This month has not been conducive to a life-work balance for me. What the big picture really looks like is “work, work…short sprints of down time…work, work”. It’s not always like that though. What has thrown the balance off between LIFE (translated: living, breathing, laughing, connecting OUTSIDE of work) and WORK is that we’re in the throes of the holiday season. Why do we do this to ourselves every year around this time?
Life-Work Balance During the Holidays Requires DISCIPLINE
Fighting crowds. Shopping at the mall. Baking AND decorating 15 dozen sugar cookies. Smashing down all the Amazon boxes from online purchases. Attending all the Christmas parties. No wonder it is nearly impossible to stay focused on getting work tasks completed. The holidays are notorious for turning a self-controlled, low-fat dressing eating Pilates enthusiast into a spineless glutton who slithers into the staff lounge and lunges for the cookies before anyone else shows up to get any.
Can our self-control and discipline during most of the year get short-circuited in just those few weeks between pumpkin patches and Christmas tree lots?
You bet it can!
I recently ran across a book entitled, Self-Discipline for Entrepreneurs by Martin Meadows that I need to put on my Bucket List to read. I’m hoping Mr. Meadows has a chapter dealing with holiday discipline because that would make a great selling point for me. Though the holidays are pulling you in several directions, you still feel pressure not to allow your work to suffer.
For me, I still have a blog post that needs to be written. There are emails to respond to and everything on my task list screams “priority” when I look it over. Try drumming up business while competing with Christmas sale emails flooding everyone’s boxes. Clients are leaving for vacation or demanding their projects be wrapped up before the end of December. You have no clue how you will manage it all.
The holidays can be especially hard on entrepreneurs…
If you are a flying solo as an entrepreneur, you may not have the luxury of disconnecting during the holidays. This is because, frankly, who else is going to keep your business running? You feel the necessity to keep up with your normal pace. You may even feel the pressure to increase your efforts so your business is prepared for a new year. Unless you want to haul your laptop to the table during Christmas dinner (strongly unadvised!), you need to have a plan for staying focused yet find a life-work balance during the holidays.
Here are 5 easy strategies to help you stay disciplined and balanced this time of year:
Strategy #1: Closing for Business During the Holiday Season
Let customers know several weeks ahead what days you plan to be “closed for business” during the holidays. Stick to this strategy and don’t take on work that will thwart your efforts to take a much-deserved break. Highlight these days on your calendar and unplug from work on those days. A few weeks in advance, send out a friendly reminder email. Set up an automatic email response for those that still decide to email you during these days.
Change your voicemail to include a reminder that you will respond when you “return to the office.” Post it prominently on your website for potential and current clients so they know exactly what your availability is during the holidays. If you need regular posts made on social media , schedule them ahead of time on Hootsuite or Buffer. See how easy that was?
Strategy #2: Drop the Superhero Image
Do you have projects that are pressing and must be finished before you shut down for a few days? Swallow your pride and go ahead and buy cookies for those holiday parties rather than making them from scratch. You do not need to keep up a superhero image during the holidays. Special order a nice casserole from the local deli so you can finish that last pressing task. Don’t be a martyr just so you can boast that you made a casserole from scratch.
Make priority lists for finishing things up and ask for help.
Family and friends may not be able to update your social media websites for you but they can push a vacuum and run an errand you need done. The word “delegate” is not a bad word. We are trying to find a life-work balance, remember? You are never going to find it if you insist on doing everything yourself.
In fact, asking others to step in and help makes them feel like a valuable part of your team. Consider outsourcing work to others during the holidays, such as to a Virtual Assistant. They can relieve you of some of the mundane tasks that drain your valuable time and give you more freedom during the holidays.
Strategy #3: Time During Holidays? Plan End-of-Year Maintenance!
Maybe you find yourself with a little extra downtime this holiday season. Don’t get too comfortable yet… Perfect time for business maintenance! The better your business is prepared for the new year, the more organized and efficient it will be. Also, you will be closer to finding life-work balance for your personal sanity.
I would love to to offer my insight on this topic but I have a better suggestion. Joanne Munro’s blog post, 20 Ways to Prepare Your Business for Next Year, gives excellent strategies for you to follow. Her list of must do’s for getting your personal business tidied up and organized for a new year are invaluable.
Strategy #4: Set Clear Life-Work Boundaries
One mistake many people make is not setting clear boundaries between their work life and their personal life. This is especially true during the holiday season when there is a lot of fraternizing at Christmas parties and get-togethers off the clock. Inevitably, work-related conversations crop up at these functions and turn our work mode from off back to on again.
Without a healthy balance, we will often bring work stress home with us. Or, if you work from home, you feel like that work stress permeates every room in your house. Anyone with this kind of adrenaline surge pulsing through them on a constant basis is setting the stage for a major burnout.
You are in control of your own life-work balance.
Do all you can at work and, when the day is done, close the door and leave it behind. During the holiday season, this might mean forgoing that Christmas party if it results in you not having time for personal things or taking care of your own needs. Trust me, they will do just fine without you at the company holiday party.
Shutting down and unplugging from work can be especially difficult to do if you work from home. Sometimes it is actually harder to walk away from your home office and switch over to “personal life”. The temptation is ever tugging at you to slip in your workspace at home and get a few more things done. You owe yourself a certain time that you turn the computer off and leave it all behind a closed door. Even if you have to set an alarm that reminds you – “you’re done for the day!” – then do it. Period.
Strategy #5: Be There 100% – Wherever You Are
Finding life-work balance is a learned skill of practiced discipline. We take pride in being talented multitaskers that can check emails on our iPad while helping our teenager fill out college applications at the same time as listening for the timer to go off to take the roast out of the oven. Checking out social media and working on our Christmas gift list while sitting in a staff meeting is a sure-fire way to leave you sitting at your desk later asking yourself, “Now, what did they say we were supposed to do?”
Finding life-work balance means accomplishing your best in the mode you are in at the moment and finding a sense of peace while you are in that place.
If you are engaged in work, focus yourself on your task and let everything else take a back seat so you can give your full attention to doing your best work. Not only does your employer (or yourself if you are your own boss) deserve your best but so do the clients or customers that you serve.
When you are ready to disengage from work mode and step back into your personal world, don’t give any less than your best. Be there 100% – emotionally and physically – wherever you are. There are times to forget the checklist of things to do (which is especially hard during the holidays) and everything that vies for your attention. Instead, give yourself wholeheartedly to the person in front of you or the one task that you are working on.
“What if I have too many things on my list to give them equal attention?”, you ask. That’s where delegating or even deleting tasks comes in. For the holidays, can someone else wrap the presents even if you have to pay them to do it? Are there a few things on the list that you can delete or save for later? If not, can someone help you with them?
Hard work is necessary to be successful.
We understand this. It is the mantra of our modern age. However, this does not just apply to the workplace, but relationships and taking care of yourself as well. Just because the holiday season brings a tidal wave of suggestions and expectations, it does not mean you have to embrace them all. Choose a few things that are vital and truly important to you in terms of value to your business or your personal life but don’t let them tip the scales to upset the balance of feeling in control, organized and having a peaceful life-work balance for yourself (ESPECIALLY during the holidays!)