Three office workers wear santa hats while sitting at their computers in front of a big window.
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How to wrap up work ahead of the holidays

18 Dec 2023

Hays’ James Milligan shares his tips for getting ready to close the laptop for the festive season, and how to stay productive if you’re still working.

For many knowledge workers, we’re into the final week of work before offices close for the festive period. So, what’s the best use of your time this week? How can you wrap up your end-of-year tasks effectively and give yourself the best start to 2024?

This will vary depending on your level of busyness, of course. For some, we’re entering a relatively quiet week, giving you time to assess how to best use your time, but for others it could be the most hectic time of year, meaning you need to put those time-management skills to good use. And then there are those who may still have some shifts over the holiday period.

To help get you through the end-of-year workload, disconnect successfully and prepare for a new year, we spoke to Hays’ James Milligan to get some expert advice.

Capitalise on calendar gaps

As we’re into that final pre-Christmas week, there’s a good chance a lot of your usual meetings could be cancelled or at least significantly shortened. This is a great opportunity to fill those spaces with things you wouldn’t normally have time to do.

For Milligan, he uses it as an opportunity to have some informal meet-ups. “Maybe a lunch or a drink with people where you have a time that you might not normally have because your diary is so hectic,” he said.

Whether you want to catch up with a few people, use it as a chance to brainstorm for the new year with colleagues or just take the opportunity to get a head start on some of your other work, take advantage of your newly freed-up schedule.

Take note of January projects

If you are one of the lucky ones whose workload has lightened a little this week, it’s a great opportunity to think about what groundwork you can put in to help you kickstart the new year.

“For me personally, I know that going back into early January, I’m working on white papers,” said Milligan. “It’s a really good time for me to take the time to start doing the thinking and begin the work around that white paper, which I normally wouldn’t get in a day-to-day cadence of the job that I do.”

What will you need to hit the ground running when you come back to your desk in January? Is there anything you can do to make that a little easier? Take some time this week to lighten your January load.

Tackle your ‘important, not urgent’ tasks

A good way to prioritise workplace tasks is to use the Eisenhower decision matrix, where tasks are separated into four quadrants: important and urgent, important and non-urgent, non-important and urgent, and non-important and non-urgent.

Milligan said this slower week with fewer meetings and less day-to-day work is a great time to tackle those important but non-urgent tasks. “It’s a chance to get those things done,” he said.

If you have never used the Eisenhower matrix, it’s also a good opportunity to try it out, to best separate out your tasks and work through them in order – or delegate as needed. You can also use this to plan out when you’re going to get to any additional tasks in the new year.

Reflect on the year

Another way to capitalise on the quiet final week of the year is to reflect on the last 12 months in your role and use it to set yourself up for 2024. Milligan said it’s important to ask yourself the right questions as part of this reflection.

“What do I want to do differently? What are my priorities? What’s my personal development goal for the new year? What are my career aspirations around promotion? What do I need to do to achieve those?

“It’s a really good time to reflect on where you are in your career and your personal development and making plans around what you want to do next and using January as the opportunity to then have those conversations.”

Embrace the holiday spirit when working

Not everyone is lucky enough to be off the entire time between Christmas and New Year’s, especially in offices that require an in-office skeleton crew or those who need to be available on customer service lines.

So, how can these workers balance productivity with switching off for the holidays? Milligan said that while it’s important to be mindful of when you have to be in the office when it comes to celebrating, expectations are usually lower during the festive period and there is an understand that employees are spending time with family and friends.

“I think even if your in the office during those few days, it does tend to be a little bit quieter unless you are probably in the retail associate environment or something where it’s the peak season,” he said. “So, you go in wearing the Christmas jumper and trying to take that seasonal spirit into the office and make the most of it if you have to work between Christmas and New Year.”

Switch off fully if you can

For those that do get to fully switch off for Christmas, Milligan said it’s usually a great time to do a full switch off more than your usual annual leave because it’s a time where everyone is off. He advised to start with an automatic out-of-office on your email so people know that you’re not checking them.

If you’re in a position where you need to be contactable, make it clear that it is only for emergencies. Then you have the peace of mind of knowing that you can be contacted but you don’t have to check on anything yourself.

“Delete Outlook over Christmas and reinstall it in January. There’s nothing wrong with doing that,” he added. “If something comes up, you can always reinstall it but try and really switch off from the technology and get out of the habit of checking the phone because I think that’s probably the biggest distraction that people have.”

He also said that if there’s anything critical that you think might be playing on your mind over the holiday season, try to get that done and off your plate before you shut the laptop so that it’s not hanging over you.

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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