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This is personal. One moment your list, your life, and your work are all working in concert. The next minute a surprise action item or need appears, with critical urgency quickly plummeting your life into a state of emergency. For some, this state is constant. For others, it is far longer than need be. For most leaders who like a sense of accomplishment, the feeling of overload can be like an addictive drug and at most times of the year, the negative effects are minimal…except this one. The fourth quarter brings crunch time for profit numbers, vacation schedule juggling, short staffing issues, frequent weather related illness, decorations to arrange, presents to acquire on a short lunch hour, wrapping said presents in the wee hours of the night and oh yes, doing all the other things a leader of one’s life and a team does normally! Almost makes one feel overwhelmed, just to read the description. So, how do we do it? How do we get through this next six weeks without losing our cool, yelling at our team, and continuing to feel as if we’re living the dream?  Follow these seemingly simple, yet critical and maybe even surprising survival strategies. Go ahead, take just a minute…your sanity will be very grateful you did.

Make a Quick Map

There are six weeks remaining in the year and while we can all argue it snuck up fast, no amount of arguing is going to slow the speed of time about to pass. Stop what you’re doing and start to make a map. Perhaps it includes one page of paper or document per week. On those pages are the items to get done in only that week, along with to whom you’ll be delegating other action items. If a blank page doesn’t work, download a calendar template, such as this one, on which you can populate all that needs to be done and by when.  Back into today’s date and map out what needs to be fit in and done. There is evidence to suggest the brain only has space for seven items in the consciousness at any given time and as a result, when you add FIFTEEN items to a leader’s already crowded brain space, the outcome feels chaotic. Chaos and confusion leads to a real lack of productivity and will send those overwhelmed feelings to entirely new levels. Stop dealing with the stress and do something to relieve it. Open a document. Map it out. Then, just for giggles, give yourself a high five when you’re finished.

Put You Back on Your List

In dealing with day to day work responsibilities, when one adds the holiday fervor and action items, tosses in a family emergency, travel plans and the unexpected, it’s not difficult to quickly become sideways. It happens to the best of us and happened to me last week. When I said this was personal I meant it. J Yet, in a quiet half hour I managed to regain some of my stamina and energy by leading my car and my sanity to a book store. A mocha was ordered and while sipping, I spent just a few moments browsing. It was the best medicine and a reminder that even in the crazy days ahead, you must go back on your own list. Take the time, preferably daily, to remind yourself of what really matters, to move at a slower pace and remove yourself from the race to lead your way back to peace and harmony. Even if only in a moment of serenity, leaders need time for themselves to recharge, refresh, and restock the energy level so they can dive back in ready to lead again.

Gather Your Resources

In a conversation with a customer service rep last week, I mentioned the holidays and boss gift giving. He gasped and said, “Oh gosh, I totally forgot about that!” In order to survive the holidays, surround yourself with guidance and resources that address issues you might forget. What do you do for the holiday party? Do you have one? Do you serve food and alcohol? Do you buy the entire team of employees a present? Of what amount and to what extent? If it’s Operation Overload you’re looking to mitigate, this is a strategy that will walk you through the potential pitfalls of the season, at least at work. Not finding one of these guides last year when I needed one myself, I created one that addresses not one, but more than TEN specific office holiday issues and questions. One resource to gather right now would be this one. Download your own copy of the Leadership Holiday Office Survival Guide today and keep it handy. Remember taking action immediately on an issue that is of concern for you has an instant effect of reducing your stress level.   Gather this resource and then conduct a quick Google search for others. Ask your HR department for their holiday guidelines. Consult with your boss for his or her best practices. The more resources and answers you have, the less times you’ll be asking for forgiveness in January.

All kidding aside, remember the time when this time of year was filled with sugar plums, Santas, and the excitement about toys and presents? Whether you lived it or wished it were real, don’t let the feeling of being overwhelmed or having too much to do and manage, rob you of the chance to rekindle that childhood innocence. Happy Holidays!

Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist who coaches, consults with, and speaks to leaders of all levels, building their skills, emotional intelligence and authenticity. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.

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