“Wow! Look at that! Some empty space in my calendar,” I think to myself as I look ahead to the holidays. Almost as if my mind doesn’t know what to do with the rare chance to take a break from doing-ness, it automatically begins churning out a list of things to do. Shopping, cleaning, visits, incomplete projects that have been on the back burner… and the list goes on and on. Soon that empty space is just as full as every other time of the year and I’m left wondering what happened to the holiday.
Does that mental dialogue sound familiar? As the holidays approach, the change of pace can present many leaders with the opportunity of a bit of time and space. So, what do we do with that time and space? How can we make the best use of the opportunity?
I’m reminded of the phrase, “Two steps forward. One step back.” It seems that in the context of every-day life, that proverbial one step back occurs as an annoyance when we would rather gain traction and move forward. Alas, if only it could always be “Three steps forward.” However, in the context of the holidays, what if we intentionally take one step back as a way of preparing to take two steps forward? Perhaps we can seize the opportunity to step back as a way of preparing for the surge of energy and productivity that comes at the top of the new year.
So, as leaders, what do we do with our one step back to prepare for our two steps forward? My recommendations fit into three broad categories. The first is to use the holiday as a time of rest and rejuvenation with the intention of renewed vitality for the coming year. The second is to take care of any strategic or structural items that would otherwise slow you down too much during the business of the normal year. The third is to strike a balance between the two.
In using the holiday as an opportunity for rejuvenation, pick something that really feeds you. A few suggestions include restorative exercise, outside time, attending to your emotional wellbeing, unplugging from the screen, and practicing gratitude. Think self-care, stress management, and doing for yourself what will help you step into the new year fresh and ready to go!
In using the holiday as an opportunity to take care of items that would otherwise slow you down too much during the year, remember the saying “You can’t stop to sharpen your sword in the heat of the battle.” Everyone’s battle is different and we each use different tools and strategies to get it done. Thinking back over the last year or last quarter, ask yourself if there were recurring hiccups or repeated difficulties where you wish your sword were sharper. Take a little time to bring these elements up to speed as a way of preparing yourself for the coming year.
In using the holiday as a time of both rejuvenation and strategic work, remember mindfulness and practice self-awareness. If you tend to be an overachiever, then perhaps skew the balance in what might feel a bit more like rejuvenation. If you tend to be a procrastinator, then perhaps skew the balance in what might feel a bit more like sword-sharpening. In this way, you’ll probably end up driving right down the middle of the lane, creating a holiday that is both restorative and productive. Happy Holidays!