Holiday Hacks: 12 Radical (and Slightly Naughty) Ways to Stay Productive

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Who in their right mind would want to stay productive during the holiday season?

It’s the one time of year where you’re given permission to relax. You can doze off in front of the television, stuff yourself with holiday treats, and enjoy some quality time with the family. Why would you want to give that up?

Lots of reasons. Maybe you despise your family. Or, in your belief system, there may not be any holidays this time of year. Then there are the workaholics (ahem) who want to start preparing for the next year.

Regardless, not everyone wants to participate. The problem is it’s almost impossible to avoid without seeming like a Scrooge. Friends and family just stop by, you’re invited to parties, and nothing much is going on at work. How are you supposed to stay productive amidst all of that?

I’ve developed an assortment of strategies over the years, ranging from minimizing the time spent celebrating to harnessing the opportunities that the holidays provide. Here are 13 tips to get you started:

Family and Friends:

1. Set time limits – If there are certain people that you just have to go see, at least set a time limit on the visit. Decide in advance how long you’ll stay, and when the time comes, make a graceful exit.

2. Send them home – Every year, at least a few friends stop by my house to wish me a Merry Christmas. Instead of inviting them in, I keep them at the door, talk for a few minutes, and then say, “Well, have a Merry Christmas! I’ll catch up with you next year.” They usually get the hint.

3. Buy the food – Some people cook for the entire month of December. If you enjoy it, then do it. Otherwise, try to buy at least some of the food. As long as it tastes good, no one will really mind.

4. Ask for favors – Thinking about starting a company or changing jobs? Then use the holidays to your advantage. Announce your upcoming job hunt at the holiday dinner, or corner that rich uncle and go over your business plan.

Get Ahead:

5. Go to work – No one else is working? Good. Go to work anyway. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done with no one bothering you.

6. Plan the new year – Forget resolutions. Instead, create a handful of major milestones that you can break into action items and then measure as you progress through the year.

7. Write – While you might not be able to write a book in a week, you could easily finish your book proposal. Or, you could write 5-6 articles that demonstrate your expertise and submit them to magazines/blogs at the beginning of the year.

8. Read – The holidays are a great time to catch up on your reading. Not only is it relaxing, but if you’re reading nonfiction, you can start the New Year with a fresh perspective.

9. Clean/Organize – In a busy year, it’s easy to collect an enormous amount of clutter. Use the holidays as an opportunity to empty your e-mail box, clean off your desk, and sift through old files for things you can throw away.

Network:

10. Attend lots of holiday parties – Holiday parties are great places to network. Even if you’re not feeling especially festive, you should still go for the connections you’ll make. Get their contact information and follow up at the beginning of the year.

11. Celebrate with influential people – Has anyone invited you to spend Christmas or New Year’s Eve with them? If so, you might consider it, especially if they have an influential network. The holidays are a great excuse for getting to know people that can help you in the future.

12. Use cards to setup meetings – Instead of just sending out feel-good holiday cards, insert a personal message that says something like, “Hey, we haven’t caught up in a while. Are you available for lunch on January 8? Let me know!” That way, you’ll start the year with a full calendar.

13. Give an unexpected gift – I saved the naughtiest trick for last. If you’re going to need a favor from someone in the future, give them an unexpectedly extravagant gift. Nothing so big that they are suspicious, but enough to make them feel guilty. It will create a subconscious desire to reciprocate, which you can use later.

So what are some of your holiday tips for staying productive? Or am I just a big Scrooge?