As the holidays encroach, it’s an opportune time to remind you of the importance of boundaries for your productivity. It’s easy to be the person who says yes and then ends up with burn out and pneumonia just before the celebrations. Ask me how I know…

So here are three areas you can gear up on now to ensure that your holidays are a little easier.

“Good fences make good neighbors.”

Of course, I will start with your office environment, not just because I am an interior designer but also because physical boundaries are easy to see.

While Robert Frost was being ironic with his fences, it is, in fact, important to have a clearly delineated space for your work. So if you work from home, I strongly suggest you set up your office in a second bedroom, a loft, your basement or an underutilized room such as the dining room
If you work in an open office floor plan, you will have to get more creative. Some clients use plants as dividers; others wear headphones to indicate they are concentrating and others post a Do Not Disturb sign. Some folks are fortunate to work in companies that have quiet spaces. If this is you, please take advantage of it. The holidays can be stressful.

Having a quiet space in which to focus will have positive effects not only on your efficiency but your well-being.

“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”

The Little Prince is possibly one of my all-time favorite stories. So I’ll riff just a bit on the meaning of tamed here and say that in order to tame your time, you must know for what and whom you are responsible. Here’s an easy one – you’re not responsible if your child forgets to take their homework assignment to school.

Now let’s tackle work. If you haven’t already, write your values and post them in a prominent place in your office. Mine are health, family, making a difference and travel. Now those have very little to do with work, but they are important reminders for how I want to live my life. So if I’m spending too much time making a difference and not enough on my health or my family, this is my reminder to shift my focus. I’m pretty good about scheduling in travel!

Now that you have your values, make 2 columns on a new page. In first, write down your job responsibilities. In the second, write down everything you do at your job. Compare notes. What are you taking on that isn’t your responsibility? Who else can take that over? Learning how to ask for help was possibly my most difficult lesson. Having cancer taught me that people take tremendous joy in giving. And you are giving them a gift.

Learning to say no is another tough one. But remember two things – No is a complete sentence. You don’t have to explain. And saying no frees you up to say yes to other possibilities. Who doesn’t want that?

This fall, I had two “extra jobs” that I haven’t had in the past – high school applications and renting the beach house. There are no extra hours in the day and I am not the person who does well on fewer than 6 hours of sleep, so something had to give. I took a hiatus from much of my volunteering. That sounds kind of selfish, but stepping down as chair of hospitality allowed a vastly capable amazing mom to step up and in. She was thrilled.

By holding true to my values – family and travel – I can make better decisions about how I spend my time. We had two additional unexpected family health issues – yes we are all fine now. If I had kept all of the volunteer responsibilities, I would not have been able to shift to family time.

Which of course leads me to time…

“Time is on my side”

In the song, the response is yes it is. But at the holidays it can feel like anything but. Now is a good time to pull out your calendar and plan out your time. The calendar can act as your boundary on your schedule. My rule is if it’s not on my calendar, it’s not happening. So that means that several times a week, I review and update my calendar.

Sunday night is a great time to check what’s in your plan for the coming week. Schedule everything – family time, holiday shopping, parties, working out (especially exercise as it’s easy to blow it off during the holidays). Exercising makes you more alert which has a positive impact on your productivity. So keep getting in those steps even if it’s just a 20-minute walk.

Are you ready to create your own EPIC office transformation?

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