By Kimberly Kafafian
The most wonderful time of the year is also the craziest. Crazy busy. Crazy crowded. Crazy expensive. Each and every December, I contemplate how hard it is to juggle end of year obligations with still performing our regular daily tasks. And as anyone that works in HR knows, the end of 4th Quarter is our busiest month of the year. (Quick! Let’s implement that performance management program we talked about 11 months ago!) Then add in the shopping, the wrapping, the baking, the travel, the driving of kids to and fro, and the parties. Between work, home, family, and community obligations, the to-do list grows, the calendar quickly fills up, but the number of hours in the day never changes. Every year, I wonder not only how will I get everything done, but will I get a chance to actually enjoy the magic of the season? As the mother of a ‘tween and teen, I want to be physically present and enjoy these fleeting moments in time with them. I have committed myself to creating work life balance in general (it’s a work in progress) and I make even larger efforts during this time of year.
As the holidays creep up, the anxiety builds. I totally get it. It’s hard to balance the time we must spend completing work projects with the time we want to spend with family and friends. But there are some things we can do to help prevent holiday overload.
How to Handle Hectic Holiday Schedules
Make a must-do list
I always start by taking stock of all the activities I MUST do and events I MUST take part in during the holiday season. Make a list of both your absolute work responsibilities and personal to do’s. Once you have these items identified, you can work all the “like to do” items around them.
Prioritize your activities
During the holidays there’s so much to do. If you want to achieve a healthy work life balance during this time of the year, you need to prioritize. Of course, there will be plenty of “must dos” on your list (work projects due, holiday shopping, family gatherings), but some are more important than others, and usually there are varying deadlines. Sit down and really think about what you need to do first and what you can schedule to do later on. This will help you better navigate the crazy weeks ahead. Place everything on your calendar and re-arrange accordingly when something new pops up. Having it all in black and white – and maybe even color coded – will help you feel focused and less anxious.
Work from home or set a flex schedule
If you can still work from home, do it. You can grab some extra time in your day by cutting out your daily commute. Working remotely may even make you feel a bit more festive. Put a small tree or some twinkling lights in your office, work in your holiday PJs, make a quick batch of cookies during your lunch. Do something to help maintain your seasonal sanity.
Put in more hours before the holidays approach
If you know crunch time is coming, try to work some longer hours right before the holidays to complete those must-do projects. If you can do this, be sure to make your manager aware so they’re not caught off guard if they see you leaving early or asking for a day off.
If you’ve been working from home during the pandemic, you’re probably thinking to yourself that setting boundaries has been difficult. The lines between work and home life have definitely blurred in a remote work world. But it’s more important than ever to keep the work and personal life separate during this time of year. At work, focus on what you need to accomplish there. Don’t address your personal holiday to do list during work hours. And try not to bring your work “home.” Do your work tasks during work hours and don’t check email after hours. Make your holiday out of office message personal, such as saying that you’re spending time with your kids, or that the holiday is for some rest and relaxation. Setting these boundaries will help you from becoming too frazzled.
Make a plan and stick to it
Now that you’ve identified the must-dos, prioritize your activities, created a strategy for finding extra time, and drew an imaginary line between work and home, you need to sit down and formalize all of this into a plan. I’m not saying that this plan is set in stone. Things will come up and plans will need to be revised. But you need to keep track of your time and your tasks. This will help you stay focused, and may even identify ways for you to find some extra time in your day. The important thing is to have a plan for moving forward.
Just say no
If saying yes will send you in a downward spiral, remember that you can always say no. No to another party. No to that neighborhood cookie exchange. No to more responsibilities, such as a new project that doesn’t really need to be worked on until the new year. This doesn’t make you a bad person. Saying no is a form of self-preservation and self-care. Full disclosure, saying no is really hard for me to do but I’ve been told that the more we practice saying no, the easier it becomes. This, too, is a work in progress.
Hopefully these tips will help you achieve a much better work life balance during the holiday season : )