Culture tells us that the holidays are for carefree family time free from work. The reality, especially for entrepreneurs, can be everything but that. According to the American Management Association (AMA), people are more depressed and anxious during the holiday season than during any other time of the year. Finance-related stress is at the top of the list of anxiety-inducing factors, but family stress and the pressure to meeting commercialized expectations are also towards the top.
Whereas most traditional workers have set days off without the expectation of checking their work email, the 24/7 entrepreneurial schedule doesn’t stop just because there’s a holiday celebration on the calendar. This creates a double stress: you don’t want to let your family down, but you can’t let work slide either. However, it is possible to manage the chaos as long as you plan ahead, communicate clearly, and cut yourself some slack.
Here are our four tips for getting through the holidays without having to pick between enjoying the season and staying on top:
SET A SCHEDULE
In the book Entrepreneur Revolution, author Daniel Priestley recommends planning your schedule around the holidays, instead of planning the holidays around your schedule. According to Priestley, this “allows your brain to relax about ‘getting some downtime’ because it knows the holidays are coming.” While Priestley is focused on big-picture planning, consider applying his advice on a daily basis.
For example, if you know that you’re going to have to check your email, actively set time aside instead of letting it interrupt throughout the day. After a big family meal and early mornings are both an ideal time to block off a few hours. Share your plan with your family so they understand that you are getting work done in those allocated slots so you can truly relax when you’re fully off-the-clock.
UNDER PROMISE/OVER DELIVER
‘Under promise, over deliver’ may be one of the most cliché phrases in business, but it truly does apply during the holiday season. From TV to store windows, we are constantly reminded that things have to be perfect, and it can be easy to get sucked into making promises that just aren’t possible. According to a whitepaper published by the American Psychological Association (APA), we stress about the holidays before they’ve even started, “worrying about getting enough time off of work and that work responsibilities might interfere with time spent with family.” This can result in significant drops in productivity in the weeks before a holiday, as reported by the AMA.
Instead of becoming a victim of holiday burnout, be clear about what you can offer to your family, friends, and clients, and clearly articulate where and when you’ll have to tap out. Leaving a party early or showing up late is less stressful, and less of a faux pas, if you clear it with the host first. The same goes for clients. Set an auto-responder that says when you’ll be checking email so that they expect a little more lag time. Even better, prep them ahead by notifying them of when you’ll be unplugging and inquiring if there’s anything you can do beforehand.
When you do have time to work, work smart. One of the great things about the holidays is that other people are trying to take time off too, and, unless something is truly urgent, they may even appreciate a few days without getting an email from you. If you zero out your inbox and still have time in your pre-planned schedule, consider using the slower pace to your advantage.
The holidays are a perfect time for a business ‘spring’ cleaning. You can set up your organizational systems for the coming year, and make sure that all your documents are in order and outstanding invoices have been processed. The work may not feel urgent, but taking care of it now will save you from future headaches once everyone else is back in the office.
The holiday season brings many things that we love in the moment, but aren’t as big fans of in the aftermath. Heavy foods, lots of sweets, party-inspired drinking, and sleeping in are all great in moderation, but going overboard isn’t kind to your body or good for your mind. According to the APA, “many individuals engage in comfort eating and other unhealthy behaviors to cope with their stress levels,” during the holidays.
Instead of being sedentary, the holidays are a perfect time to brush up on your self-care. Remember to eat healthy food in addition to your holiday favorites, take time alone when things get overwhelming. A study published by the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that time in nature aids in your ability to manage stress, so take a sunny afternoon as a chance to be outdoors, even if you have to bundle up.
Through it all, remember that others aren’t the commander of your holiday season, you are. If someone asks for something unreasonable, say no. Even better, don’t answer and apologize later for having missed their note. Chances are that the ‘urgent’ thing they needed ASAP wasn’t all that urgent. If you’ve planned ahead and communicated clearly, your world can withstand a few days of celebration, so take them.