At about 9:42 a.m. each weekday, the 19 members of my team at work gather with me in our designated conference room for a morning kick-off meeting.
(I know 9:42 is an odd starting time, but it works for various reasons too involved to mention here. Trust me on this.)
I usually stand during those meetings, and as we near the end of the month, I tend to rock back and forth on my heels for the entire 12-18 minutes (again, don't ask) we spend discussing plans for the day.
That's because my team has monthly invoicing commitments to meet, and we tend not to meet them until the last day of the financial period. This is the first job I've had in which I'm responsible to hit a revenue number each month, and I'm still not entirely used to it. Thus, I'm stressed, and I manifest that by rocking.
My team finds this rather humorous. They're all more experienced in the business than I am, and even when we're only at 50 percent of our goal with four days to go, they chuckle and tell me not to worry.
To be fair, they've hit their commitment all six months I've been in my new job, so I probably should be more relaxed with the situation by now. But I'm a worrier by nature, and I'll likely keep on rocking no matter how long I spend in my current role.
Despite my personal challenge, my team's amazing end-of-month productivity is noteworthy, and it's been even more impressive in December as we approach the holidays. They've been seriously cranking through the work, as they hope to wrap things up early and take a few extra hours — or a bonus day, even — to celebrate with family and friends.
I completely support their efforts, as I'd like to do the same. And their incredible productivity of late came to mind recently as I perused the results of a new survey from Accountemps, a Robert Half company that is a specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals.
The survey, which was developed by Accountemps and conducted by an independent research firm, includes responses from more than 1,000 adult U.S. office workers. It showed that 32 percent of respondents said they became more productive during the week before a major holiday.
That compared to 47 percent who said their productivity was the same during such a week as it was at any other time, and 22 percent who said their output waned during the period right before a holiday. (The total comes to 101 percent due to rounding.)
"The holidays are a hectic time for many professionals, and people react differently under pressure," said Bill Driscoll, a district president for Accountemps, in a press release about the survey. "For some, upcoming holidays spur them to move faster and more efficiently, while others are slowed down by the feeling of being pulled in many directions."
As I mentioned, this result rings true based on my experience at my current job.
And as I think back to my career in journalism, these results still sound right. The period around Christmas and New Year's Day is usually a slow time in the news business, so we'd spend the weeks before trying to write long, space-filling feature stories that could run anytime during the holidays.
Since reporters had to work on those stories while also covering their usual beats, it made for some extremely busy weeks. Fortunately, the holiday news doldrums usually gave us a chance to catch our collective breath before plunging into a new year.
Also interesting in the Accountemps survey was a question about when people are least productive during each workday. The results showed that 29 percent said 4-6 p.m. was their least productive time. Twenty-four percent said 2-4 p.m. marked their low point for productivity, while 15 percent said noon to 2 p.m., 14 percent said 8 to 10 a.m. and 9 percent said 10 a.m. to noon.
I'm not in the majority when it comes to this particular measure, but I am in the second-ranked group. When 2 p.m. rolls around, I'm ready for a nap. (As a side note, I've written before about the possible benefits of afternoon naps for office workers, and I still find the idea to be extremely intriguing.)
In order to combat this sleepy, unmotivated feeling — which I think results from a combination of mental exhaustion and the end of the energy boost that comes from eating lunch — I try to take a walk around the block each afternoon. It only takes about 10 minutes, but I've found that it rejuvenates me and helps me get through the rest of my day.
If I happen to have a 2 p.m. meeting, all bets are off. Especially if it's nearing the end of a difficult week, I struggle to stay awake in meetings at that time of day, no matter how thrilling the subject may be. (To those who have noticed me yawning while they presented information in such a meeting, it's nothing personal. It's just how my body works.)
Anyway, the primary message of this survey for me is that we all have ups and downs when it comes to productivity. The key is to know your tendencies and plan accordingly so you can get the most out of each workday, or week, or month.
The other message, at least for me, is that you shouldn't laugh if your stressed-out boss is rocking on his heels. After all, that could be you someday!