For employees and employers alike, the next couple of weeks are a strange time. In some ways the time flies by, speeded by the daily countdown to Christmas and our preoccupation with buying gifts and preparing to visit or receive family or friends.
But at the same time, many of us wish our time away so we can finally wind down. We're exhausted. It's been ages since our last holiday and the run-in to Christmas is one of the most demanding times of the season.
Depending on your sector it's either a nightmare time of the year for making sales or an absolute bedlam of orders, shipping, catering, or seasonal work.
No wonder December can feel like an agonising slog, and that so many of us experience burnout at the very moment when we most need an extra burst of energy.
So how to survive the run-in to the Christmas period, and come back to work in the New Year with a will to win instead of a sense of dread?
I think this is down to a combination of things: the way you (and your employer) approach the run-in to the festive season, what you do over the break and how you look after yourself generally in the workplace and beyond.
Here are my own twelve suggestions - some for employers, some for employees and some for everyone - for ensuring you make the best of the next few weeks, and come back to work in 2018 with a will to win. This advice is best accompanied with a mince pie or, if you're reading it on your own time and from a safe place, a large glass of something warming!
12. Try a bit of flexibility
For many of us who live and work in cities, the pre-Christmas rush can make for a miserable commute. Many of us are numbed by the certain knowledge that we'll spend the next few weeks fighting traffic irrespective of the time of day, as thousands of people take time off to get their Christmas shopping done. Allowing people to start and leave early or late provides an element of freedom from the chaos of the Christmas commute. So why not consider a rota for the Christmas period with early and late starts and finishes that allow staff to avoid the worst of the seasonal traffic, or to sneak in a bit of Christmas shopping of their own?
11. Encourage employees to discuss their aspirations for next year
Separate to any on-the-job coaching you provide for your staff, encourage them to share their aspirations for next year with a trusted colleague, friend or, if appropriate, their manager. You could create or simply encourage a shared forum where friends or colleagues discuss their ambitions for the next year and reconvene regularly to discuss their success or encourage one another. This could be about anything from health and fitness to specific work ambitions, developing a new "look" – literally anything! For this to really work, leaders in an organisation should be seen to encourage it.
10. Have a bit of fun whilst raising money for charity
We should enjoy Christmas, but it's also good to remember those less fortunate than ourselves at this time. So why not combine the two and have a silly jumper competition where people pay a small sum of money to charity to dress down for the day?
9. Set a sensible, productive year-end goal
Feature a team goal somewhere prominent and update it daily so people can see themselves working towards an end. If possible turn projects into team tasks that encourage your staff to work together and celebrate together.
8. Recognise, encourage and celebrate success
Now's not the time to be mean about success. You can make an extra fuss of your team if they hit targets in a way that doesn't have to be expensive. Have prizes for high performance if you can, but a small token of you appreciation for the whole team won't break the bank for most businesses. And use the time of year to celebrate and bond – why not let your hair down together - within reason!
7. Clear out your desk (not in that way!)
The mind has a tendency to creak and strain at this time of year, with all the social, family, travel and meal planning and lists of presents to buy and cards to send. But sometimes, it's the little things that can help to make us feel calmer. Try clearing out your desk drawers and giving your desk space a really good clean. Clean workspace, clean mind! It really does help.
While you're at it, be brutal about anything you're hoarding unnecessarily. Throwing away stuff you haven't touched or read in ages can be very liberating and help you get ready to start afresh next year.
6. Plan where you want your career to go...
...and then make a list of companies and people who can get you there, follow them on social media and look for opportunities to engage with them.
5. Plan your schedule and keep your head
Plan as much as possible for the next few weeks, but only for project milestones and achievements that really must be hit. Ditch the small stuff and concentrate on what's important. It's stressful when you don't feel in control, so initiating a project "sprint" around now for the rest of December can help you or your team to know where they stand, and remain in control.
They don't call it the "silly season" for nothing! We all tend to lose a bit of perspective at this time of year. People have a tendency to think that Christmas is some sort of "hard stop" and that everything must be finished before the seasonal break. This is often arbitrary and merely something we do to ourselves than leads to more stress.
The work will still be there after Christmas, so don't treat the festival as some huge deadline if it doesn't have to be one.
4. Stay hydrated and healthy
Mince pies and chocolates (and who knows, perhaps even the odd lunchtime tipple) are everywhere. But don't let your body con you into forgetting that you need water too; few things are more likely to bring on an energy crash in the afternoon than dehydration. Be sure to drink plenty of water and take time to walk and stand to burn calories. Get out and walk at lunchtime, but if you're really struggling to move around, why not try to arrange some "walking meetings"?
3. Make an achievement, skills and projects list
Whether you do this by updating your CV or just keep a diary to note your significant achievements, it pays to monitor your own professional (and personal) growth. It can be hard to recall all of this information when you most need to (like if you need to update your CV unexpectedly), so do it while you're rested, refreshed and in an analytical mood. It will help you to recognise where and how you've grown, feel good about your own achievements, remember what you're good at and add to your marketability when you need to sell yourself.
2. Keep a gratitude list
Make a list of things for which you grateful, both at work and outside of it. You'd be surprised the power this can have. Learning to recognise the things in life that you're lucky to have is a gift that keeps on giving.
1. Learn about the growth mindset
The idea of the growth mindset has been around for some time but is gaining increasing popularity with business, sports and performance coaches – and rightly so. Growth mindset is a way of changing how you perceive weakness so that instead of seeing it as a problem, you see it as an opportunity to improve.
Nearly all successful breakthroughs – in sport, business, science, medicine and so on – are achieved through continual learning and improvement from repeated failure. A lot of successful people have trained themselves to recognise that every weakness or failure is therefore an opportunity to grow. It really can be done! Businesses and organisations can do it, too.
- Black Box thinking, by Matthew Syed, is an interesting book on the subject.
- Meanwhile Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck is the definitive introduction and the original text on the subject by the author who popularised the idea.
A couple of other books I've greatly enjoyed and mentioned in a previous blog are:
- Be your own life coach by Fiona Harrold shows you how to set goals and put yourself on the path to achieving your dreams. Read more about it here
- Take yourself to the top by Laura Berman Fortgang is a useful guide to the difference between "getting by" and taking charge of your life. Read more about it here
I hope all this helps! Have a wonderful break!