How to Stay Productive Over the Holidays

The ideal answer is that you don’t have to be, nor should you be, productive over the holidays. The holidays are the perfect time to relax and enjoy quality time with family and friends. You shouldn’t have to think about work at all–once you set your vacation/automatic away messages, you should be free from thinking or doing any work until it’s time to go back to the office. However, if you (like me) have made some writing or other project commitments, the holidays can also be the perfect opportunity to get caught up on the extra work that so many librarians take on. But while it’s easy to end up over-working or not working at all while on vacation, it’s possible to do a healthy mix of the two. 

  1. Schedule Your Time

    Maintaining a flexible schedule can be one of the best tools to take advantage of the time that you have. Whether you’re visiting your hometown, staying local, or going on vacation somewhere else, schedule what you plan on doing ahead of time. If you need to work on a writing project, you can block off time in the mornings for your writing, and leave the afternoons and evenings free for visiting relatives or other fun holiday activities. You can also view the schedule as a way to gauge whether or not there’s enough time to achieve your plans and avoid over-committing.

  2. Set and Maintain Boundaries

    If you’re living with others or visiting relatives, it may be difficult during the holidays to find time for yourself. You may be obligated to spend more quality time with relatives you haven’t seen in a while, or your partner or children may end up needing more time with you as well. One thing I noticed while I was working at home with my husband during the pandemic was that when one of us was distracted, the other would be in deep focus mode, or vice versa, leading both of us to distract each other at inopportune moments. To set and maintain boundaries during that time, we each had our designated work area, where we would stay when we were focusing. But if we wanted to take a break, we would go to the living room to unwind, and if the others wanted to relax, they could also go to the living room. This helped us non-verbally signal to each other if we were available. Try to set a physical boundary this holiday that signals to others if you’re free. Or if a physical boundary is not available, try to designate a particular time of day as “alone time” so others know that hour or so is your time to do what you want to do.  
  3. Don’t Multitask

    In the same vein, don’t multitask. It’s been shown that multitasking hinders productivity and that most people cannot actually multitask but instead are task-switching, which can lead to less efficient work and focus. So if you’ve decided to set aside an hour to work, dedicate yourself to that single hour, and then don’t think about it for the rest of the day. In the same way, if you’re in vacation mode, try to dedicate yourself to vacation-specific tasks, and avoid answering work emails even if it will just take one second. I’m incredibly guilty of answering work emails or checking my messages compulsively, even when I’m “off the clock.” But my husband often reminds me that I shouldn’t be working when I’m not working, and so while it has taken some time, I do choose to leave my emails until Monday morning. 
  4. Rest

    Ultimately, the holidays are meant to be a break away from work. And just like being productive is an important piece of professional life, so is taking care of your well-being by resting during this time. Taking a break or pausing your work life is a healthy way to recuperate your strength and come back feeling refreshed and motivated to work. So this holiday, make sure to take a breather, recharge, and do the things that bring your joy. Because rest is one of the best things you can do to remain productive.
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