The weeks from November to January make up some of the happiest times of the year, but they are also some of the most stressful. If you’re one of those people who feel overwhelmed at this time of year because your work and personal lives are competing for attention, we’ve got your back. Many professionals particularly, struggle with managing their work and personal lives. The in turn leads to competing priorities and added stress. Here are a few simple tips to help you manage, as the countdown to Christmas continues.
Make a Priority List for Each- Professional and Personal.
Start by making a list of your work and personal activities. Obviously, work projects due during the holiday season should be at the top of your list after all, employers are always watching. How do you think they’ll look at you if you place a holiday party over the completion of a very important project that’s on deadline?
Once you’ve listed all the “must do” work assignments, start focusing on your activities outside of the office. This is where the juggle between family, festivities, and other holiday-related tasks begins. List those events and activities in order of importance to you.
Plan Your Time. That’s Important.
Now that you’ve prioritized your responsibilities, the next step is to determine how you will use your time. When your plate is overflowing, it’s important that you figure out how to navigate your schedule and use your time as efficiently as possible. Prepare for this by auditing your weekly activities. Take one week to log all of your activities and the time you spent on each one.
While you don’t have to keep track of each and every little task, it’s important that you record the way you use your time and group it according to your work, projects, errands, etc. The point is to determine your weekly requirements and find the extra time you can spend on holiday events like parties and shopping.
Take a look at these activities as well. Are there areas you can speed up? Can you enlist the help of a friend or family member for errands or shopping? Maybe you can consolidate some responsibilities one week to make more room in the next. Look for the activities that are time hogs and see what you can do to speed them along, creating more time to spend on the holidays.
One way you can likely find more time is to eliminate, or at least lessen, your use of social media and digital communications. Checking email, sending texts, and updating your Facebook profile eat up large chunks of your time, and they may not necessarily be priorities. It’s understandable that you cannot step away from technology altogether, but setting some limits will help you make sure that you don’t end up wasting too much time. Limit social media posts to right before bedtime, and decide when in the night you will stop checking your work email — explain to your co-workers that you won’t check or respond to emails after hours.
Create a Schedule and Don’t Budge.
Once you’ve determined what your priorities are and how much time you have available each week, start scheduling your holiday hours. This is key to balancing work and life during the holidays. Using a day planner, smartphone, wall calendar, or whatever appointment reminder tools you prefer, insert your working hours and off hours like when you eat meals and go to bed. If you have important work projects due, include those next. These make up your “must do” list; highlight them so you know they won’t change.
Next, go through your list of priorities and start scheduling the items that have set, unchangeable dates. For example, if you plan to attend an office volunteer event on December 20th, schedule it first. Save items like shopping and baking for last, since they are more flexible. Of course, don’t forget to consider what activities you want to share with family, as that can affect how you should schedule them. After all, you wouldn’t want to plan to write greeting cards with your 7-year-old at 10 o’clock at night.
Create boundaries between work time and personal time.
This is easier said than done, but having a healthy balance between work and life requires separating the two. Start by setting limits on the time spent on work. You have the mandated hours set by your employer, sure, but working overtime or taking work home is not healthy during the holidays. So make sure you use your time at work efficiently so you can complete everything you need to do.
Once you’ve set your holiday work hours, stick to the plan. That means that while you’re at work, use the time exclusively for work-related projects, meetings, etc. Don’t bring your holiday to-do list or personal activities into the office, and keep your mind focused on the tasks at hand. If you plan your day wisely, you should be able to complete all of your goals for the workday.
By the same token, avoid bringing your work home with you. Once you leave the office, leave the office behind you. Don’t check your email, reply to messages, or log in to your account. Ask your team members to respect your time with family and friends and explain to them you will not be available after hours until the holidays are over.
Remember, Your Health is Most Important
The main benefit from a healthy approach to balancing work and life is reduced stress and more “me time.” Holiday activities may seem fun, but if you neglect yourself in favor of them you could end up burning out. Try to schedule one hour each day just for you — use this time to read a book at your local coffee shop, go to the spa for a facial, get a massage while shopping at the mall, or just relax in the park.
Finally, take the time to exercise during the holidays. Many professionals end up neglecting their normal exercise routine during the winter months because of hectic schedules or other issues. Don’t let that stop you. If you can’t make it to the gym, find ways to add some extra steps to your day — use the stairs, send your documents to the furthest printer, or even spend a few minutes walking around the office to say hello to co-workers. Adding those extra steps will increase your energy and help support you in the long holiday season.