The gifts are gone; the treats are tasted, the greetings are given. It’s that lull between Christmas and New Years, when not much is going on at most workplaces, and yet someone has to be there to “mind the store.”
Many offices close up altogether in that week, but that’s not always feasible. I mean let’s face it; most workplaces can’t be shuttered from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2.
If you’re one of the “lucky ones” still in the office during this traditional “Wasted Week,” consider it an extra gift….the gift of time.
Here are five things you can do to help you get a jump on the coming year while the rest of the world finishes its merry making.
1. Tackle the Paper
It’s human nature to ignore that which we don’t want to deal with, hoping it will go away. And there sit all those orphaned papers, right on your desk, in your inbox – and if you’re like me – possibly on your floor! Now is the time to go through EVERY paper on your desk, one by one.
There are two ways to deal with all the paper and I go back and forth on which is most efficient. (In fact, I would love if you would leave comments in the section below about what you feel is the best method!)
The first one is that you don’t put any papers back down until you have taken action. That means you pick something up and you deal with it.
Route the invoices. Proofread the meeting summary. Flip through the trade journals, read anything of interest and recycle. Open a new ‘ideas’ file where you keep track of interesting things you read, whether it’s a new marketing idea, a potential client or a staff-related best practice. Re-read the holiday greetings and write the thank you notes that you need to. The point is that every time you pick up a card, piece of paper or magazine, you deal with it and get rid of it.
The second method is to sort and then deal. So you start piles of invoices that need to be paid. Articles you’ve torn out that you want to read. Thank you notes that you need to write.
This method is faster, and yet when you are done, you haven’t actually accomplished anything. You’ve just moved everything around into a more orderly fashion. And yet, sometimes it IS more efficient to write all your thank you notes in one burst.
Whichever method you prefer, pick one and stick with it until all the piles are gone.
And while you’re at it, now that your desk is clean, find a wipe and actually physically clean it. We’ve all heard the statistics that most desks are dirtier than toilets. Take care of that, would ya?
2. Delete, Delete, Delete
The paper has been corralled and now it’s time to deal with your inbox. No, you never used that free shipping coupon from Best Buy. Delete. Yes, you should read the e-newsletter from your best client. Read it and delete.
If you’re an email hoarder like me, you like your inbox to contain everything you are currently dealing with — and that can get out of control. Lots of people set up folders: one for each project or client; one for travel arrangements; one with links to LOL cat websites – basically anything you routinely use.
If that’s a good method for you then go through your inbox and move the various emails to where they belong.
If you’re like me, and want everything actionable available at a glance in the inbox, then this is the time to act and delete, as discussed above. And while you’re at it take a moment to liberally unsubscribe. If you really miss the twice daily Gap sale ads after a week or so, you can always resubscribe!
(Stay tuned, an upcoming post will give you even more tips for managing email as we celebrate “Clean Out Your Inbox Week” in January.)
3. Move Beyond the Inbox
Your inbox is just one area of your digital life; chances are you have files on your computer that can use some love.
Do you have six different prospect lists? Can they be condensed into one? Could your reports dating back to 2010 be moved onto back up storage, or even just deleted? Did you make an “ideas file” last year and never visit it? Open it up, see what’s still relevant and delete the rest. A clean computer not only makes it easier to find what you actually need, but also runs faster!
Have you been putting off some training you could take this week on the computer? How about podcasts that have built up that you can listen to? Use this quiet time to clean up your virtual life any way you can.
4. Enjoy a Leisurely Lunch — Really!
During the rest of the year, most of us are far too busy to socialize with our work colleagues, or even our clients beyond what we need to. Look around your office — the sales department might be empty, but I bet someone is holding down the fort in accounting. Why not mosey over and see if they’d like to grab a sandwich? Branching out and getting to know others in the office can only be a benefit and this might be the one time of the year when you have the time — and access.
5. Reflect, and Then Plan
Your budgets and sales plans are probably already wrapped up but undoubtedly there are other plans you can make. Review your sales figures for the past 12 months — were there some clients where you could do more? Look ahead to trade shows and upcoming conferences. Can you research the events and speaker panels to identify how you can most benefit from attending?
Take advantage of this quiet time to really think through your current year and how you can build on your strengths for an even more robust following year.
Ah, the bliss of a clean desk and plans made. Make sure to revel in this preparation on Jan. 2, when your colleagues enter the office, depleted and overwhelmed with all the emails and papers — many of which have undoubtedly been transferred from YOUR desk onto THEIRS!
This “wasted week” can be one of the most productive you spend all year – allowing you to hit the ground running in the new year!
• • •
Series on Working Through the Holiday Season
- Part 1: Christmas Holiday Productivity: Five Ways to Make the Most of the “Wasted Week”
- Part 2: Gift Exchange at the Office: Avoid the Gift Gaffe
- Part 3: How the Grinch Stole the Holiday Spirit: Four Office Mistakes to Avoid During the Holiday Season
by Cathie Ericson