7 ways to spend Christmas ‘downtime’ wisely

The boys from IT were running very, very late for work after the Christmas office party to end all parties. Photo: Kena Betancur.

For many of us in work (though by no means all), the last week before Christmas provides welcome (albeit temporary) relief from the targets and deadlines that loom so large during much of the rest of the year. Not only is it the season to be jolly, plenty of colleagues have already left the building on annual leave, and after all the extra hours we work each year, we’re due a bit of serious me-time, right?

While the pressure’s off, we might share gossip and banter, slope off for a long Christmas lunch with the team or simply stare out the window, mesmerised by the poetic beauty of the snowy business park outside. And, provided your boss is okay with that, why not? However, there are also satisfying and stress-free ways to use this time productively. 

  1. Clear the decks

Christmas time at work is a great opportunity to tackle those tasks which have been persistently nagging away at you in the back of your mind, but which – important though they may be – lie languishing at the foot of your to-do list behind more pressing work which demands immediate action. Come the New Year, you’ll be glad of the extra head space!

Purging your email inbox is a good place to start. It’s very cathartic, and once done, you’ll spend less time hunting down important emails and you’ll know exactly what and who you have been unintentionally ignoring and be able to take steps to put it right.  While you’re at it, how about a tidy out of all the paperwork on your desk that you no longer need?

  1. Be sociable

Making contact with colleagues and clients when you are in a relaxed frame of mind works wonders in terms of networking. It’s a chance to build a more personal element into your working relationships. You don’t need some agenda (or really any reason at all!) to get in touch at this time of year – you can just write, phone up or pop over in person just to wish them well. If you can offer to help them with something while you are at it, even better. Giving something to professional relationships as well as taking is one of the hallmarks of good networking. Chatting to people you might not otherwise see much of at Christmas dos can also initiate new working and personal relationships, revealing useful information and shared interests.

  1. Say thank you

Don’t forget to say thank you to people who’ve helped you during the year. Everyone loves a bit of praise and recognising others sincerely is a surefire way to foster good working relationships in future.

  1. Make some New Year Resolutions about your job

We make them for our personal lives, why not for work? As the year draws to a close, this is a natural time to take stock of what’s really important to you professionally and where you see your career going is. Are you looking to do training in 2017? Go for a pay rise or promotion? Do you need to take steps to strike a better work-life balance? There’s plenty to ponder.

  1. Manage your time better

Poor time management can be a big factor when it comes to unhealthy levels of stress at work. How well are you doing? WorkSMART’s Careers Advice section has useful tips and information about time management which can help you when your workload cranks back up in January.

  1. Do some reading

Staying up to speed with our knowledge at work is rarely urgent, but it’s certainly very important, and reading is a great way to make use of quieter times at work. Books, magazines, trade papers and the Internet are all go-to sources for industry news, thinking and skills. What's more, reading stimulates our imagination which enhances creativity and productivity.

  1. Do what’s right for you

Simply being at work when the pressure is off is often enough in itself to recharge your batteries. Of course, yours might be a workplace where nothing short of keeping your foot on the gas until 5pm Christmas Eve is acceptable. But if you are lucky enough to have a chilled-out run-up to Christmas, the most important thing of all is to be aware of it and enjoy it while it lasts. Come 2nd January, normal service resumes!