Every year, do you wonder how to keep projects moving during the holidays? That’s natural. As attention shifts toward Thanksgiving, holiday gatherings, and the approaching New Year, you’ll probably notice a decline in productivity. With the upcoming holiday season’s demands and expectations, you and your team members are pulled in different directions as you all try to juggle personal and professional interests.
Sometimes, work productivity tends to bear the brunt during this season. While it’s impossible to avoid the holidays altogether as an organization, here are proven methods to stay focused, keep your workforce on track, maintain high productivity, and keep projects moving during the chaotic holiday season:
Create a game plan
The easiest way to overcome holiday madness is by getting ahead of it.
Getting a hold of people during the holidays can be challenging, especially when you need their input the most. Even worse when there’s a lingering deadline! Messages can sit in your outbox for hours or days without a response. That’s why you must create a game plan to tackle the holiday madness before it hits.
What does that mean for you? Here are some suggestions.
Plan early, create your to-do list and set concrete dates for deadlines and meetings at the beginning of the project. Setting a timeline and sharing it with your team is the first step to any successful project. However, as you plan the project’s timeline, consider your team’s and stakeholders’ schedules as well as the expected volume and nature of work.
Strategically organize the project’s coverage and prioritize the most important things first so that the right people are working on the right things. You’ll easily minimize stall points along your way and keep everyone accountable and on track when everything is on the calendar in advance. Waiting until a week before the holiday to start creating your to-do list, scheduling important calls, or sharing the project timeline with your team is an easy way to let things slip through the cracks.
Be generous with information. Communication is not a one-and-done process, especially regarding strategic planning of projects and keeping them moving during the holiday season. Discuss work schedules and team availability with the project stakeholders and your team, so everyone knows when you’re available and when you’ll be completely blacked out with no work progressing.
Let everyone know what is expected of them and continually communicate about their progress. Encourage feedback, so you can streamline work or make changes when needed. Listen to episode 17 of Messaging on a Mission, “Messaging Through Strategic Planning,” with Carol Hamilton, for more insight on the importance of communication in implementing strategic plans.
Prioritize. The truth is that you may not be able to get everything done. If that’s the case, it’s important to complete at least the most important elements of a project. For a suggestion on how to determine what is most important, check out this article on the Eisenhower Matrix in the September issue of Focal Point, our free monthly newsletter.
Create a backup plan. Discuss what to do if the project is running a bit behind or you can’t get a hold of someone. Having a backup plan to proceed when you can’t contact partners or clients will help ensure that the project’s deadline does not snowball out of control.
Document your game plan and discussions with team members and stakeholders in writing and ensure everyone is on the same page. This way, you’ll avoid confusion down the line and have a clear direction of what to do in advance before the schedules get crazy.
Even if assertive communication is not your typical communication style, you need to adjust your style to communicate your priority, seek feedback, or gain the necessary information. Whether you’re managing up, down, or sideways, you should be prepared to make quick calls or send reminder emails to your team to get things on track.
Of course, there can be a fine line between aggressive and assertive communication. Always layer in respect and empathy, so you don’t cross over that line into aggression. Also, remember why you’re being assertive: to drive your important work forward.
Recognize and compliment people for doing a good job and meeting their deadlines
Sending positive feedback and acknowledging your team’s input can help to achieve considerable success with any project. Not only will it make them feel good about themselves, but it will also encourage them (and others) to work harder and meet future deadlines.
Protect your mission and focus on the big-picture goals
- Along the same line of complimenting people that we talked about, you should get into the habit of protecting your employees to protect your organization’s mission. Below are some helpful tips to protect your mission while focusing on the big-picture goals:
- Appreciate them for focusing on their work and acknowledge that the holiday season can add more stress to their personal and professional lives.
- Reach out to them and show concern about their welfare.
- Don’t put too much pressure on them. Although you need to get many things done as soon as possible, ensure that stress does not manifest in a way that pains your team members. Focus on the important tasks on your list and cross out smaller things that can divert your attention away from your strategic project goals.
- Recognize people who have worked above and beyond their call of duty.
- Make meetings fun, keep them brief, and have a clear action plan.
- No one says you and your team must do it all alone. Consider bringing in specialists or outside resources to support your team, light the way, and keep things moving to improve efficiency.
- Spread the holiday cheer. Make sure you reserve time on your calendar for holiday fun or team bonding.
Finally, leverage the power of your mission. Reiterate the importance of the project (your work) and why it matters, especially during this holiday season. Before you know it, you’ll have a motivated and pleased team ready to go.