As the Christmas countdown nears single digits, productivity in the office dwindles just as quickly. While evaluating the numbers in your year-end report, you start calculating the batches of Christmas cookies left to bake, the number of Secret Santa gifts to purchase, the square footage of wrapping paper required, and—wait, what report?

According to John Hollon of TLNT.com, “About one-third of senior managers (34%) feel that their employees are less productive before a major holiday.” Factor in those who miss work in December due to extra PTO or winter sickness, and you’re left with a pretty measly bunch of co-workers.

Which means: If you can rally through the holidays with energy, enthusiasm, and efficiency, you’ll reach standout status at your office in no time. (Not to mention, this is the time of year that many companies are thinking about performance reviews, bonuses, and raises for next year—not a bad time to be making a good impression on your boss.) Follow the steps below to make the most of the holiday season at work—and ring in a very successful new year.

 

1. Limit Distractions

Between gift lists and office parties, the end of the year brings an abundance of distractions. But with a few adjustments, you can make it easier to keep your mind on work.

If you still have presents to buy, don’t attempt a rushed trip to the mall on your lunch break or a covert peek at Amazon during your afternoon meeting. Take an afternoon of PTO to finish your holiday errands, so you can finish your shopping, baking, shipping, and wrapping without the hurry (or traffic). The next day, you’ll be able to devote your full attention to work—instead of constant mental to-do list making.

And while holiday events are a great way to end the year, plan your weeknight events in moderation. You’ll have much more stamina at work when the previous night wasn’t spent at a fourth “Merry Martini” party. If you’re serious about ending the year on a positive note, set your holiday schedule realistically to allow for a healthy balance of celebrating and continuing to produce quality work.

2. Pick Up the Slack

In the spirit of the holidays, your office may seem a little jollier—your boss doesn’t yell as much, there’s constant laughter in the air, and the executive team encourages attendance at holiday events. A lighthearted and laid-back mood in the office can make it easy to assume that your productivity in the month of December doesn’t really matter. And most of your co-workers are taking extra time off anyway, so it’s hardly fair to expect the remaining employees to pick up the slack.

But that’s exactly what you should be doing. While your co-workers—and maybe even boss—are away, you have the perfect chance to step up your performance and pick up some new responsibilities. Is your office a little slow during the holidays? Begin a project that you know is supposed to launch in January, or volunteer to provide coverage for a co-worker who’s taking an extra week off. If your workload typically multiplies in December, use the opportunity to prove how well you can handle the extra stress, even when you’re lacking the resources of a fully staffed department.

Either way, the great work you complete during the last month of the year will set the tone for your return to the office in January (and remind your boss how capable you are as you're heading into that performance review).

3. Start Thinking About Next Year

Finally, nothing will bring your year to a great end like solidly envisioning and preparing for the next. Let’s be honest: If you wait until January to start planning your goals for 2013, you’ll be knee-deep in Valentine’s Day candy before you have them nailed down. Plus, you’ll have wasted time you could have spent actively pursuing those goals.

First, make a list of your top priorities for the first week of the year. Make a note of the clients you need to contact, projects you need to check on, and calls you need to make—the most important tasks that need to be accomplished the minute you get back to the office. With this to-do list already made, you won’t have to think about it during your time off (and you can actually relax).

On a higher level, take some time to think about your company goals for the upcoming year. Outline the projects you’d like to take on and the accomplishments you hope to see your department achieve. When you return to your cubicle, you’ll have a clear idea of where the year is headed and specific ways you can personally contribute.

Holidays are meant for enjoyment—but you’ll enjoy them significantly more with the satisfaction that you ended the year with gusto. Pack a punch into your last couple weeks at work, and you’ll be able to approach 2013 with renewed focus, a fresh perspective, and a lot less catch-up work than your co-workers.

Photo of woman working hard courtesy of Shutterstock.