How to be Productive During the Holidays

Photo by Daniel Lee


By Cathy White

Productive Freelancing During the Holidays

Perhaps more than most, freelancers find themselves in particular peril when the holidays roll around of spending more time idling away those spare moments than doing actual work. With no boss to stand nearby with a whip and deliver threats and ultimatums, it’s easy to fall into the trap of losing more time than you can afford to holiday parties, travel, festivities, shopping, and 24/7 movies on cable television.

The end result of declaring the final two months of the year an unofficial vacation can wreak havoc on your budget – money flows out but not enough comes in. Clients are angry at your lack of progress. You suddenly hate everything about freelancing and want to run back to your corporate world cubicle. We have some suggestions. First, watch “Office Space” again. That ought to cure your urge to return to a “real” job. Next, implement the following suggestions.

Increase Breaks

We’re not here to suggest you completely ignore the reality of the holiday season, but you might have to make small schedule adjustments in order to stay productive. For example, freelancers are the worst about sitting in a chair in front of a computer for hours on end. In case you weren’t aware, this is a bad idea. It’s terrible on you both mentally and physically. At least once in the morning and in the afternoon take a ten-minute break to clear your head and energize. Walk outside. Walk inside. Do jumping jacks. Do whatever it takes to get yourself away from the monitor for a while because, before you know it, you’re checking email, crushing candy, and Facebooking the day away.

A Personal Day

The real danger for freelancers during the holiday season is that every day becomes a personal day and you might go weeks without ever completing a good honest day of serious work. Try this. Pick one day each week during November and December to deal with shopping, errands, and anything else that occupies your brain incessantly while you’re trying to be productive. In fact, this idea might be a good one to implement into the new year and beyond. The problem with trying to fit this stuff into a normal workday is that it will shoot to crap any hopes of stringing together several productive hours in a row. It’s better to take an entire day for yourself and be able to plug 100 percent into work the rest of the time.

Put on Actual Clothes

One of the reasons you left the work world was so you could reduce your commute to the ten-second walk from the bedroom to the kitchen table and spend the entire day in your pajamas. During the holidays you might find yourself even more inclined to never slip out of your sleeping clothes. Here’s a harsh reality courtesy of a Forbes article quoting Dr. Karen Pine, fashion psychologist. Who even knew that was a job? But we digress. Pine claims that we tend to adopt the characteristics of the clothing we wear. So when we wear clothes associated with sleep, it primes our brain to want to nap all day. With the cooler weather and generally festive attitude prevalent around the holidays, it’s even more tempting to wear the types of clothing you wouldn’t ever leave the house in. Here’s a tip. Put on real clothes. For hardcore ‘jammy addicts, go outside, get in the car, drive around the block, then come back inside and get to work.

Be Intentionally Intentional

At the risk of sounding like an Army drill instructor to basic training recruits, we’ll say it anyway: a failure to plan is a plan to fail. During the holidays perhaps even more than any other time of year, you need to take half an hour beforehand to plan the week ahead. Write down everything that needs to be done and give it a priority. List the important things first, then fill in the spaces with smaller items. Like a checkbook, reconcile your schedule each day.

The Bottom Line

Though a freelancer must be on constant guard against frittering away the work day year round, the holidays are an especially dangerous time to fall down the rabbit hole of distraction and not be productive again until after January 1. The preceding suggestions should provide guidelines, but more than anything else a freelancer needs discipline, focus, and a little bit of fear. Good luck.

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