'It's that time of year': Our tips for surviving the 12 (working) days of Christmas
‘Tis the season for mince pies, family, presents, mulled wine… deadlines, annual reporting, Christmas shopping panic, everyone wanting to take annual leave at the same time and all of your suppliers closing for a week (sorry for the reminder)! Here are our top tips for keeping on top of the workload and ensuring festive cheer is restored.
Planning and preparation:
It seems obvious - but make sure you have all of the information you need at your fingertips BEFORE everyone starts leaving the office. This can prove difficult as often people are so excited about Christmas (or just generally being on holiday) that they forget to handover properly so it’s down to you! Make sure you have the open files, cases and matters to hand (literally to hand - on your desk in an organised fashion). Or of course, use Iken and they will be at your fingertips!
It’s happened, the phones ringing, the other phone is ringing too, the computers crashed and your Christmas gift order has just emailed to say ‘out of stock’. VIP Client needs an update! Stay calm. Breathe. Explain that you are working to a skeleton staff and that you can call back in 10 minutes with the information. Clients would much rather you gave them the right information, a little bit later, than a rushed answer that ends up being incorrect – AND they are likely in a similar situation. Then remember that most shops stay open until around 9pm during December so the gift cancellation isn’t a disaster after all.
Take regular breaks:
Now this one may seem counter- intuitive. Surely if you take breaks you won’t get as much done? Wrong. Taking regular breaks helps your brain reset and refocus meaning that you complete tasks more quickly and to a higher standard- so you won’t have to go and correct a load of typos later. Scheduling in time for short breaks and working in 60-90 minute blocks can be a great way of encouraging focus. Especially if you go for a short walk in your break rather than browsing the internet… you could even do some swift Christmas shopping or indulge in a mince pie.
Be on top of your admin:
Yes it’s boring, yes it feels like it takes forever but once you’ve properly sorted all of your emails, file structures, contacts, parties, reference codes, workflows, text books and paper files – everything else takes a lot less time. Take proper notes of messages and save them digitally, be it via email or quicknote, post-its can get lost. You get out what you put in and laying the groundwork could shave 15 minutes off your overtime and get you to the Nativity on time.
Use a workflow:
Workflows can be fantastic for making sure you’ve ticked everything off the list. We all know what we have to do each day and how to do it but when the pressures on little things can get forgotten. In addition to making sure each item is ticked off, workflows can help keep you focused. You have your list of tasks on screen in front of you, you can consciously see the next task so are less likely to get distracted by that email popping up bottom right. By recording your time automatically you can properly see how long each task takes and give realistic estimates to clients – not everything can be done before December 24th.
Its official, multi-tasking isn’t a thing. The way our brains work when we are doing more than one task is to rapidly switch focus between each one – reducing concentration, focus and efficiency. You wouldn't charge two clients for the same set of time as you couldn’t be working simultaneously on two cases during the exact same time, so don’t 'charge' your brain with two tasks in the same set of time either!
Take walking meetings:
Have a meeting that doesn’t require any tech? Take a walk to discuss matters with colleagues, the movement increases blood flow and brain power meaning you’ll be more focussed and get to the point more quickly (just make sure you’ve got your gloves and a scarf!).
Focus on your most important work:
You can’t do everything. We all have a human desire to be well-liked and end up saying ‘YES’ to far too many things trying to be helpful. Try to say 'NO' and put focus on your most important work, where you will be able to make the most impact. If you are really struggling use Eisenhower's Urgent / Important Principle to select what needs to be done NOW, what can’t be done as suppliers are closed for the holidays and what can wait until everyone else is back in the office.
...If all else fails, have a bit of stolen- take 5 and try again.