Staying on top of all your responsibilities can be trying any time of year, but the holidays are especially difficult. When you're stressed about travel plans, family get-togethers, and your gift-giving budget, it's often tough to maintain focus. However, those conflicts just make sticking to smart time management strategies even more important. Here are four ways you can step up your productivity and organization in time for the holidays... and the year to come.

1. Be Picky (but Nice)

You may spend hours on the weekend picking out the perfect gifts and wrapping paper, but it's important to be choosy at the office as well. Leaders in the workplace always want to draw on their skills and knowledge to contribute as much as possible. However, it's just as necessary to know when to turn down specific duties or delegate responsibility to others. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is trying to do too much, causing undue stress for yourself and possibly even damaging a project's chances of success.

Part of carefully organizing your time is coming to understand just how little of it you have and learning to say no to new tasks when you have to. Often, the tricky part is to refuse the request in a diplomatic way. Make it clear that while you are unable to add another time-consuming responsibility at the moment, you're happy to help however you can.

2. Make a List and Check it Twice

Everyone has a to-do list, and it's easy for those documents to get completely out of hand. Fortunately there are more strategic ways to make use of your notes that will actually help you get things done. To begin with, break down your tasks into manageable chunks and schedule them out into clearly defined steps using a tool like Wrike's project management solution.

Don't stop there, though. As you come up with ideas or important developments occur in your projects, add notes and comments. Don't wait until later because there's a good chance something good will slip away from you. Also, trying to remember what was said in a phone call three days ago or a stunning insight you had while hanging a string of lights outside your house is a major waste of time that takes away from your ability to solve problems in the moment.

3. Clear a Path Through Distractions

Have you ever had to dig a car out of the snow while more keeps drifting down? A lot of the time, that's what it's like trying to slog your way through your email inbox. If you let them, emails and "quick" questions from people in the office can be major distractions that quickly pile up.

That's why you have to plan out the day before you start checking your messages. If you set goals for the day before there are several conflicting demands on your attention, you have a much better shot at getting them done. Sometimes urgent issues come up, but you can check your email at designated hours throughout the day and take care of them then.

4. Make Your Workflow a Gift to Yourself

The most essential element that goes into managing your time wisely is establishing a workflow that makes sense for your particular role, responsibilities, and skills. For most people, attempting to multitask is a way to get very little done or do things poorly. Having a clear understanding of how you are contributing to the bigger goals of the team at any given time and the flexibility to plan accordingly can transform the way you think about your workdays. It's like giving yourself a big box with a bow on top, full of time for concentrating on what matters.

The days until the holidays are ticking away. Now is as good a time as any to get a stronger handle on managing your working hours. Get to it!