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How to stay focused at work during the holidays

The holiday season is full of distractions, many of them happy ones. It’s a juggling act of gifts to buy, parties to attend, loved ones to visit … so it’s possible that we could take our eyes off the ball at work.

There’s nothing wrong with focusing on our families, friends, and ourselves during this festive time of year. In fact, it’s healthy. But if we spend our time worrying about emails we need to send, a project that needs finessing, or the results our boss is expecting, these blessings can become a source of stress. And that means our quality time with the people who matter is impacted, not only by our stress, but our distractedness.

It’s possible to find a balance between staying focused at work during the holidays, while also enjoying the playful joy of the season. We can achieve this by managing our stress, being present in the activity we’re engaged in, and making sure our mind is in the best place to not feel overwhelmed by the extra pressures on our time — a checklist that becomes close to second nature with a regular mindfulness practice.

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Key takeaways:

  • By focusing at work, we can enjoy our time off

  • We can be present in work and play

  • Try 9 meditations for how to stay focused at work during the holidays

Maintaining focus

For many of us, the holidays can bring an opportunity to take a break and switch our focus to having fun for a while, which can benefit our productivity in the long run. But for some, the season can also be our busiest or most important time at work, so we need to maintain our professional momentum, too.

This is true for Adam Loomis, a Team USA American Nordic combined skier, who has experience competing in the World Cup through the winter, with a brief break to return home for a week at Christmas, before returning to competition straight after.

He says, “Given this short time at home, and the busyness of holiday festivities, it’s easy to lose focus and forget that I’m in the middle of my season. Of course, relaxing with my family is not a bad thing – it’s actually probably the best thing that I could do to break up a long season. But it’s important to not lose sight of your goals.”

Adam uses meditation, and the Headspace app, as part of his daily routine, whether to help him focus when he’s competing, or to keep his mind sharp while resting his body.

He says, “Away from the competition circuit, I found Headspace to be just as valuable as ever. 15 minutes a day is really all I need to remind myself to stay present and focused. With the addition of specific imagery training, I made my week away from the jump hill as productive as possible.”

Most of us face different challenges to those of professional skiers, but Adam’s advice contains wisdom for us all. Because even if we’re lucky enough to have a few days off over the holidays, that doesn’t mean letting go of all the good habits we’ve incorporated into our day-to-day lives.

Self-care doesn’t have to be put aside. If anything, maintaining elements of our routine, like meditating or exercising, can help keep our minds happy and healthy to manage the unique challenges of the season, and start the new year with a bang.

Peace, joy, and productivity

When we meditate, we cultivate a spacious mind and a sense of balance that can feel calming. No matter how busy the schedule — at work or at home — meditation affords us the opportunity to reframe the stress we’re experiencing. Gradually, and with practice, we become less reactive, more present, and better able to show up for the people around us, while also making room for whatever the demands of work might be.

Within this newfound equilibrium, it’s easy to see why meditation helps us to manage our work-life balance throughout the year, and this can be particularly valuable at busy times. Here are some of the ways meditation and mindfulness can give us the toolkit to maintain a healthy perspective, and help us with how to stay focused at work during the holidays:

  • Managing stress.

Work can be stressful. Entertaining families for the festive holidays can be stressful. When we need to juggle both when working during the holidays, meditation can be an ally. By sitting with the mind — by observing its behavior, its mental patterns, its reactiveness, and the stressed-out storylines it weaves — we learn how much we feed stress with our own thoughts and emotions. Meditation teaches us to observe all this, without getting caught up in all the stress. We therefore find clarity and, from that place of clarity, we’re able to navigate the way ahead without getting overwhelmed.

By meditating, we also tend to find that we experience a perspective shift. We come to realize that the things we stress about — what to wear, what gifts to buy, and making sure everything is perfect — aren’t things we’ll be thinking about in a week or a month from now. And so, in the moment, we are able to step back, take a beat, and not let the stress consume us. Instead, a calmer mind has the capacity to zoom out and focus on being present for the precious time spent with family, the conversations around the table, and the memories being made.

  • Focus.

Research shows that meditation can help to reduce mind-wandering, and one study found that four weeks of using Headspace daily resulted in a 14% increase in focus. An uncluttered, focused mind allows us to be at our most productive during our time allocated for work.

A focused, clearer mind also allows us to be more present with the people around us. We can settle into the holidays knowing we have carved out the right amount of time for work, which then allows us to truly enjoy the downtime with family or friends. We often catch ourselves saying “I need to focus” when it comes to work, but we can also say the same when it comes to quality time with loved ones, too. A focused mind often leads to a better balanced life.

  • Happiness.

We all hope for a happy holiday season, and it’s an extra bonus if we can feel satisfied with our work, too, allowing us to relax during our time off. The truth is that the more clear, calm, and balanced we feel, the better our prospects of feeling content. That’s where mindfulness comes in. It can help foster characteristics that lead to enhanced happiness at work, including better relationships with coworkers, increased emotional balance, and productivity. In a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Medicine, nurses who used Headspace for 30 days had significant improvements in job satisfaction. Through meditation, we can nurture four essential ingredients that encourage and support happiness: kindness, empathy, playfulness, and inner balance — perfect ingredients for a joyful festive season.

Meditation for work

To get the most benefit from meditation, consistency matters. So, we might aim to make it part of our daily routine. Just 10 minutes a day is enough to make a positive impact on our mental health. Headspace co-founder and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe recommends we meditate in the morning, before too many distractions are competing for our attention. If a busy household makes this challenging – especially if we have a house full of holiday guests – we could meditate at work before starting our day.

Andy says, “The great thing about your morning schedule is that you have time to meditate. So, regardless of any factors, I would make this a regular fixture in your calendar. Once the afternoon comes along and it gets hectic, any number of things can come along and bump it off the to-do list. So the morning is best.

“Meditation can help us focus more and be calm and productive, meaning that the experience of work is not so hectic. Instead, it becomes about doing one thing after the next; present moment followed by present moment.”

Try 9 meditations for how to stay focused at work during the holidays

Looking for more meditations on how to stay focused at work during the holidays? The Headspace app offers subscribers several courses and single meditations to help with our focus, stress, and happiness at work, including:

  • Finding Focus course. Get familiar with a relaxed, precise kind of focus.

  • Letting Go of Stress course. Learn to reframe negative emotions and let them go.

  • Happiness course. Develop a more playful attitude towards life.

  • Focus single meditation. Bring out the innate focus within you through a quick mindfulness exercise.

  • WFH | Focus for Work single meditation. Recognize distractions and experience a more relaxed kind of focus.

  • Prioritization course. Get some clarity on what really matters to you.

  • Productivity course. Practice maintaining focus for more efficient days.

  • Taking a Break single meditation. Press pause in the middle of your workday.

  • Feeling Overwhelmed SOS meditation. Give yourself room to breathe.

The holidays are a busy time and can throw up many challenges, both at work and home. If we try to plan our festive dinner at the same time as juggling important work tasks, it can certainly be a recipe for stress.

But it’s possible to enjoy the season without neglecting our work commitments. If we approach each event present in the moment, we can remain focused at work and get joyfully lost in play.

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