Surprise, surprise: you’re working too much. In fact, we all are; over 88% of us are putting in more than forty hours each and every week. Whether we’re working any smarter is certainly up for debate, but there’s no doubt that we’re all working a lot harder.
The struggles of overwork become even more apparent this time of year. As we approach the holidays and the year’s end, we tend to alternate between furious bouts of frantic productivity (e.g., trying to cram as much work into a day as possible before we cut out for the holiday) and stretches of seemingly being unproductive as personal errands creep into the workday (online shopping, anyone?). Conventional wisdom would paint the latter as “slacking off,” but there can be significant productivity benefits to taking these sorts of mental breaks from the traditional grind of your workday. Assuming, of course, that you apply them in an intelligent way.
Here are some ways you can master your unproductivity this holiday season:
1) Streamline Your Online Shopping
Let’s face it: you’re going to buy at least one gift while at work this year. In fact, some of you may do the vast majority of your Christmas shopping in between tasks at work. Online shopping has gotten so easy to do from laptops and mobile devices that knocking out your gift lists is pretty much a no-brainer.
While we advocate taking the opportunity to take a break in the day to browse online for gifts, it’s important to not let it get out of hand. Spending a few minutes making a quick purchase is one thing; spending an hour or more trying to decide what to get Uncle Eddie is another.
If you’re planning to knock out some online shopping during the workday, plan ahead by creating a cloud-based gift list so you access what you need from wherever you are. You can even share this list with friends or family so they know what’s already been purchased. With a synced, up-to-date list readily available from your web browser or smartphone, you can get in, knock out your shopping and get right back to work.
2) Merge Your To-Do Lists
You’ve got a lot to keep track of in your personal life as the holidays get closer: last-minute gifts, recipes to prepare and parties to plan. In fact, your personal deadlines might even be comparable to your work ones this time of year.
For me, I normally like to keep my personal and professional to-do lists separate, even going so far as to use two distinct apps. It helps me better compartmentalize and balance the two parts of my life. However, this time of year, things get so hectic around the office that I like to merge the two, putting some of my more pressing personal errands onto my professional to-do list.
Let one or two of your personal tasks sneak their way onto your work to-do or task list. And when you’re feeling overwhelmed by work stress, pivot to a personal task and check it off—maybe hop over to Amazon to grab that last gift or hunt down ideas for Christmas dinner on Allrecipes. By integrating these sorts of tasks directly into your professional workflow, you’ll get a mental breather, you’ll get the same satisfaction you normally get from checking off a work task and you’ll be one step closer to holiday bliss!
3) Bring a Method to the Madness
There are endless apps, methods and books out there designed to help you be more productive. But did you know that at least one productivity methodology can also help you structure your unproductivity?
The Pomodoro Technique, developed by Francisco Cirillo, breaks work down into 25 minute intervals, punctuated by short breaks. This cycle is referred to as one “pomodoro,” and after your fourth, you take a longer, 15-30 minute break. It’s that simple!
During the holiday season, adopting The Pomodoro Technique not only brings structure to your work, but gives you dedicated windows to knock out a personal errand or have a quick chat with a coworker. And all you need to get started is a simple timer.
How do you manage work stress during the holidays? Comment below or tweet us @PGi!