Loaded down with holiday packages, Steve braces himself against the bitter wind as he searches the mall parking lot for his car. When he finally reaches his sedan, he sets a large box on the roof and digs into his pocket for the keys. While he loads shopping bags into the back seat, a neighbor calls out a greeting from a few rows over. They wish each other happy holidays, and with snow flurries stinging his eyes, Steve climbs into the car and turns on the heater full blast. Pulling out of his parking space, a sudden crash reminds him of the package on the roof… This is a classic example of a holiday hassle brought on by distraction.

During the holidays, everyday pressures such as stress, rushing, over commitment, dealing with technology, and multitasking are intensified. Most adults take on extra responsibilities to meet the increased family, social, and workplace expectations of the season. Try the following tips to manage THE EIGHT DEMONS OF DISTRACTION at holiday time:

1. List your tasks and activities, and then schedule them into time slots. Santa had it right when he checked twice: can you reasonably accomplish everything within the allotted amount of time? Does your schedule truly reflect your priorities and values?
2. Communicate to others what you want and need in order to accomplish mutual holiday goals. Be assertive; your feelings are just as important as those of others in the situation. Use your schedule to help you say “no” to over-commitment.
3. Control the technology you use, not the other way around. Institute an Electronic Lockdown when a task takes concentration: turn off /silence everything except the piece of equipment you need to use (including the alert sound for new email).
4. Manage the places and spaces you occupy. Holiday decorations and music in public spaces can be excessively distracting and over-stimulating; leave areas in your workplace and home minimally decorated for quiet focus or relaxation.
5. Recognize the physical and emotional symptoms of stress: headaches, sleeplessness, digestive upset, jitteriness, and comments from others on your behavior. Use proven methods to manage stress, such as exercise, relaxation activities, and better nutrition.
6. Address the issue of fatigue! Holiday activities mean extra driving; fatigued drivers put themselves and everyone around them at risk. Fatigued workers commit more errors on the job. Make sleep a priority and take refreshing breaks frequently.
7. Consider the effects of illness and medication during the holidays. Cut back and give yourself the gift of recovery if you’ve been ill. Keep to your medication schedule despite changes in your routine. Remember that alcoholic beverages and medications don’t mix!
8. Tame your Unruly Mind: if holiday pressures have you lost in daydreaming, hyper-focusing on minor details to the exclusion of more important ones, or spinning your wheels with racing thoughts, signal yourself back to attention. Seek support if you need it.

Take some action against distraction! With increased awareness and some simple strategies, you can get more done and have more fun during this holiday season.

Author's Bio: 

Geraldine Markel, Ph.D., an educational psychologist, is the author of Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction: Increasing Productivity and Decreasing Stress. She is as a performance coach to professionals, executives, and students in graduate programs. She is a member of The National Speakers Association. Prior to developing Managing Your Mind Coaching & Seminars®, she served as faculty in The School of Education, University of Michigan. Visit her website, www.managingyourmind.com