I swear, it seems that each year more ads infect every pore of the world. Plus, those endless holiday parties and gatherings and end-of-year office get-togethers take up so much time. I spent too many Decembers scrambling right before Christmas vacation to tie up loose ends and tick off as many tasks on my ‘to do’ list as possible.

Person at desk looking at ipad with an announcement of holiday party

Every year I’d tell myself, ‘Cynthia, next year don’t let this get away from you.’ And like clockwork, the next year I’d find myself back in the office after Christmas, alone, working like a dog to catch up.

The temptations are real. And they’re boundless this time of year. The temptation to let things slack, to not finish strong. But finish strong is exactly what we -as leaders- need to do.

Even though 2020 is looming just a few weeks away, it’s important to stay focused. These six essential tips to help balance holiday activity and productivity that I put together can help. In fact, you and your team will avoid distractions and temptations that can quickly transform December from a great end on a positive note to fizzling out.

Essential Tip #1: Focus on High Payoff Activities (HPAs).

I had to learn to make tough choices, especially in light of family gatherings, spending time with friends, and all the other fun event invites coming my way. It’s even more crucial now to focus on the high payoff activities you have in front of you.

Choose the work items that will make the biggest impact on helping you and your team reach your goals. These should be your single most important focus for the holiday months.

Anything that’s not considered an HPA will need to be delegated, eliminated, or put off to another time.

This same concept also holds true for family and other holiday activities. You only have so much time so choose the ones that will create the best memories and rewarding experiences for you and your loved ones. I know it’s tough, but as leaders we must discern the most important factors for both our personal and work lives.

Essential Tip #2: Recognize the Value of Delegation.

I discovered this the hard way. Sometimes, when you’re down to your last few days and a mountain looms over you, only then do we tend to call on junior or up-and-coming employees.

This is their opportunity to shine and it’s your chance to not only give them a chance to prove themselves, but to help them (and you) grow. You’ll also find who is ready to step up to the challenge.

I discovered some amazing talent during this last month of the year once I realized I had no other choice but to call on them. Use them. Help them grow and step up.

It’s important for leaders to push others beyond their comfort zone, so now is a great chance for you to delegate things to people who might not think it’s possible for them to do (but that you’ve observed and know they are fully capable of doing them).

Essential Tip #3: Schedule Your Priorities.

As a mother, wife, and professional, I hate to choose between certain things, but leaders must make those tough decisions. I do not condone neglecting family and friends. In fact, I encourage you to spend as much quality time as you can with your loved ones.

But you must prioritize. Sit down and look at all the items on your ‘to do’ list for the month. That includes business and personal items.

Choose what you want to do and write them down on your calendar or organizer. It could be your child’s school play, a trip to the Nutcracker Suite with your aging mother, or maybe it’s to bake cookies for a fundraiser in your local community.

They may seem outside the realm of “important,” especially in light of board meetings or a hard client deadline, but they’re important to the people who matter to you most. Make sure you schedule those priorities in, too.

Essential Tip #4: Learn to Say No.

man wearing a santa hat with his hands up in protest to signal no
It’s Okay to Say NO

As a leader, I’ve been invited to endless functions and holiday gatherings. You are, too. We can’t do them all.

It’s okay to say no. Learn to be selective and avoid feeling guilty when you have to decline an invitation, no matter who it’s from.

Essential Tip #5: Stay Present.

The best way to boost productivity for yourself and those who look up to you as a leader is to be present throughout the month. Be focused on the tasks at hand, avoid distraction when possible, and remember that this month can help your company achieve its goals and move into the new year with momentum.

Right now is the perfect opportunity to decide who you want to be and how you want to show up this holiday season. Once you make the decision, follow through and do it. Your team will take your lead, so if you’re distracted and not present for work throughout the month (even if you’re physically there), they, too, will be distracted and not present for the work at hand.

Essential Tip #6: Offer Great Gifts.

I’m not talking about going out and buying things for people; I’m talking about gratitude. When we express gratitude to our team -from the key players to junior associates we barely know- it affects more than just them. It affects us, too.

two professional men shaking hands and smiling.

I had a situation once where a few years passed since an entry level employee came up to me as she was embarking on a new journey in her life and thanked me. I barely knew much about her and asked her why.

“When I first started out here,” she said in her soft, shy voice, “you thanked me for the work I was doing. I couldn’t believe you even knew me, but it’s stuck with me to this day. It inspired me.”

We never know just what a few words of thanks or praise can do for our team.

Take this month as an opportunity to sit down with your team individually and as a group and point out the things they did and do well, congratulate them on achievements, and encourage them however you can.

As I state in my CARE to Engage system for employee engagement, just telling somebody how much you appreciate all the effort they’re putting in can be a powerful boost. And it’s that boost that drives them to work harder and be more productive for the remainder of the year and head into 2020 with enthusiasm, grit, and determination.

Cynthia Corsetti is an Executive Coach and Speaker. If you’d like to learn more on how her C.A.R.E. to Engage system can help you create an engaged workforce in your organization, you can email her at: [email protected]

PS..I’m an open networker and I love to connect. Please join me over on LinkedIn and FB so we can take this journey together!