Is there such a thing as work/life balance during the Christmas holidays? I recently spent some time going through my calendar for the rest of this year and was excited to see that I have some extra time to be at home during the holidays. I thought about this for a moment and thought surely I should be a little more excited but then I remembered that I am not the type of person who does well just being at home for an extended period of time. I like to be busy. I do tend to allow work to intrude on family time. Maybe it’s boundary issues, but I also enjoy what I do, so it does not always feel like work to me. Where things get messy is the tendency for people to enter vacations with a to-do list a mile long. The effect is that we are often as tired when we go back to work as we were when we left it. If you can relate, then I would like to offer you a few simple strategies I have found that will help ensure your time at home during the holidays is more enjoyable and becomes a time of renewal.
I would expect you would agree that the boundaries between work and home have gotten very blurry. Many companies have tightened their belts over the last decade, and too often, doing more with less means that you have taken on additional duties. If it is important for you to keep your employment or stay in business, it is easy to feel like you should say yes to every request.
Technology worsens this problem. Push alerts are constantly informing us about every email or text. Have you ever heard a ding and instantly asked your spouse, “Whose phone was that?” Last week, a friend of mine frantically dug his phone out of his coat pocket while he was at a holiday event with his kids, only to realize that the ding he’d heard wasn’t his boss messaging him– it was the elevator. That feeling of being leashed to our phones makes it hard to disconnect from work!
I strongly recommend protecting your family time by setting clear limits around your vacation. Be pre-emptive, informing clients and coworkers when you’ll be out. Set an auto-response on your email, explaining when you’ll be back, and who to contact in the meantime. This is an important one: get out in front of deadlines that may be making people anxious by stating clearly when the work will be done– and making sure that date falls after your vacation. If there are co-workers who are in the habit of calling you as part of their routine, set up an alternate workflow ahead of time, and make sure everyone has the right contact information (not yours) in front of them.
As in my case, projects around the house can intrude on vacation time. After all, our time off is limited. As a result, we often make some ambitious plans to get things done at home. But when do home improvement projects go perfectly as planned? Three trips to the hardware store later, that family game night you were planning on now seems completely impossible, and you’re probably out of sorts and not behaving like your best self. Does this sound like a great holiday vacation?
I am not saying working around the house is a bad thing. It is not. Like me, you may enjoy it, and that is what you love to do. But it is important to remember that the gift of your time and attention can be just as or even more important than the gift of your work. Know when to put down the hammer and join the festivities. And if you’re the sort of person who likes to crowdsource projects, plan to do that home improvement task as a family. Stock up on some snacks, and plan a fun activity as a reward for when you are done.
Lastly, much like you do for work or other activities you are involved with, you must intentionally schedule down time, and stick to it. Take a walk. Take a nap. Take a break. You are not going to be a better employee, boss, supervisor, spouse or parent if you burn out. Rest. Regenerate. Return to work refreshed.
One more thing I have learned about myself is that I do better if I spend some of my time away from work not at home. I tend to do better if I get away from my normal surroundings and go somewhere where I can turn things off for a while. In December, my family will often go to a downtown Indianapolis hotel, go out for dinner, take a carriage ride and end the evening enjoying the hotel’s pool and hot tub. For me this helps remove some of the distractions and craziness that can come with the holidays, and gives my family a more focused time to enjoy being together as a family. Hope this helps.
Please feel free to share this with others.