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.


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?

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  1. As much as I would like to agree with you it is never that easy. Every Holiday Season I tell myself this will be my chance to “catch up,” but it turns into drinking and eating with friends and family.

    I think although I do not get that much done the re-charging factor of being around friends and family is just as good as good as preparing for the next year.

    Even if you come back to the mess you left it will take half the time to fix it after a good week of not thinking about work.

    To each his own I guess, but keep up the good work at least your writing ads value rather than recycles what most people have already said.

  2. Simonne says:

    Yes, you are! I liked very much the “ask for favors” trick. This will keep many people away, that’s for sure.
    I enjoy holidays. All year round, I work from home, I’m not sociable, I spend the most of the time in my life with my cat. My friends work during the day and they are tired in the afternoon, driving takes forever every day, so I barely meet anybody. Wouldn’t I be crazy to work during holidays, instead of enjoying stupid non-sense conversations over some nice dinners? Every once in a while, it is very relaxing, at least for me, so I can’t wait to meet some friends. And January is a traditional vacation month for me, so I’ll be going in some trip to relax. Work never ends anyway, so it can wait a little bit.

  3. Cohen says:

    I’m going to have to agree with the other comments I’m afraid, I think just taking some time off to relax and ‘recharge’ can be really beneficial.

    However, I like the idea of popping in to the office to tidy up my desk over the holidays and you can never make too many contacts. Plus, if you can meet them in a ‘non business’ environment they might be more likely to actually remember you – maybe?

  4. “Send them home” — simple and effective, I love it! My grandfather used to have a couple of sayings that fit in here. One was, “Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?” and the other, my favourite: “Let’s go to bed so these people can go home!”

  5. There must be something wrong with me because I don’t usually have people dropping by on Christmas time that I don’t want to invite to come in.

    I think I’m probably naughty with those all year long and they save me the overhead to be naughty on Holiday Seasons as well.

    Maybe you should include this long term strategy to your list 🙂

  6. […] Take advantage of the holidays to do that so you can enter 2008 with a much clearer conscience. Holiday Hacks: 12 Radical and Slightly Naughty Ways to Stay Productive [On […]

  7. Pinny Cohen says:

    Great post, I really liked the tip:
    “Use cards to setup meetings”

    I think I’ll try that out and see how it works, it’s quite brilliant :-).

  8. Timothy McCudahl says:

    I think any time you can be productive it’s good. If you need to “recharge” you’re a wimp. Come on, it’s nearly 2010…always push to be your best, always push to be productive for yourself and your employer.

  9. scath88 says:

    Great post! I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’re not a Scrooge–I’m not a huge Christmas person myself (my family was never really into holidays when I was growing up), and my school holds its final exams after New Year’s, so I need to stay productive. People often don’t understand (or take me seriously) when I tell them I need to leave a function early because I have papers to write, so at this point, I may have to put some of these tips to good use!

    On a side note, I’ve always wondered why so many people take an all-or-nothing approach to Christmas–that is, they either overindulge, spend all of their time cooking/gift wrapping/decorating, or stress themselves out by attempting to visit all of their relatives…and then try to start fresh (often manically) after New Year’s. How about engaging in both relaxation and a little productivity during the holidays?

  10. Tim says:

    I really liked items 3,5, 7, & 9. The rest, well, great article.

  11. […] I was bloghopping, I found this interesting entry by Jon from On Money Making. While some of the tips given are very radical that might not be suitable for us  Malaysians ( […]

  12. Happy Holidays, Jon
    See you in TS.
    All best, Jan

  13. The real question is how you want to use your time “off” from work. Without a recharge, it’s arguable that you’ve squandered an important opportunity to make your brain work better.

    I recommend treating it like a vacation: Don’t work! Like taking a vacation, prepare before it starts by getting caught up, verifying projects are in a happy state, and dealing with anything that you know will come up during the break, e.g., bills, party planning, buying gifts, etc.

    Also, I want to acknowledge the people who have to work while many of us take breaks, e.g., people who work in hospitals.

    Thanks for the post!

  14. Holly says:

    @matthew: i don’t work at a hospital, but another group of people who still have to work this holiday season are those in tv and radio. i’m working a 9 hour shift today (christmas eve) so people can hear christmas music. but thank you for acknowledging people like us.

    i agree with most everybody else, though, because holiday breaks should be treated as such. they’re BREAKS from work. to those of you who are lucky enough to get a break from work, enjoy it. get fat and give lots of hugs and kisses. for the rest of us who have to work during our breaks, enjoy what you can and make sure to get enough sleep. you can get fat too.

  15. Blake says:

    I agree with scath88. I also think, though, that this article is a bit much. The holidays are a time to recharge, to just relax and have some fun, where you’re not forcing yourself to be productive, to push yourself anymore, it’s a time to just relax and do some personal things for yourself and family. It’s supposed to be a great time. If it’s not, then maybe these things apply to you, but I don’t believe in pushing yourself through the time when your family is actually available to see one of the few times a year. Or when you can really sit back and relax, read, write, watch some movies, talk to some old friends, just have some quiet (or not) but fun time on your hands. Making contacts is good, but I think the way a bunch of this is worded it sounds like you’re taking advantage of friend’s networks without really being interested in the friend, using the holiday spirit as “an excuse” for asking/doing favors, that kind of thing. That I don’t think is right. But I guess… to each their own. Whatever you’re doing, have a great holiday. Enjoy the time you’ve got.

  16. Good site. Thank you.

  17. punch says:

    Very good site. Thank you:-)

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