Expert advice on efficient office hours—so you can power down, scoot home, and enjoy the holidays.
Don't Wait Until Monday Morning...
...to start thinking about your work schedule, says Julie Morgenstern, a time-management expert and the author of Never Check E-mail in the Morning. Begin two weeks before. Identify exactly what you'll be able to achieve during holiday weeks and when you'll tackle each task. Book the early part of the week, when more colleagues are around, with meetings and calls. Leave the (often quiet) last day before the break for solo work, like expense reports. Jot down potential roadblocks so you'll be prepped to maneuver around them.
...by coworkers who pop in to chat (or even people who need you for legit reasons). Morgenstern suggests this exit line: "I want to give you my undivided attention but can't give you that now." Then offer a time and date to meet—in the future. Also effective, says Shari McGuire, a time-management expert and the author of Take Back Your Time: standing up at your desk, which tacitly "communicates urgency to wrap things up." But don't skip lunch or breaks, says Morgenstern: "You'll end up working harder and longer but not as effectively."
Schedule E-Mail-Checking Blocks
Set aside two 45-minute chunks per day to batch-process messages. The constant checking of e-mail and social media "is the number one enemy of productivity," says Morgenstern. This is not news to us, but oh, what a tough habit to break. Use a short holiday week as a test run of this new system. Nail it and you'll be set for next month—and the Greatest Career New Year's Resolution ever.