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by Cathy Vandewater | December 20, 2011


Started the countdown until vacation yet?

It's down to days for many until some much-needed time off.

But staying productive now can pay off in a big way when you return. It's not fun to think of vacations coming to an end, but you'll be glad you thought ahead when you come back to an organized desk, completed task list, and zero urgency.

Here's a list of Vault's classic productivity busters (read the full article here)—stay strong and, for the sake of your vacation time, don't do them!

1. Chatting with co-workers

While you should not undervalue the importance of getting along with co-workers, it is easy to focus on the social aspects of your job rather than the tasks at hand. Not only is chatting not productive, it looks bad, especially if it is disruptive of other people's work. Learn how to say "I have to get back to work now."

2. Working odd hours

Tasks grow to fill the time allotted, so don't let a task spill over past quitting time or into the weekend, or god forbid, your vacation. A common procrastination technique is to not do any real work during the day, and then "catch up" after 5 p.m. or on weekends. This might work the rest of the year, but it's dangerous during the holidays. You might find you need crucial feedback after hours, the day after your boss left for Aspen.

Focus on your "per hour" productivity" to bust out of this self-defeating rut. You might even recover the time to go to a party or two.

3. Forgetting to alternate work with breaks

Staring at your computer screen doesn't count as work. Neither does shopping for Christmas gifts. Keep your desk a fairly work-only zone to stay productive, and break your tasks into 15 minute chunks, alternating big projects with smaller tasks like returning calls or cleaning out your inbox.

4. Disorganization

Speaking of clean inboxes, if you cannot find your notes from an important meeting, don't know where you filed the previous version of a document, or need to call someone and don't have the number, you will waste a good deal of time every day. When this happens, figure out ways you could have saved that time if you had an organizational system in place. Build time into your weekly schedule to organize yourself--you'll be glad you did in January.

5. Email, IM, surfing the Web

Do not kid yourself. If you are holding a G-chat with your spouse about gift ideas for your inlaws, you are not giving the document you are editing your full attention. Multitasking is possible if each task only takes a small percentage of your attention, but just because the Powerpoint presentation is open on your desktop doesn't mean you are actually working on it.

6. Perfectionism

If you find yourself spending hours laboring over an e-mail to a co-worker, or revising and revising the layout of a draft document, you may be spending far too much energy on inconsequential details. When it comes to clients, is terrific, but you don't want to give away your company's work for free. So if you have promised an outline, deliver an outline--not the final product.

7. Inaccurately budgeting your time

It is easy to underestimate how long a task will take to complete--next thing you know, you're working on the plane to your parents house, then on your your laptop after dinner, your Blackberry on the ski lift... On this note, especially with time off coming up, don't make promises you can't keep. Be up front about your capacity, and any impending deadlines. (Your travel schedule counts as a deadline, by the way).

8. Not knowing what distracts you

Some people are good in the morning and relish the few hours before everyone arrives. Others hate mornings and would rather come in later and work past 5 p.m. for some quiet time. Some people enjoy listening to their favorite CDs while working, others find it too distracting. Find out what works for you and make sure that your co-workers and boss understand that you are trying to work in the most productive manner for you.


Filed Under: Workplace Issues