Christmas is a big deal. Regardless of your religion, particularly in the Western world, Christmas time has a major impact on your timetable. There is the whole holiday planning, family gatherings, buying presents etc. to sort out. Usually, work gets extra busy because everyone is trying to wrap things up before they go on holiday, or before their colleagues go on holiday. Weather doesn’t cooperate either. There are parties and social events to attend. Christmas usually starts in November (at the latest) and almost seems to go on forever, until you draw an exhausted breath on December 27th, and wonder what the hell happened to your whole month.
It is a particular challenge for those of us trying to retain usual productive habits and structure and try to get good amount of work done. If you let December derail you, it can have an impact on the beginning of your new year. Instead of starting with a fresh canvas, all motivated and full of momentum as most of us like to, it can become a slog to just get started, and sort out the messy jumble in your mind from the previous year’s problems.
The key thing is to then not get derailed in the first place. Here are three ways to manage that, ideally in the order prescribed:
Collect the Garbage
Give yourself a couple of hours and go to a cafe or a library with your journal and a pen. Nothing else. No distractions. No social company. You and your journal. Just sit with a cup of coffee (and may be a cake! It’s Christmas after all) and jot down whatever is preoccupying your mind. It might be concerns about all the things you need to go, things you know you won’t finish, things you are procrastinating on, Christmas plans stressing you out…everything. Whatever is on your mind, just jot it all down. Get all the garbage and worries out of your system.
Don’t worry about solutions. This is time to just get all the worries, concerns, preoccupations out of your system. If possible solutions and next steps come to you when you are writing this, just make a quick note, but don’t obsess over it.
Take this seriously, but in a relax manner. Use that time to just sit, enjoy a cup of coffee/tea, and just use this opportunity to journal. This is your time to use your journal as a soundboard for everything that is bothering you.
Have a YOU day
Yes, I know you are busy. You have a million things on the go, and so much to do. You don’t have a day. Ideally, find one. Seriously. Sacrifice something else. For just one day. If you absolutely can’t manage a full day, then take as many hours as possible. But minimum four hours.
Go somewhere. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Just wander around your city. Go to a museum. Go sit in a cafe. Have lunch by yourself. Go to the theater. It should not be a shopping trip. It shouldn’t be something where you are just focused on the external, and on material things. Do something where you are learning something you enjoy, or experiencing something – such as a movie or a play, where you can get lost in a story. Or just chill out by walking around, sitting in a cafe, going to the park.
This is supposed to be a YOU day – so do something that relaxes you. If that means sitting at home all day and reading, then do that. But spend quality, alone time. And as much as possible, revel in that solitude, and ignore everyone else.
Plan Your Strategy for the Following Year
You’ve gotten your problems out of your system. You have taken the time to recharge a bit. Now take another day or an afternoon, go somewhere where you can focus – café, library, your office – where it may be, and plan your strategies for the following year. This is easily done in further three steps:
A quick review of goals for the current year
Don’t spend ages on this. It should be just a quick list of unfinished goals from the current year. Don’t worry too much about why you didn’t do it. Simply make a list of what’s still outstanding.
A further quick review of which unfinished goals are actually important
This is a key bit. Just because you didn’t do something this year, doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be carried forward in the following year. Our goals change, priorities change. So pay attention to the baggage you are carrying forward. I am not suggesting you give up or quit on your goals, but only that you should not hold onto the goals that no longer serve you. Your goals should help you create a Kaizen Life, they should contribute towards making you the person you want to be.
List the things you would like to accomplish in the following year
Treat the new year as a fresh canvas. I am not talking about starting over, but rather starting with a positive perspective. If the current year hasn’t been as satisfactory as you would have liked, just focus on what you can do differently, and move on. Don’t dwell on all the things you did not do, but focus on the things you want to do. List your goals. What are your main priorities? What is important to you? Why are these goals important? This is a key step, and possibly the one that should take the longest amount of time. This is the step that will give you your action plan, and your priorities for the coming year. It will also give you some sense of control and focus while you are going through the Christmas chaos.
It’s easy to let the last month of the year slip away. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like you just need to ride it out. But just remember half the battle is in your mind. Take control of your thoughts, take control of your time, and your December doesn’t have to be the month that productivity forgot.