Karie Willyerd HeadshotWith a little more than two weeks left until the new year, most people are even busier than usual. Gifts must be bought, living rooms decorated, spare bedrooms cleaned out and coordination of what festivities will take place during the holidays and where. So, if your personal to-do list is spilling over, why should your professional list be any different? For most people it isn’t—the workloads are much worse.

With so much to do and so little time, how can you handle it all without 1) having a complete meltdown from being stressed and overworked or 2) throwing in the towel in defeat? The time between now and 2013 is a crucial period because it most likely will affect how you jumpstart the new year. Dr. Karie Willyerd, VP of Learning and Social Adoption at SuccessFactors, talked with Recruiter.com about how workers can use this important time to accelerate their career growth in 2013. Check out Willyerd’s reasoning on the benefits of staying productive over the next couple weeks and tips to do just that:

1. What are the most common things that affect productivity during this time of year?

Quite a few things affect end-of-year productivity, including the rush to complete goals due by the end of the year, quarter close for those in sales, holiday parties, personal and family obligations for celebrating the season, finding the perfect gifts, planning time off at the break,and thinking ahead to the new year and preparing for it.  Add to that shortened daylight hours in the northern hemisphere, weather challenges, and if you’re a traveler, a battle at the airport with inexperienced fellow travelers, it’s no wonder there’s an increase in depression around this time of year.

2. Why is it important to remain productive as each year closes?

As any sales person will tell you, deals come together at the end of the quarter, and way more come together at the end of the year. Since everyone supports sales in one way or another, making sure those last few deals can get in under the wire can make a big difference in share price. Additionally, many companies measure performance on an annual basis concurrent with the calendar year. A common mistake managers make during performance review is only to remember your most recent accomplishments or really your most recent “screw up” so make sure to avoid this common issue by ending the year with a bang.

3. Do you recommend employees take any specific productivity courses?

Two of the programs I think are especially good for productivity improvement are “Take Back Your Life” by McGhee Productivity Solutions and “The Five Choices to Extraordinary Productivity” by Franklin Covey. The first offers very practical tips for getting on top of your email and how to configure Outlook to manage the 100+ emails a day the average employee gets. The second offers great advice about choosing where and how to focus on the things that matter.

4. How can employers/companies help their employees remain productive during the end of the year/winter holiday season?

First, avoid the things that squelch productivity, like impossibly unattainable goals — stretch is good, impossible is not—micromanagement, uncomfortable working conditions (here’s a Scrooge take on that), and constant reminders of failures.  Do motivate people to close out the year with a bang, celebrate successes, and encourage them to give the final level of effort.

5. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Some experts advocate that work is more like a sprint than a marathon. The end of year is a good time to decide how you will train for running a lot of sprints, with restorative periods between those sprints. The training for running sprints is different than the training for running marathons, and if you try and run at sprint speed for marathon distance, you won’t make it. Take some time to plot how you will preserve and renew your energy for 2013 corporate sprints.

Dr. Willyerd’s 2013 Employee Resolutions and Tips

Look Back to Look Forward by Documenting Your 2012 Accomplishments

Avoid the “recency mistake.” A common mistake managers make during performance review is only to remember your most recent accomplishments or really your most recent “screw up” so make sure to avoid this common issue by looking back over the past year and documenting your accomplishments. Pulling together a good catalog of your successes in 2012 by looking through your emails, your calendar or your performance goals system and make sure you track the highlights from your year. Ask yourself how you contributed to the business?  What are your strengths and how did they extend your value within your company.

Update Your LinkedIn

Refresh your online presence and contacts. If you are not already on LinkedIn, take the time now to create your profile. Most organizations will not even consider you as a prospective employee without a LinkedIn presence. Most potential employers will use it to find out about you before the interview process and to do reference checks on you so you want to make sure it is in pristine condition and really maximize it for the job you want and highlight your unique skills.

Link in with more people. I suggest people set a goal for themselves. For example, commit to linking in with 50 new contacts over the holiday break. Recruiters and companies make evaluations on how much you are willing to learn and how you work based on who and how many people you are connected to on LinkedIn.

Make 2013 the Year of Twitter for Work

Set up a Twitter account and when someone you admire says something great, start to reply. Start to build a little bit of a relationship that you would normally not be able to connect with live and build relationships that way.  If you are already on Twitter, consider setting up a second Twitter account just to monitor industry news in your field. This is a great way to access the top news in your industry. It’s a great way to make the news more digestible.

Take Control of Your Email

Set up rules and use tools to help you take back your productivity that is stolen by email. Get over the guilt of reading and responding to every email. The average person gets 100 emails a day and the average manager gets 150. If you become really focused on being responsive to every email you will never get caught up in it.

In addition to setting up your own Outlook rules, look for productivity and enterprise social tools like Jam that allow you to share and connect directly with small teams in custom groups (private or public). Within groups it is easy to tag people with actions and filter your alerts. If you and your teammates all make a resolution to do this, it can really cut back on email traffic and save you a lot of time.

Find the Right Mentor for You

Take the extra time over the holiday break to identify the right mentor for you, but remember not to reach too far. Think about who you admire and reach out to them. I suggest people look for someone who is five to seven years ahead in his or her career at most because they can remember what is what.

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