Stress-busting for December: Project Sweet Closure

Are you feeling stressed at work right now?

Think it has something to do with the holidays? Suspect it may be something else?

This is a cross-posting of an article I have written for Managing with Aloha Coaching that offers a way to get yourself some stress relief. It asks that you give yourself the gift of a 45-minute exercise, one that can make a big difference with the pressure you might be feeling. Check it out.

Give yourself an early Christmas gift:
Project: Sweet Closure 2007

It’s interesting to me how many of my workplace conversations in the past week are falling into two different outlooks;

  • One, that we are now less than 10 days from Christmas (and how exactly did that happen?!?) and
  • Second, let’s get this year over with; I want and need that fresh start in 2008.

Both are connected in a way; they deal with that stress we all feel at varying degrees during December in our workplaces, whether we blame them on the holidays or on that unavoidable (and predictable) march of time, a march that happens with or without us.

So what can we do? Get smart, and get with it.

How do we get with it? One way is to be more cognizant of our Starts and Stops.

I offer you the same coaching that I give all my clients during December: If you are feeling stressed right now, hold off on those New Year Resolutions —workplace translation: “Strategic Objectives for 2008”— until you get your sweet closure to 2007.

If you don’t finish those things needing good finishes first, they do haunt you; seldom will they just go away. Even if you miraculously get excused from them by your boss, they remain. They may remain in your boss’s memory as work not done, they may still be affecting others on your work team, but worse, they can remain in your subconscious. New goal setting with people is a mainstay of my business and my past experience as a manager, and believe me, whether you may be aware of it or not, not finishing those things can befuddle your judgment when you get that fresh start you are craving for January 1st. You end up with carry-over baggage, and not a fresh start at all, but a fresh set of new blinders.

Reality check: The year IS almost over. What can you possibly do now?

You may be unlikely to finish everything, but chances are you can get to closure with a few tasks and a project or two. The trick is to get them back on your radar and out of your subconscious so you can swiftly and decisively deal with them. Working on the right things can dramatically decrease the stress and any unsettled feelings you are experiencing.

Project: Sweet Closure 2007

Turn off the Christmas music and focus for the next 45 minutes to an hour on this exercise:

Make a list ”“ what haven’t you finished that you would love to finish before January comes calling? This is a stream of consciousness exercise in which you are pulling weights out of your mind, soul and spirit; count on your brain to do its magic for you, and do not go scrolling through your calendar, lists, inbox, or filing cabinets.

Look over that list and decide which you would LOVE to finish if you can. Chances are that whatever you have first written down are your prime candidates for the sweet closure you need. Another indication is any aha! moments that came to you connected with step 1 when you did your mind sweep.

Now focus on those 1, 2, or 3 most important things you decided on, by pulling out your calendar (hopefully up to date from your Weekly Review) and setting a few non-negotiable appointments with yourself. Non-negotiable means that they will be held sacred, and you will keep those appointments: No procrastination, no excuses or distractions will sway you. (Read between the lines here folks ”“ you know what is realistic; don’t sabotage your own efforts.)

Get them done.

5. Bonus Points: Don’t go it alone. Share this exercise with your team, and buddy up on some projects. Everyone is probably feeling the same stress you are. Adopt a mantra: Plan in plan, make “Project: Sweet Closure 2007” the subject of your daily huddles (D15M) through yearend: For the BEST 15 minutes in the workday, Huddle.

It has been fairly quiet here in Rosa’s Blog Land over these last few days because I am presently doing this with my own business and with my executive coaching customers. Because they have agreed to hold themselves accountable to their coaching, most of my clients are amazed at what they are getting done this week, a week many of us normally write off at work as being pretty useless. Fact of the matter is this: Nearly everyone in the world we work with is leaving us alone right now as they do their own scrambling, and we do have open windows in our calendars ”“ the trick is to be proactive and use them.

I have one determined exec in particular who got a remarkable start with this, and he is now on a second round with the exercise. In step 3 above, he picked tasks he felt the key members of his work team would most appreciate if he finished them, one task for each person. He fully realizes how much his work affects everyone else, and he figures that his sweet closure for their sake will be the best gift he can give them for Christmas.

Now that’s a great boss.

Another quick tip: Don’t go overboard! FINISH what is pending, do NOT get ambitious and create new sub-projects along the way. Capture your thoughts by just writing them down, and we’ll revisit your list in January.

Additional Reading (after you do the exercise!)


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