Have you ever said to yourself, after a hectic day at the office, “If only I could get some peace and quiet, I might be able to get some work done around here”?
With so many colleagues and supervisors around, you might at times feel like you’re constantly being pulled away from work that needs to get done.
So it makes sense that you’d look forward to times—such as the holidays—when your coworkers are nowhere to be found and you can actually focus on the task at hand.
But when the time finally comes, you realize something:
Things are a little too quiet.
While everyone else has checked out for the holiday season, you still have a few more days before you can call it quits.
So you might as well get some work done.
While it might be a little more difficult than you’d have imagined to focus on your work, there are definitely ways to make hunkering down a little more doable.
1. Dress for success
Since most of your colleagues and supervisors are out of the office, it can be tempting to roll out of bed, throw on a pair of jeans and a hoodie, and drag yourself to work like it’s freshman year all over again.
Don’t do it.
No matter how far-fetched it may seem, the way you dress can have a significant effect on your mood and productivity.
Now, I don’t mean you need to dress a specific way.
I mean you should intentionally choose an outfit that will make you feel ready to take on the world.
If dressing extra classy makes you feel like a million bucks, spend some time in the morning acting like you’re preparing for a GQ or Vogue photo shoot.
If sweatpants and a hoodie make you feel like the Rocky Balboa of knowledge workers, more power to you.
Heck, wear your old Batman costume from last Halloween if you need to summon the intestinal fortitude of the Dark Knight.
Who’s going to say anything? And if they do, who cares? As long as you feel comfortable and are able to get your work done, that’s all that matters.
2. Plan your day
During a normal workday, you’re pretty much at the mercy of your boss’ schedule. When they needs you to do something, you need to do it—even if you’re not “at your best” at the time.
On the days when your office is a ghost town, though, the normal schedule tends to go out the window.
However, this doesn’t mean you should approach these days haphazardly. In fact, it’s during these times that you’ll actually have to exercise even more discipline.
You know the times throughout the day when you’re most productive, and you know when you’re most likely to hit the wall.
Take some time to plan out your day accordingly: Use your high-performing moments to focus on intensive work, and save checking your email for when you’re feeling stretched thin.
Don’t forget to schedule breaks for yourself, too. We’ll get a little more into that later.
For now, just make sure you have a plan of attack to make the most out of your day when you’re all alone in your office.
3. Listen to music
Depending on your office’s policies, you may or may not be able to listen to music during a normal workday.
Now’s your opportunity to blast whatever gets you going.
There are a ton of playlists available offering music to help you focus and be productive.
Like the clothes you wear, the type of music that works for you is completely subjective.
If you like calming music to fill the silent void, throw on a classical or instrumental playlist. If you need music to get you in the zone, check out some techno or EDM.
Or, if you just need to take a minute and shred some air guitar, go with classic rock or heavy metal.
Of course, if you’re not completely alone, you’ll still need to be considerate of the people around you…or you could convince them it’s time for an office dance party.
4. Take scheduled breaks
I mentioned the importance of taking breaks earlier on, so now let’s dive into how you can do so in the most efficient manner.
Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro technique? It’s a method of chunking your working time into short bursts while taking quick, scheduled breaks to…well, break things up.
To implement the Pomodoro technique, you’ll need to set a timer or alarm for 25 minutes, at which point you’ll get right down the business. During this time, you can’t allow yourself to step away from your work for any reason (barring emergencies, of course).
Once 25 minutes is up, you can give yourself a quick 3-5 minute breather—just enough to crack your knuckles, stretch your legs, and wipe the cobwebs from your eyes. Then, it’s back to work.
After you’ve committed to four 25-minute sessions, you can allow yourself a longer break of 15-30 minutes. Prepare for these breaks when scheduling your day in the morning so you’re able to take full advantage of them when they come around.
You’d be surprised how long a half hour can seem when you actively use every single minute of it.
Throughout the year, your workspace probably gets a bit chaotic. With so much on your plate at all times, it’s easy to overlook a stray folder here, a pile of pens there, and an inbox that needs some serious trimming down.
Now that you don’t have a bunch of supervisors and colleagues pulling you every which way, you might finally have time to get everything organized so things aren’t so hectic every time you sit down at your desk.
Start by assessing your physical workspace:
- Does everything have a designated space?
- Is everything where it belongs?
- Are your most-needed items easily accessible?
- Is there anything you can get rid of?
Even if you’re the type of person who keeps their space free of clutter year-round, you might realize a better way of doing so now that you have the time to really take a look at it.
On the electronic side of things, you will almost certainly have some work to do for a digital cleanup. Whether you have an email inbox that’s full of “reply-alls” that don’t pertain to you, or your Google Drive is just a random list of documents, you’ll want to spend some time getting your digital files in order.
Just like with your physical space, organize your electronic documents in a way that makes them easily accessible and that allows you to stay organized as you add more files in the future.
Once you’ve decluttered your physical and electronic workspace, you’ll have set yourself up to be much more productive — both currently and as time goes on.
6. Gamify your tasks
To stave off that dreary feeling of being at work while your colleagues are off galavanting, treat your work as if it were a game.
You don’t have to over-complicate it, either; make it simple. Set a deadline for a specific task and see how much time you have leftover after completing it.
Challenge one of your lone colleagues to see how long it takes to clear your inbox. See how many shots you can make in a row using crumpled up scrap paper that needs to be thrown away. Whatever makes the menial work fly by!
If you want to go a little more in-depth in your gamification of your workspace, check out gamifying apps like Habitica.
With Habitica, you can make pretty much any chore or duty feel like an epic quest to save the world. As you complete tasks throughout your day, you “level up” on Habitica, allowing you to customize your avatar accordingly. It’s fun…and might just keep you going even through rote tasks.
7. Take yourself out to lunch
When was the last time you were able to actually enjoy your lunchtime on a normal work day?
Even if you’re sometimes able to go out to eat, you probably rush through it with one eye on the clock at all times.
Now’s your chance to truly have a leisurely lunch hour.
Whether you go alone or gather up the colleagues who have stayed behind with you, treat yourself to a fancy, relaxing meal.
And, since no one is waiting for you to get back to the office, you can stick around for dessert, too. Don’t worry: your work will be there when you get back.
8. Get up and moving
There are a bunch of ways to stay physically active while stuck in an office all day. While you might not get to implement them when the place is running at full capacity, you can almost certainly get away with it when you’re one of the only ones there.
When your timer dings after a 25-minute period of sitting, stand up. Stretch. Do some jumping jacks or jog in place. Walk a few laps around the perimeter of your office. Just move.
If you want to go all-out during one of your longer breaks, convert one of your meeting rooms into an impromptu yoga studio. Give the interactive whiteboard a break from pie charts and marketing jargon, throw on YouTube, and enjoy a relaxing half-hour of peace and tranquility.
Just don’t fall asleep…
How many times have you wanted to grab a quick ten minutes of R&R before getting back to the grind?
Well, now’s your chance.
Along with doing some yoga, you can also implement some meditative practices to not just get away from your responsibilities for a moment, but to also come back to them ready and raring to go. Meditating doesn’t just clear your mind on a mental level. It also has a number of positive effects on your physical well-being, as well.
Combined with some of the other suggestions on this list, a quick meditation session can be just what you need to break up your day and keep you motivated.
10. Veg out
Not every minute of your day needs to be productive. When you really need some time to yourself, take it.
Scroll through your Facebook feed. Watch a quick YouTube video. Text your group chat. Just stare at the wall if that’s what you need to do.
Just remember: these quiet days will likely fly by. Don’t let the whole day turn into an extended break — when things pick up again, you’ll probably wish you had used this time a little more strategically.
If you’ve stayed behind during the holidays while your bosses and colleagues have already flown south for the winter, it can be a bit disheartening.
But it doesn’t have to be.
When you’re all alone in the office, you can still get a lot done — and enjoy yourself in the process.
What are some ways you’ve staved off loneliness and maintained productivity while working on your own? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!