reviews and setting new goals for your teams, scoping new projects and initiatives, meeting with stakeholders regarding current-year results and forecasts for next year -- and, if you're in the retail business, all of this while you're in the midst of the most frenetic time of the year. Add a lot of staff time off into that equation and it's no wonder that the holiday season leaves many executives feeling burned out.
The holidays can be stressful enough without these added business dynamics. With so much going on during this time of year, it's important to proactively prioritize your time and attention. Doing so effectively will set you up to end the year with fewer frazzled nerves and more time for much-needed rest and relaxation with family and friends.
Here are a few tips on how to assess and prioritize the many obligations you face this time of the year (or any time of the year, really).
Highest Impact First
When faced with an overflowing inbox and a calendar stuffed to the gills with appointments, it can be tempting to knock out the easy stuff first in an effort to reduce the sheer appearance of volume. Unfortunately, that often means you're not focusing on the more complex needs of the organization, the tasks that result in the highest impact to your business.
Approving the holiday Christmas party menu? Easy to complete and check off the list. But it certainly isn't as impactful as checking "overhaul compensation structure for the sales team to drive next year's results" off the list, as daunting as that task sounds.
Not all to-do list checkmarks are equal. Don't fall into the trap of feeling productive for checking off four easy, low-impact items while one hard one with major potential impact sits unaddressed. Consider assigning "weights" to your to-do list if it helps you focus on the high-impact goals first. The sales comp plan gets 50 points; the Christmas party menu gets two points. This shifts your thinking from "I crossed four things off the to-do list" to "I scored 50 points on my to-do list," forcing you to prioritize the impact of work over the volume of work.
What Can Only You Do?
Chances are you have deep knowledge in many areas of your company, and people inside and outside of the organization may come to you with all sorts of requests for approval, help, or collaboration because of it.
You may enjoy doing some of the work involved with these requests, but if there's anyone else on your team who can do that work instead of you, you should send it their way. Your highest value to the company lies in doing what only you can do (or access, especially when it comes to networking channels). The more time you free up to focus on that, the stronger your impact will be and more growth you will create.
Schedule Time for Yourself
To function at a high level in a stressful time, you absolutely must block out time on your schedule to ensure you are taking care of number one (that's you) first. Whether it's first thing in the morning, a midday break, or an end-of-day ritual, commit to non-negotiable calendar time for you to energize and reset via exercise, meditation, a walk with your dog, a creative endeavor, a chat with a friend, or time to do puzzles with your kids. Identify the activity that leaves you with that "Oh, I feel better now" feeling, and get it on your calendar as a recurring appointment with yourself. A short daily escape will do wonders for your stress levels and productivity during any time of the year.
Teach Your Team to Do the Same
This advice is not limited to you. Chances are very high that your staff also feels stressed out and unsure of how to prioritize during the busy holiday season. Take a moment to coach them on the points in this article and any others relevant to your business. Many of your direct reports probably function as "mini-CEOs" of a given area of the company, so while the scope of their work varies from yours, the same principles around prioritization hold true.
The better equipped your team is to manage stress, the stronger your chances are to focus your energies on the high-impact areas where only you can contribute. Do that well, and you'll set yourself up for happy holidays and a prosperous new year.