Convicting Your Holiday Burnout
Simplifying the holidays by creating measurable priorities.
As the holidays approach, life seems to play out in 3x speed. You’ve got to attend this holiday work party, travel somewhere for a friend’s event, stay on top of your own projects and health and savings goals while still getting the perfect gifts for each loved one. You also make sure your taking enough time off work to create intentional moments with your family. And then again with your partner’s family. But, you can’t take off work too much. Just enough. And then somehow the most valuable time of year, the time you are supposed to have set aside to simply enjoy your loved ones, can turn into something daunting. Because, with the wrong mindset, the whole two-month season can feel like a project to manage rather than a gift to be grateful for.
“Perhaps I’m just getting old, but my definition of luxury has changed over time. Now, it’s not about owning a lot of stuff. Luxury, to me, is feeling unrushed. No hurry, no pause.” -Tim Ferris
Don’t Cheapen Your Time
Your time is your nonrenewable. It’s your valued resource that you only get one shot with. And advances in technology, hyper-stimulation, flexible working environments have subconsciously changed how intentionally we connect with one another. During the holidays: you can check a friend’s social media update from your grandma’s living room. You can address a work problem while baking cookies with your two-year-old niece. You can take a work call the day of a close friend’s wedding. Only for a few minutes. Really, you don’t have to be fully present with anyone, because advances in technology allow your time to be somewhat extendable to everyone. We don’t try to be like this. It’s just a symptom of the times that many of us have failed to create boundaries with.
“Many people don't need productivity or time management advice. They need conviction.” - James Clear
We water down the value of our time when we throw our attention in every direction when summoned. Does it matter if we spend six days on holiday with loved ones versus four if we’re constantly splitting our time in a million directions? We have to recognize we are overstimulated in order to correct it. And that takes (so much) practice recognizing the true priority.
Prioritize Your Specific ‘Whys’ and ‘Whats’ During The Holiday Season
In order to break our habits of constant overstimulation, it’s helpful to clarify what your goal is with every commitment you have. Especially on the holidays when you’re out of normal routine. Instead of just assuming that you’ll be able to delineate your priorities when the time comes, it can be helpful to actually map it out for yourself on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis so your subconscious moves into conscious. For example it could look something like this:
November 13th Week: I am staying home from travel this week. Why? Because I need to focus on work and finish a deliverable before the holidays. What can I do to make that happen? I can work an extra hour Monday-Thursday and delete social media for the work week. What can I not do? I do not need to catch up with friends and family Monday-Thursday this week. I do not need to pack out my plans regarding my social life.
Thanksgiving Week: I am opting to spend time with family. Why? Because I want to invest in our relationship and enjoy our shared time. What can I do to make that happen? I can communicate my time off so we can make plans to spend that time together. I can enable myself to relax by setting up an ‘Out of Office’ message at work. I can also pre-schedule my Substack articles. What can I not do? I do not need to take my phone out of my purse for the majority of the week. I do not need to reply to work messages when I’m in the same room as family. I do not need to get on social media.
This can seem rather incessant and hyper-simple. But, journaling out your intentionality ahead of time can really help you create boundaries in order to make holiday time more valuable. Sometimes we subconsciously know our “why” then we spend the holidays checking Facebook or replying to work emails anyway. Without our specific “what” the holidays will continue to be stressful because we allow ourselves to be pulled in too many directions. The more boundaries you’re willing to uphold, the more expensive your time becomes. And your time should never be cheap.
Set Minimums and Maximums Before You Jump In
This year, I have the busiest two months of 2023 here in Nov & Dec. Between the two big holidays, I’ve got weddings, projects, deliverables, and my birthday on the calendar in a threeish week span. Then holiday travel and intentional family time begins again. It’s hard not to feel a bit strung out. In order to feel like I’m protecting my family from this schedule stress, my partner, and myself - I’ve been playing around with what I call minimums and maximums.
Minimums and maximums are parameters that allow you to measure the minimum amount you want to invest in your priorities against the maximum amount you feel comfortable investing. This can correlate with time, habits, or money.
EXAMPLE: This year, I want to spend a minimum of a week away from work to enjoy time with loved ones. Any time less than that wouldn’t feel like enough. This year, I also have a maximum of two weeks away from work before I would start to feel stressed and let this stress taint the holiday time with my family.
EXAMPLE: This year, I’ve set aside a budget of XYZ dollars on holiday gifts, travel, and fun. I don’t plan to spend more than XYZ dollars on the holidays in order to still meet my end of year goals. I also choose to prioritize travel-related spending over gift-related spending within this budget.
EXAMPLE: This year, I need a minimum of thirty-minutes alone time a day in order to protect my peace and routine while traveling. I will take a maximum of two hours a day to preserve enough time to enjoy my loved ones.
Remote Work Has Made The Mega Crunch Too Possible
Let me get one thing straight: I love being a remote worker. I love that my dog is one foot from my desk. I love eating my own food for lunch. Remote work is the future that gives so much power back to employees. And I do not, for a second, take it for granted.
However, remote work also makes the idea of going on every trip, traveling for a month, ordering every gift, all while simultaneously in between meetings at your day job: possible. And in taking on this juggling-sequence it can be easy to forget to slow down. To focus on what actually matters. Especially during the holidays.
Here are a few goals I’ve set with myself to try and create better boundaries with my time during the holidays as a remote worker:
Communicate travel plans to family in advance. Then communicate the days that I will have “off” versus the days I have decided to work remote well in advance. This is the most important one for me. I’m super fortunate to have a job that lets me be present and take time off during the holidays. However, there are days where I will be “with” my loved ones and still working my job. Communicating the difference between those dates in advance is really helpful in guarding intentional time with family and at work. I might get to be with my family for six days, but only be “off” for four of them. If you too are a remote worker, talking to those you are visiting with about the expectations and the difference between the two is extremely helpful.
When “off” be fully off. When “on” be clear that work is the day’s priority. Give yourself permission to close the laptop, to go on ‘DND’ when you’ve taken off work. Even when people are emailing you anyways. Be bold enough to take social media off your phone for the entire visit. Putting your peace first will allow you to actually create intentional time to connect with those you’re already putting in so much effort to see. And when you are working remotely, be stern about that too. Don’t try to keep one foot in both worlds. It waters down the value of your time for everyone involved.
Find a private workspace. Don’t let your work leave the workspace. Create physical boundaries with your work. Don’t let the work move to the living room. Find your workspace and anchor it there as if the work was ball and chained to the space. If you get an email on your phone while cooking lunch, walk back into that room before you respond. Physical boundaries can help enforce the mental ones. (I’m still learning how to do this one - hold me accountable mom!)
Keep your “you” time going. One thing I think is great about my family is that, on a normal day, we don’t hangout until we’ve all worked out. It sounds dumb, but it really does help our time together feel more intentional. Keep your “you” time going in the midst of working remote on the holidays. Journal, go on a run, meditate. Your time is so valuable. Protecting the time you give yourself (outside of work and family) even in the midst of holiday travel is more than necessary.
The holidays are supposed to be a time to slow down and enjoy. Sometimes we have to help each other relearn how to do that.
Sometimes you have to be drastic in order to slow life down and unplug every electronic in your house. Sometimes you have to plan your time in advance meticulously in order to ensure you’re able to fully disconnect work from home. We overcomplicate the holidays often instead of choosing simplicity. (My article about that here). Having people to celebrate with, having time to see family, and a stable job to support you: all of that is a blessing. Don’t forget to treat it like one.
And please don’t allow anyone you care for, even the strongest of humans, to spend their holidays alone. The holidays can create different pressures for everyone. We all have to work together to focus on what’s really important.
I’ve been working so much on getting You’ve Been Summoned (formerly called The Sophomore Letters) ready for your shelves for 2024. I couldn’t be more excited to share. So soon!!!
As a mystery author, I’m a member of a group called Sisters in Crime. I thought I’d showcase some new releases from my SinC-sters here. Consider trying an indie author’s novel as a holiday read. We only have the word of mouth of our readers to keep up going. I’ll keep a segment of these going throughout the season:
Siblings and Secrets by Kathleen Easley
Lila Ferrari’s Brotherhood Alliance Series
Spiked Punch by Lesley Diehl
Callie Kinsey Mysteries by Mary Curran
Oliva Penn Mystery Series by Kathleen Bailey
Thanks for reading as always. Sending lots of love and peace your way.