From prepping for family getaways to carving out time to attend children’s concerts and classroom parties, it can often feel like you have a million and one things to do during the holiday season.
Not surprisingly, studies show that individuals’ productivity tends to fall during the final weeks of the year. A 2019 survey conducted by Ladders found that more than 50% of U.S. employees start losing focus at work in mid-December — right around the time when offices start winding down for the year. But this end-of-year productivity lag isn’t just reserved for the workplace; students may find they’re less focused on their studies, and people of all ages often notice their commitment to activities such as exercising declines.
If you’re among the millions of Americans who struggle to stay focused at work, at school, or on your fitness regimen during the last weeks of the year, below are a few steps you can take to help keep yourself on track.
Tips for Staying Motivated at Work
Staying focused at work during the holidays can be hard. Clients and coworkers tend to take time off, and offices that don’t shut down entirely might only be open three or four days a week during the last weeks of the year. Yet that’s not to say that staying motivated is impossible.
Make a List and Check It Twice
The final days of the year are a great time to catch up on things. Is there a report that you haven’t had time to prepare? Have you been meaning to reorganize your file cabinet? Jot down a list of all the things you’d like to accomplish before the start of the new year, and assign a deadline to each.
Leave Your Work at the Office
Taking work home can be tempting, especially if it’s something you do on a regular basis. During the holiday season, however, household distractions are often amplified, and staying focused at home can be hard.
This can be especially true if you have houseguests, if you have school-age children who are on a break, or if your partner is preparing delicious-smelling meals or desserts in the kitchen. Consequently, you may find you’re more apt to complete work-related tasks at the office. If you work full time at home, set (and stick to) dedicated work hours.
Hide Your Phone in Your Desk Drawer During Work Hours
You’ve likely noticed that you get a lot more messages during the final weeks of the year, particularly from people in group chats. It can feel like you’re getting bombarded with additional texts, emails, and social media messages about holiday get-togethers, children’s activities, and shipping notifications for gifts. Keeping your phone out of sight will help your productivity.
Tips for Staying Motivated with Your Studies
Are you an undergraduate looking to get a head start on your reading for the upcoming term? Are you in a master’s or PhD program and want to make progress on your thesis? These strategies can help keep you on track.
Work on One Project at a Time
Working on one task at a time, regardless of whether it involves reading ahead, completing a homework assignment, or studying for a test, can help students focus. Be sure to break your study time into blocks. For example, schedule 30 minutes for task A, an hour for task B, and 25 minutes for task C.
If you’re using a computer, close windows for social media accounts, messaging apps, and online shopping portals. You might also want to close your email. Staying focused when you’re getting emails and messages about holiday parties, events, or “Must Act Now!” sales can be hard. Set your phone, tablet, and email notifications to silent.
Take Breaks and Reward Yourself
Set measurable and achievable goals, such as reading a certain number of chapters or writing a set number of pages per day, and give yourself rewards for hitting those benchmarks. For example, allow yourself to indulge in your favorite holiday snack, or give yourself time to relax and re-watch your favorite holiday movie.
Tips for Staying Motivated to Work Out
Exercise habits often suffer during the holidays. Even if you don’t have time to keep up your regular exercise routine (or you need to scale back), maintaining your momentum is important. Why? Because continuing is a lot easier than stopping and trying to start back up.
Use Workouts to Jump-Start Your Day
Social commitments, such as holiday shopping and family get-togethers, spike notably during the holiday season, and even the most organized people can find their time getting away from them. Fitting in a workout first thing in the morning will not only help boost your mood and energy level, but it’s also a time commitment that you’ll likely be able to stick to.
Recruit a Workout Buddy
If you’re exercising with someone else, your partner can help keep you accountable. Remember, workout buddies don’t need to be in the same city, state, or time zone.
If you use a rowing machine, for example, you could recruit a friend to join you in committing to rowing 4,000 meters per day, six days a week, and agree to send each other a photo of the rowing machine screen at the end of each workout. If you have access to a Peloton, you can schedule online workout sessions with Peloton riders in other cities, states, or even countries.
Compile a List of Body Weight Workouts
Getting to the gym regularly can be hard, especially if you’re traveling. However, you can get around the need to have gym equipment by compiling a list of body weight workouts, which rely on resistance and gravity. Most of these workouts can be completed in under 20 minutes, and, since they don’t require specialized equipment, they can be done anywhere.
Numerous apps and YouTube channels are available that offer free or low-cost at-home body weight workouts. Examples include apps such as FitOn and Workout for Women, and YouTube channels like PopSugar Fitness and Growingannanas.
Keeping Yourself on Track
Lots of people find they’re less productive during the holiday season, and staying focused is easier said than done. However, whether you need help staying motivated at work, with your studies, or with your exercise routine, if you establish a plan early, it can help you stay on track.