December 12, 2023

6 Ways to Keep a Project Going Through a Holiday Break

It’s common at this time of year for projects to get put off. Career-minded workers are thinking ahead to 2024.

For a variety of reason, key corporate project with no end-of-year deadlines stall in December. The problem is that many of those projects never regain momentum even after the New Year starts.

Experts say that’s actually an opportunity for career-minded workers, who can either steps before shutting down for the year that can help keep a project moving into 2024—or can they look for ways to jump start the project at the start of the years. “Projects often go off track, but there are ways to get them back on track,” says Korn Ferry Advance Coach Valerie Olson. Here are some steps savvy workers can take, both now and after the New Year starts

Look for ominous signs now.

Experts say that before a project goes off the rails, there are often signs that something is amiss. Maybe progress has stalled or communication with the client feels off, or the project is no longer a priority for most of the team. Perhaps some deadlines have already been missed. Sometimes a project will lag when the person who championed it leaves the company.

When you start to see these signs, it’s time to regroup with colleagues, reassess priorities and remind one another of the project’s goals. Studies show that a lack of clear goals is the cause of project failure 37% of the time. At the same time, figure out why any earlier hiccups happened. “Understanding where things went wrong can help you course-correct and ensure you stay on top of the project going forward,” says Korn Ferry Advance career and leadership coach Sarah E. Williams.

Ask whether the 2024 objectives are achievable.

Take a moment now, in December, and consider whether the project is achievable. Keep in mind that when a long-term project is first assigned, you can easily get overwhelmed if you don’t set up a system for scoping, planning, scheduling, and communicating among collaborators and stakeholders, she says.

Set—and affirm—clear 2024 deliverables and deadlines.

“If a deadline is not assigned, it is easy for something to get put on the back burner,” Williams says. Send out a note reminding people of the deadlines before putting on the out-of-office message. Make sure all required tasks have been assigned with clear and realistic deadlines. Then, early in January, have a team meeting to discuss tasks and responsibilities going forward.

Assign work to the right team members.

If the project is already behind schedule, it might be a good idea to assign tasks based on team members’ subject matter expertise or bandwidth, Williams says. If someone lacks the expertise to quickly complete a task or is bogged down with other projects, reassigning the work might be a good idea. “When someone is familiar with a subject, they can work more efficiently, requiring less research and assistance,” Williams says. The same is true of someone who has time to complete a task.

Keep track of progress.

Experts recommend setting up a system for monitoring whether milestones are being met, Olson says. A simple spreadsheet or more advanced project-management software can help you keep on top of who is doing what, as well as provide a general sense of how the project is being organized and executed, Williams says. “You should constantly update and review progress to ensure things are moving forward,” she says.

Take a break. Really.

According to one study, nearly half of people say they’re experiencing some form of burnout. Being burnt out will not help progress any project, so use the time at the end of the year to, if possible, enjoy the time away from work. “As humans, we need to take breaks to recharge our minds, bodies and spirits,” says Mark Royal, a senior client partner for Korn Ferry Advisory. Workers who can turn off the professional demands of work—even for short periods of time can be more engaged and productive in the long run.


For more expert career advice, connect with a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance.