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Ask The Expert : Help! Do you have any tips for getting organised for year end?

This article’s expert was Louise Overy

The Scenario

I find this time of year fills me with dread, work is always really demanding in the lead up to year end, the thought of getting organised for Christmas makes me bury my head in the sand and the lack of daylight puts any attempt of a healthy evening walk or bike ride on the back burner. My desk at work and the kitchen table at home already have piles of paperwork containing non-urgent tasks which seem to build week on week and they are a fair representation of the constant muddle going on inside my head! Do you have any tips I could use to sort myself out and get organised for the Christmas period and beyond, as I feel this disorganisation is like a lead weight dragging behind me which affects not only my productivity but also my ability to cut off and relax.

Louise Overy’s Reply and Practical Tips

First of all – don’t panic! You are not alone – many people have similar feelings and thoughts about the Christmas period, and combined with the onset of dark evenings, things can feel difficult – but in the end, Christmas will happen all by itself!

I’m wondering what you enjoy about Christmas? What are the things that you do look forward to? Is it the excitement of children; singing carols; an advent calendar; mince pies and mulled wine…these are some of the things on my list, what’s on yours? If you can remember what is special and positive about Christmas for you, what you love about it, this can create something for you to look forward to, not to dread. And if there are not many things to look forward to at the moment, what else can you introduce and arrange, to enjoy the time more when it comes?

So, back to the lead weight and the piles of paper…I’m thinking that if these are non-urgent tasks, perhaps you don’t need to do them! And also, is there anyone else who can help you with them? You know already that you need to go through the piles to help remove that lead weight from your mind. Here are my suggestions to do this.

First of all, plan and put aside the time to do it. When is best? At work, is there a time when it’s quiet and you are not likely to be disturbed? Is there a room you can take yourself and your piles, if that would help? And when suits you best mentally? This sounds like an admin chore, not too taxing on the brain, so might be suited to a time of day when you are not at your sharpest – it could be the perfect job just then!

At home, again find a time when things are at their quietest, or if that just doesn’t happen by itself, ask those around you to give you the time to get on with it. Or try asking them to help! Get yourself comfortable – maybe put some music on, have a cup of coffee or your favourite drink.

Allocate a fixed amount of time for first going through the piles. It could be just half an hour, or an hour; whatever it is, put a limit on it so that the task is not unending! You will be surprised by how much you can achieve in a short time. If you need to, then plan another session in the same way, that is short and (relatively) sweet.

What can you simply throw away? You are bound to find that time has dealt with some of it, and there is less to deal with than you feared.

Have your calendar, diary or to-do list – whatever works for you – at hand so that if there are other things you need to do such as arranging meetings and appointments, you can make a reminder to do that thing at some other time. Right now, you simply want to go through the pile, see what’s there, weed it down and organize dealing with the tasks there.

Prioritising helps cut through any muddle in your head. Divide your pile up. What’s urgent and must be done soon? What’s important to you, even though not urgent? Again, use your diary or calendar to schedule these items. And for anything that is neither urgent nor important – what’s to stop you throwing it in the bin?!

Are there other people around who can help you with any of these tasks? Both at work and at home, think about the possibilities of passing on or sharing any workload. If it is becoming overwhelming for you, it is vital that you talk about this with your boss or colleagues, or family members – they all have their part to play, and it’s your right to ask.

Planning for Christmas can help too, but there’s no need to turn it into a military exercise! Focus on what is important for you and those around you – you can forget the rest, it really doesn’t matter. Again, use your calendar or diary to work out when you need to do what, and write it down. Getting it out of your head and onto paper gets things into proportion. And do ask for help from those around you – if you are sharing Christmas with them, they can contribute, and it can be more enjoyable that way too.

It’s clear that you know that exercise is really important in helping us cope with what life throws at us. With dark evenings it is more difficult to do easily, so we have to get a bit cleverer about it. If you like walking and cycling, make sure you fit something in at the weekend, so you don’t miss out altogether. Get a good raincoat (or maybe just a big umbrella?!) so the weather needn’t stop you!

What other types of exercise do you like? There are lots of fun exercise classes around to suit all ages and fitness levels. Ask around your friends, look in the local paper, library or on-line for information. If you can go with a friend, that can often help with motivation!

Have a think about what sneaky bits of exercise you can do. Try taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator whenever possible. Can you fit in a stroll at lunchtime? (And are you taking a lunch break? Being able to take a proper break away from your work space really helps you to clear your head and be fresher and more energetic and enthusiastic to tackle the afternoon.) Some people start up a walking group at work to ensure they get some exercise and fresh air at lunchtime. You could start a new trend!

Taking action in some of these ways will immediately reduce the tension and dread that you are feeling, and increase your ability to relax. It is also important to deliberately plan in relaxation time, in whatever way suits you – it might be time with friends or family or your pet, following a favourite hobby, going to see a film or concert – it doesn’t matter as long as it’s real time out for you, so that you can recharge your batteries and do some of what you love. This will in turn make you better able to deal with whatever else is going on in your life.

So, with a little time out for planning and prioritising, focusing on the good things about the festive season, ensuring you weave in some exercise and relaxation, and finding some support from those around you – I hope you have a very Happy Christmas!

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