We have quickly approached the Holiday season for 2020 and while this has been a year like no other, there is still the busy-ness of the season that we can count on. Every store we go into now or commercial we hear on the radio and television is reminding us that it is the holiday season. You can hear the words creeping into your head: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”.
But, are you truly thinking that it is the most wonderful time? Or are you feeling a little more stress pop into your thoughts each day as your lists of tasks start to pile on top of each other?? Many of us, including myself, whole-heartedly nod our heads and admit that we feel conflicted and over-whelmed at times both personally and professionally during the holidays.
As a project manager professionally, it can frustrate me to no end when I find myself becoming stressed with my personal tasks. Likewise, as a wife, mother, sister and daughter, it can frustrate me when I find myself trying to pack more and more time at work heading into the holidays, trying to cram one more thing in before going home. Perhaps you can relate? While this struggle is real, by applying some simple principles from both worlds, we can see how attainable it is to manage our personal and professional projects/time during the holiday season.
Understand the Final Goals
The first thing to do is realistically establish the goals you are aiming to meet during this time. Look both at the professional side as well as the personal side. Are there specific tasks we really need or want to complete before shutting the computer off for 2020? Personally, are there holiday festivities that we refuse to miss? What about the more intangible items like ‘Spending quality time with my family’? We need to be honest with ourselves and lay out the goals before us which are most important. Make sure the goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely). For the more ambiguous goals, try to identify the tangible components and focus on those parts.
Set target dates and plan of attack
From there we need to get our trusty calendar and start laying out the times and dates so we can visualize the time frame we are working with. Add the immovable and final target dates for those goals to the calendar. Block off time for ‘quality time’ and add any planned time out of the office. If there are times where traveling is needed, be sure to include that time as well. Also, try the approach of creating one overarching calendar where both the professional target dates as well as personal dates can be incorporated into a more holistic summary. Who really wants to plan a day to buy Christmas presents only to find out that you’re assigned a task at work that is due the next day? Laying out the tasks all together can ensure seeing the bigger picture as well as allow realistic target dates.
Plan for less than optimal
One thing I have learned over time is that it is easy to be overly optimistic and make plans where absolutely nothing can fail, because if one thing goes off-kilter the whole plan crumbles before me. However, the likelihood of something throwing a wrench into your best laid plans is almost 100%. Give a buffer and truly focus on being realistic when possible. Acknowledge and accept the reality that productivity is not always going to be the best during this time.
Prioritize, repeat and relax
Once the plan is in place, it’s time to implement and work the plan. The best success with plans I have encountered is when following the agile approach to project management. Establish the priority for the tasks, working with the project teams (within the office, as well as your team of family members) to identify what is mission critical to be accomplished ahead of year-end. Make an effort to re-evaluate the priorities daily if needed, since the ebb and flow of the holidays can change more quickly. Identify any blockers that are holding up progression and reach out to others to help address them in a timely fashion. Are there things which can be delegated in order to keep the proverbial plate from over-flowing? Also, don’t use this time for pulling in additional items off the backlog. If there is a little down-time, use it to take a few breaths and relax. Look around and enjoy the holiday spirit.
2020 will come to a close here shortly. There’s no way around that. However, by taking some time to plan what truly needs to be accomplished both at work and at home and realistically charting a course, we can then see how to keep those tasks in their right place. We can implement the tasks to successfully reach our goals, re-evaluating as needed, all while enjoying more of the holidays with less stress.