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How To Have The Most Productive Black Friday Ever

Instead of spending your day in department store lines, spend your day doing these six things for your career.

How To Have The Most Productive Black Friday Ever
[Photo: Flickr user Sharon Hahn Darlin]

The holiday shopping season officially starts the day after Thanksgiving. If you’ve got the day off work, you could spend hours at the mall. You might even finish your shopping, which would feel very productive. But before you battle the crowds, here are some other ideas for investing that time to end 2014 with a bang, and start next year off right.

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1. Write Your 2015 Performance Review

Yes, 2015. If you and your boss are booked for an upcoming meeting to hash out 2014, there’s not too much you can do to alter what’s happened. But you can do a lot to make 2015 a turning point for your career if you think through your goals now. Imagine it’s next December.

What three to five major professional accomplishments would you like to say you’ve achieved? Write these down. Then spend a few more minutes thinking through what you’d have to do to make these goals a reality. Start blocking in these meetings and research time into your calendar. If something’s a top goal for 2015, it deserves time Monday morning.

2. Start A “Happy” File

You can’t change the past year, but you can put yourself in the right frame of mind about it. Spend some time poking around old emails and cut and paste complimentary notes about your work into a single document. This list of testimonials is highly likely to put you in the holiday mood, in the sense of being grateful for your life.

3. Write Your 2015 Holiday Letter

Perhaps you get these missives every year, tucked into the greeting cards that fill your mailbox. A family prints up a letter about their annual exploits. These letters can be cringe-inducing, but they serve a purpose: They let friends and family know what you did that mattered in your personal life.

Want to get a jump on 2015? Why not write this letter ahead of time? Pretend it’s December, 2015, and you’re letting your friends know what an amazing year you had, from the 10k you ran to the family trip to the Netherlands you took. Getting clear on this now vastly ups the chances that these goals happen before it’s December again.

4. Schedule In Holiday Highlights

Now it’s time to pivot back to the present. One reason people get stressed over the holidays is that they’re not clear about which traditions matter, and which don’t. So spend a few minutes figuring out what you and your family enjoy (ice skating?) and what you don’t (perhaps a neighbor’s party that isn’t quite your thing). Get the fun stuff on the calendar. Politely decline everything else. Consider holiday stress vanquished.

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5. Close Out The Year

Look at what you have due over the next few weeks. What absolutely needs to happen before you leave work on New Year’s Eve, and what does not? If you’ve got deadlines looming, block in time over the next few weeks to get a jump on these matters so the days you do work over the holidays are relatively low-key.

6. Cancel What You Can

Every calendar can benefit from some editing. What recurring meetings have ceased to add value to your life? See if you can extricate yourself. In 10 minutes, you can buy yourself back hours over the next few weeks. If possible, don’t let recurring meetings continue showing up on your calendar into January. Force each meeting to justify its existence, and you just might wind up with a more open schedule.

About the author

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books, including I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time (Portfolio, June 9, 2015), What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Portfolio, 2013), and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010). She blogs at www.lauravanderkam.com.

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