We are told the winter holidays are supposed to be a magical time of deep connection with loved ones, good meals, warm fires, and gift-giving. And yet, for many of us, the winter holidays don’t live up to our expectations, because we don’t know how to strike the right balance between rest and productivity.
While it can be tough to find that balance – especially if our in-laws, spouses, friends, and even bosses have strong opinions for how we should spend our holidays – there are some ways you can get what you need this holiday season.
The last week of the year offers a special opportunity to rest, reflect on the past year, and prepare for the year ahead. To understand how to recapture this opportunity and make our holidays both restful and productive, it’s important to first understand our tendencies. Among working professionals, we have found that there are three types of “holiday time misusers.”
What is your default holiday mode?
Couch Potato:
After couch potatoes send their last work email before the holidays, they flip the off switch and sink into complete disengagement. Their only goal for the holidays – and it’s less of a goal and more of an involuntary compulsion – is to see how many full seasons of TV shows they can binge watch. While they expect to come to the end of their holidays refreshed by this extreme inactivity, they instead often feel frustrated and unprepared. They typically ask themselves: “What did I do that whole time?” and find it difficult to answer.“
沙发土豆”:度假前,“沙发土豆”(Couch Potato)把最后一封工作邮件发送出去,之后关掉电脑,开启了隔绝工作的状态。他们唯一的目标——而且这不是一个目标,更多的是一种不由自主的冲动——是想看看他们能看多少个完整的电视节目。虽然他们希望在假期结束时,能够从这种状态中得到休息因而精力充沛,但通常他们会感到沮丧和毫无准备。他们通常会问自己:“我一直在做什么?”并且发现自己什么都没做。
Why is it that a couch potato holiday feels so unsatisfying when it appears to be so relaxing? The reason is that while you do need some time to disengage from productive activities, you also have a host of other needs that you have been neglecting for the last several months that aren’t replenished by “vegging out.” You need meaningful social interaction, physical activity, and active contemplation, among other things.
Holiday Humbug:
Holiday humbugs keep working straight through the holiday. Even if they’re technically taking time off, they cram work in around their holiday meals and other personal commitments. The problems here are obvious. Research shows that we all need regular lulls and breaks in our calendars. If we continue to ignore this need, it will, without a doubt, lead us to burnout.
If it’s so obvious that this is not a good idea, why is it so easy to become a holiday humbug? Certainly, sometimes it’s beyond our control: our boss or business simply demands it. However, for the chronically overwhelmed and over-tasked professional, there is often a more subversive reason. The holidays present an opportunity that is too difficult to pass up: the opportunity to catch up.
The workaholidayic takes their workaholic tendencies and simply applies them to a different context. Rather than rushing from one work meeting to next, they rush from one holiday party to the next. They travel miles and hours to meet every family member who will accept their offer, leaving themselves no time to stop, rest, or be alone. When they finally do get time to themselves, they are too tired to do anything but collapse in exhaustion.
Once you’ve recognized your tendencies, the challenge is to figure out a strategy for charting a healthier course. A few tips may help:
Set sustainability goals for your holiday: Most high-performing professionals are driven at work, focused on getting tasks done and achieving goals. To make the holidays restful, we can channel that drive to benefit us. I’d recommend setting goals around how much you want to sleep, how much you want to exercise, how much you’ll allow yourself to do “work work,” among other categories of importance to you.
为你的假期设定可持续发展目标: 在工作中,大多数表现出色的上班族都专注于完成任务和实现目标。为了使假期过得舒适,我们可以利用这一动力。我建议你设定一个目标:你想要多少睡眠时间,你想锻炼多久,你允许自己做多少“工作”,以及其他对你重要的事情。
Prioritize processing time: If you’re as busy as most are, there’s a good chance that you haven’t taken the time to sufficiently process your past year. Not processing your experiences is like leaving the email inbox of your mind overflowing: it taxes your cognitive load and reduces your ability to calmly and effectively address new experiences. Whether processing looks like finding a quiet place with a journal or having deep conversations with friends or family, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take the time to clear your mental inbox.
Set goals for the next year and spend more time planning how to achieve your goals than you do setting your goals: Many take advantage of the winter holidays to set New Year’s resolutions, but the data shows many of these will go unfulfilled. This creates angst and anxiety. A way to increase our chances of achieving our goals and give ourselves peace during the holidays is to spend sufficient time planning upfront. You’re less likely to set unrealistic goals if you also come up with an execution plan. “I will work out three times a week for 20 minutes before going to work” may not sound impressive, but you’ll be more likely to lose the weight you want with this plan than ending your holiday with only this goal, “I will lose 20 pounds by March.”
Create and uphold holiday traditions: Traditions are a form of habits, and habit development and modification is the key to meeting our goals and becoming more productive without driving ourselves crazy. It is no different for the holidays. Developing meaningful, productive, and restful traditions around the holidays will guarantee that we do the things that actually ensure we have the holidays we want. Productive and restful holiday traditions also help shield us against the demands of the many other people in our lives who have their own ideas for how we should spend our holidays.
For many working professionals, the holidays hold great promise of a time to really rest and rejuvenate. Grab that chance before the New Year is here.