The end of the year is busy for everyone — professionally and personally.
At work, you have to balance the seemingly endless end-of-year wrap-ups and preparation for the new year with colleagues who are out of office during the holidays. At home, you have to manage family events, holiday pageants, get-togethers with friends, gift-shopping, holiday dinner menus, and travel.
Overall, it may feel like entirely too much to handle.
Just because the end of the year seems overwhelming, however, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and you don’t have to neglect one side of your life — either work or family — while you take care of the other.
6 Strategies for Balancing Work Demands with the Holidays
1. Cultivate the right mindset
According to life and business coach and Arootah consultant Kirsten Franklin, Esq., the first step in gracefully balancing your personal and professional lives over the holidays is establishing the right mindset.
She asks, “Do you even think it’s possible to be a super-human, super-productive person who can handle it all with ease and grace? Or are the holidays a time when it’s ‘supposed to be’ jam-packed, overwhelming, and stressful? What are your expectations? What do you believe is the ‘reality?’ Do you even believe it is possible for this to be a simple, easy and stress-free time?”
Start with what you consider as truly possible for yourself and work from there. If you believe finding balance over the holidays is possible, you’re more likely to achieve that balance.
2. Empty your mind
Once you’ve established your mindset and what you believe is possible, it’s time to get to work. It all starts with emptying your mind. No, that doesn’t mean letting go of all your thoughts and finding your zen space.
Instead, it means “literally dump[ing] everything in your head out on paper,” notes Franklin. While yes, this will take some time and attention, the effort is well worth it. Put everything you need to do and everything you’re concerned with on a sheet of paper — everything related to work, the holidays, your family, etc. Write it down so you can see what you’re working with and not just try to deal with it internally.
Franklin explains, “Your mind is a bit like your mobile phone. It starts with a nice-sized memory that gets eaten up over time with your dreams, desires, to-do lists, and every other random thought. Like your phone, with all the apps you have added, even when you signal it to stop the apps, they’re still running in the background and using up space, slowing your phone down and eventually causing it to glitch and not work that well.”
You have to dump the apps to regain full power; in other words, you must dump your thoughts to be able to fully attack your concerns with all your brain power.
3. Create a plan
Once you’ve emptied your mind and you have a clear look at everything going on and all your concerns for the season, you can then start to create a plan.
Pick out the items on your list that are a top priority. Divide those priorities into what Franklin calls “next actions,” or things you can do in a 10 or 20-minute chunk of time. Whittle down each priority until you have a full list of the next actions that will get you from your current state to wherever you need to be.
Let’s say, for example, you need to get your house ready to host Thanksgiving. “That means the kitchen, living, dining room and bathrooms should at least be cleaned, and everything should be put away,” explains Franklin. “It sounds like a plan, but it’s not.”
So, what should your plan look like? Franklin continues, “First, focus on the kitchen. What does it look like now? What do you want it to look like? What needs to happen to make it look like that? The dishes and silverware need to be cleaned and put away. The holiday silverware needs to be cleaned and set up. The countertops need to be cleared and items put away. The cabinets, floors, sinks, and counters need to be cleaned. Now, that sounds like a plan — but it’s still not.”
She adds, “Let’s pick a priority and think about leverage. Does something need to happen first? If something happens first, does it make other things easier or unnecessary? Maybe we put all the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, then clean out the cabinets. This way, any dirt that falls out goes on the countertops, and then since the countertops aren’t cleaned yet, we don’t care.”
Once you have prioritized and leveraged a fully detailed list, Franklin says you can further “next action” your steps by breaking everything down into 10 to 20-minute chunks of time. Suddenly, everything is easier, because all your tasks only take 10 minutes or 20 minutes, tops.
4. Be ruthless with your boundaries and priorities
Once you have your plan and priorities, make sure you’re ruthless about sticking to the plan. As one Forbes article explains, if you’re not used to ruthless priority and boundary-setting in either your professional or personal life or both, pretend that you’re giving advice to a friend in a similar situation. What would you tell them to do about their boundaries?
5. Keep an eye on your physical health
Of course, you can’t keep the balance at all if you’re not feeling physically healthy. Have you ever tried to put in a good day’s work while sick? It’s hardly worth it, most of the time.
Staying healthy around the holidays is even harder than normal, as you’re dealing with increased stress and cold and flu season, on top of situations that make keeping yourself healthy more difficult. For example, you’re likely not only experiencing work stress, you’re attending lots of functions with unhealthy foods and plenteous alcohol. Meanwhile, the poor weather may keep you from going outdoors or exercising as much as you might during the summer.
Still, don’t fall into the trap of neglecting your physical health while you focus on balancing work and your personal obligations this holiday season. The Mayo Clinic recommends you fit in a short workout first thing in the morning, so it’s out of the way; choose exercises that can be done with the family or in the snow to make them easier to fit into your schedule; and add healthy foods to your snack selection or eating something healthy before your holiday events to cut down on over-eating junk food. All of the above tips can keep you healthy over the holidays, which improves your productivity as the year comes to a close.
6. Practice positive emotions
Lastly, as much as you can, practice experiencing positive emotions. Acknowledge the good in the season, have a little fun, express gratitude, and practice generosity. Doing so can alleviate stress and help you feel in control and happy this holiday season.
The Bottom Line
If you just can’t seem to set the right boundaries, commit to your priorities, or accomplish your goals, regardless of the holidays, you may benefit from talking with one of Arootah’s life coaches.
Book a free, 30-minute coaching session today to see how working with a coach can support you in transforming your life.