By: Ryan Malone
Are the holiday festivities disrupting your work schedule?
Do you feel like your work and personal life are competing for attention? If so, you're in the same boat as many professionals facing hectic holiday schedules this year. 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.
With holiday stress comes the difficult task of balancing work and life. Many professionals struggle with managing their work and personal lives, which leads to competing priorities and added stress. If you are facing holiday overload, here are a few steps to help you achieve that balance.
The holiday season tends to get busy — we all want to enjoy the parties, choir recitals, and gift exchanges, but we still have our regular responsibilities. Sometimes it seems that there just isn't enough time to fit everything into our schedules. In order to achieve a healthy work-life balance — particularly during the holiday months — you have to prioritize.
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 — employers wouldn't be pleased if you prioritize the organization of your family holiday party over an important work 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.
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.
Another great way to save time is to do your holiday shopping online. Driving to the mall, looking for a parking space, shopping, and standing in long lines all take up valuable holiday time. Consider purchasing your gifts online. Not only does online shopping save time, but it also reduces stress, can cost less, and often guarantees that product will be in stock. Many retailers offer deep discounts online during the holidays as well, starting with Cyber Monday and lasting until mid-January, so take advantage of this opportunity to check off some holiday chores without taking too much time.
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 November 23, 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.
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.
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 unpleasant weather. 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 — park further from the door, 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.
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