Enjoy the holiday season with less stress. This is how continuous improvement can help.

Before we know it, the holiday season will be here.  After such a tough year, we all need a break and the holidays can be just what we need, or not.  The holiday season is known for all the stress generated by all the tasks, activities, family and friends’ expectations, and for some of us, traveling.  This is true especially for those that hosts family reunions, office dinners, and friends’ get-togethers.  The stress can ruin your holidays, but it does not have to be that way.

We can use simple tools to plan and follow-up what we have to do before, during, and after those days. During that time, it is normal to feel all kind of feelings, from overwhelming with everything in your plate, to loneliness, if you will not have the chance to be with your loved ones, or even and overdose of togetherness.  Whatever it is the situation, decide with plenty of time what you are going to do, where, and with whom and start planning.

You can draw an estimate timeline using a normal calendar to mark when and where you will celebrate each activity and then go backwards to see when you have to complete each thing you need to do for the activity. You can follow these tips.

  • For each activity, start with the date and place that will celebrated.  
  • List all the things you need.  For example, if you are driving to see your family in Thanksgiving, what date you are going to drive, car maintenance, route, hotel reservations if needed, and others.
  • For each thing on the list, write an estimate range of days on which you should accomplish it.  Use a range rather than a specific date if it is possible because you are trying to avoid stress, not create more.  Be flexible with yourself, and realistic.
  • If you have several activities, you can use a different ink color for each one, a color code! This will facilitate to identify what belongs to what. 
  • Include time to create your shopping list, buy or do postal cards, and of course, shopping.
  • Prioritize those presents that needed to be mail, as during those days the mailing volume increases.
  • Mark in the calendar when those tasks should be completed following the color code.
  • At the end you will see everything that needs to be done each week.
  • To follow-up the items of each month, use a simple kanban board to know what is pending, doing, or completed.

At the end of the post, you can see an example.

Remember to include time to plan the menus, getting special items for the menu, and include the commuting time when visiting friends or family that lives a lot more than a few miles from your home.   Reflect about the meaning of the holidays for you and prioritize.  Again, you want to enjoy not to make this another work project.  Consider including in the calendar some me time, it is important to take time for you to release the stress reading a book, taking walks or schedule a massage. 

Using a schedule help you to see everything that you want or need to do.  Take a close look at your list, be honest, is it doable?  Be realistic, keep things simple.  I know you want everything to be perfect but when it comes to the holiday’s perfection is about the simple little things like a nice conversation with those loved ones that you haven’t see in a long time.  Nothing is more important than being present.

Is multitasking effective to increase productivity?

Multitasking is a common strategy to try to deliver tasks on time. Do you know what the number one excuse to not complete something on time is? Yes, you guessed it, it’s a lack of time. Time management skills are critical for personal and professional success. Single parents and entrepreneurs are among those who need time management super skills.

The way you handle time determines whether or not you complete all the tasks you have scheduled. Being organized is one of those skills that help to manage your time better. Most people think that multitasking is an ability that helps to increase productivity but is not.

What science says about multitasking

People who multitask decrease their productivity by 20-40% and are less efficient than those who focus on one project at a time. Time lost switching among tasks increases the complexity of the tasks (University of Michigan)

Research in neuroscience tells us that the brain doesn’t do more than one task at a time. Each time we move from one thing to another, there is a start-stop process in the brain. In other words, each time you change tasks, you have to refocus your brain and determine what to do. Multitasking should be called switch-tasking and does not help productivity. For better time management, try the following things.

Skills you need to master time management

  1. Organization
    • Practice 5S in your office or work area
    • Organize your meetings and tasks throughout the day. Meetings are better early during the day because the time leading up to an event is often wasted.
    • Separate your routine, automatic tasks from the strategic ones. Strategic duties usually need a higher level of focus, schedule them for the daytime at which you are more productive.
    • Choose one subject for the day, for example, on Monday I work with everything related to budget and Tuesday is for project updates.
  2. Prioritization
    • Know your priorities and identify how you will measure progress. Assign deadlines for everything.
    • Identify the most important things for you and mark them on your calendar or agenda with a special color. Develop the habit of working with those first.
  3. Goal Setting
    • You have goals for your business, and you also have personal goals. Keep an eye on both, create the habit of reviewing them periodically.   
    • You cannot work with all at the same time, divide your goals for the year into smaller time buckets. 
    • Prioritize your goals while dividing in buckets, your yearly goals into months, month goals into weeks, and weeks into days.
  4. Planning
    • Be realistic while planning your daily activities. Regardless of how well you organize and plan, things happen.
    • Make time for the unexpected, plan for not more than 4-5 hours of work per day.
    • Remember those priorities? Always know the one thing you need to get done during the day and do it as early as possible.
  5. Communication
    • Communicate your priorities, goals, and plans with your team or family. Let others help you to be on track for success!
  6. Delegation
    • “If something can be done 80% as well by someone else, delegate!” – John C. Maxwell

Remember, working more hours does not make you more productive, neither does multitasking. Work smarter, not harder!