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Let’s face it. Even the most dedicated of us can have trouble staying focused at this time of year.
There are events to attend, family dramas, year-end issues to get a head start on — and as if that’s not enough to keep you busy, everyone’s worried about what the recent economic stress will mean to them and their company.
Here are some road-tested steps to help you — and the rest of your department — keep a clear head and find time for all the work and all the fun.
- Expect — and define — good results. With people taking time off and more work on everyone’s desk, it’s easy enough for something to slip through the cracks. Avoid an outbreak of “I-thought-he-was-doing-it-itis” by laying out clear expectations of what will be done when — and by whom. If many people are going to be out, there may be no choice but to delay certain tasks until after the holidays. But the earlier you lay out the plan for the department, the more likely you are to get everything done sooner. Success tip: Keep an eye on progress, so if anyone falls behind or runs into a roadblock (like lack of co-operation from another department) you can address it early.
- Make use of cheer. Acting like Scrooge isn’t the only way to get things done. Taking occasional small breaks to share in the festivities can actually energize folks and help them be more productive. Spiking the lunchroom egg nog’s still a no-no. But setting aside an hour for a nice, sit-down department lunch, or bringing in some cookies won’t keep the payroll from getting out on time.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Staffers need to feel like they can come to you if they’re falling behind or need help solving a problem (See step #1.) By the same token, getting word out early to other departments of deadline changes, forms you need them to sign, etc., helps everyone prioritize. Otherwise, you run the risk of vital paperwork you’re waiting for falling to the bottom of someone else’s to-do list.
- Look to the new year — and not just for the party. As you see what worked — or didn’t — in 2008, it helps you plan better for 2009. Make note of department successes as well as areas of improvement and use them to set your goals and priorities for next year.
Have any other tried-and-true strategies for getting through the holiday season in one piece? Share your insights in the comments.