Stress overload is common in the lead-up to Christmas. Photo: Louie Douvis
How’s your productivity in the lead-up to Christmas? Stress, disorganisation or lethargy as the festive season descends can cause even the best of us to become one-third less efficient, a management expert warns.
Cyril Peupion, managing director of Primary Asset Consulting, says it can be difficult to maintain motivation in the face of crushing end-of-year deadlines and major distractions outside the workplace.
"People experience the festive season differently in the office,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s important for employees to be clear on what they want to achieve, prioritise their time accordingly and maintain focus despite daily distractions, to ensure their priorities are achieved successfully before Christmas and executed within that time frame.’’
According to a 2010 workplace study commissioned by Leadership Management Australasia, productivity levels can drop by 38 per cent as employees are distracted by Christmas-related issues.
Peupion says three types of employees are most at risk of dropping their work ethic - the stresser, the drowner and the dreamer.
Stressers are categorised as those with pressing deadlines but no idea how to achieve them. Peupion says most people’s workload is greater than their capacity, and advises stressers to identify a handful of major goals and work towards those. They should block out one hour each week to review and revise, and ignore daily distractions to stick to their plan.
The drowner becomes overwhelmed by a full workload, a full inbox and a desk full of documents. The solution is to de-clutter, Peupion advises. "Eighty-five per cent of what we keep, we wil never come back to again," he says.
Drowners should delete anything in their inbox they never use, or at least create an archive folder for unused emails. "If after three months you have not gone back into this folder, you know what to do - delete them," Peupion says.
The same advice applies to hard documents cluttering desk space - use it or lose it. And, as with the stresser, strip to-do lists back to the essentials to relieve performance presure.
At the other end of the spectrum is the dreamer, who just wants the Christmas break to arrive and suffers from plummeting productivity as a result.
One solution is to minimise interruptions – whether from email, the phone, Facebook or office noise. Peupion says dreamers should schedule meetings with themselves and declare this "do not disturb" time, while distracting thoughts should be scribbled down and actioned later.
"One of the key characteristics of high performers is focus," Peupion says.
"These are incredibly simple steps, but some of the simplest ideas are also the most effective."