“A good conscience is a continual Christmas.”Benjamin Franklin

You have only a half-day at the office today. The goal is to get as much done as possible in four hours of fast-paced work — and leave early, without feeling guilty.

Here’s what I recommend:

  • First, tell your people that you intend to leave work early today. Give them permission to do the same. Agree on a time that is possible and makes everyone happy.
  • Spend an hour postponing non-essential work. Be ruthless with this or you won’t save the time you need to save. Allow your subordinates to postpone tasks too.
  • Spend an hour tackling the most important “must-do” items. Two hours if you need to. Check with your employees to make sure they are doing the same.
  • Spend an hour cleaning up all the non-critical odds and ends that you couldn’t postpone. Do each as efficiently as possible. Short answers. Quick decisions. Delegations.
  • Don’t allow interruptions. Switch off your phone and close your door. Keep going until both your mail and e-mail inboxes are empty and your desk is uncluttered.
  • E-mail your colleagues to tell them that although you’ll be working on certain projects on certain days, you won’t be able to take on any new work until after the New Year. Leave a politely worded message to that effect on your voice mail or answering machine.
  • Let your boss know that even when you’re not in the office, you’ll still be handling the important things.
  • Send out a brief “Happy Holidays” message to your regular e-mail correspondents.
  • Leave work when you said you would and forget about your work obligations the minute you’re out the door.