Shopping lists, capturing the perfect holiday card photo, putting up the decorations, last minute Q4 projects and ending the year with a fiscal bang. The fourth quarter can be a chaotic time of year, making it difficult to stay focused on work and negatively impacting productivity.
Thanks to my Emergenetics Profile I’ve discovered that my personality type gravitates towards structure. So what’s a structure lover supposed to do in the ever-changing Q4 climate? Based on my experience balancing multiple clients and projects, here are four tips that have dramatically increased my ability to stay focused regardless of the season. I hope they ho-ho-help you stay more productive during this holiday season too!
1. Write a To Do List and Revisit it Throughout the Day
You’ve probably heard that at the end of each day you should write a to-do list for the next day — this is 100 percent true! But the key is to revisit that to-do list first thing in your day. Don’t check Slack. Don’t check your email. Check in with your to-do list. This will help you set the intention for your day and act as the North Star that keeps you on track.
2. Eat the Frog First
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, more commonly known as Mark Twain, brilliantly authored 28 separate book releases. (Side note: I’m pretty sure we would have been besties if we had been born in the same era). During his writing career, he learned a thing or two about staying productive. His recommendation?
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
When you’re creating that to-do list, identify which 1-3 items are your “frogs.” What do you have to complete today? Tackle the toughest one first thing in your day to avoid the “I don’t know how to start this project blues.” This will give you the momentum to stay productive for the rest of the day!
3. Practice the OHIO Method
OHIO which stands for Only Handle It Once is the most recent productivity method I’ve been practicing, thanks to Shine. The idea is to tackle and complete those smaller one-off projects as they come up. Instead of overthinking that email response or sending a delayed text message, complete them in the moment. This method has taught me a few things: most things don’t take as long as I tell myself they will and mental to-dos haunt you. The things that aren’t “big enough” to put on the to-do list are the things that take up the most mental space. By completing them in the moment, I have more energy to dedicate to my “frogs.”
4. Tell Time With Tomatoes
For those bigger projects, the ones that take more than 30 minutes, I highly recommend using the Pomodoro (Italian for “tomato”) Technique to help stay focused.
The idea is to dedicate 25 minutes of undivided attention to a project (e.g. creating a digital advertising strategy for a client). At the end of the 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break. After the break jump back into 25 minutes of dedicated project work, then take another 5-minute break. Continue this cycle three to four times. At the end of the fourth cycle, take a 15-minute break, instead of a 5-minute break. Repeat this time management technique as needed until the project is finished. My personal favorite Pomodoro timer is Tomato Timers. Their graphics are cute and the timer sounds like happy rainfall.
How do you stay focused during the holiday season? Do you have a productivity method that you love? Please share it with us in the comments!
Olivia Ward is a Director of Digital Strategy at CenterTable, where she creates digital marketing strategies that make client dreams come true. She has more than 10 years of experience helping brands find and target their audience IRL and digitally.