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How to Improve Your Work-Life Balance During the Holidays

December 4, 2021

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Work-life balance during the holidays

It’s the holiday season! And you know what that means: sugar cookies, eggnog, The Grinch, and… stress. Unfortunately, it seems to come with the territory. But while the rest of the population is rushing around buying gifts and stringing up lights, us entrepreneurs are also trying to keep our businesses afloat during the most hectic time of year. It can feel impossible to keep a solid work-life balance during the holidays, but a little prep work and determination can make all the difference.

So no more checking your emails under the dinner table or taking last-minute calls in your PJs. Here’s how to improve your work-life balance during the holidays so you can make the most of your much-needed break.

Why Are the Holidays So Stressful?

It’s no secret the holidays are stressful, but don’t take my word for it: according to a study by the American Psychological Association, 38% of people experienced increased stress during the holidays. And (unfortunately for my fellow female business owners) that stress largely falls on women. Between buying gifts, planning gatherings, and trying to run a business, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and overworked during the most wonderful time of the year.

In their study, the APA found that some of the most common types of stress during the holidays were…

  • Time stress, specifically not having enough time to get all your holiday and work to-dos done. 

  • Money stress, most of which comes from buying tons of gifts and hosting big events.

  • Family stress, like uncomfortable conversations around the dinner table and hectic travel plans.

I’d also add that the holidays come with a lot of added pressure to enjoy yourself–to watch all National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at least once, to cram a year’s worth of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” into one month, and to generally soak up as much of the holiday cheer as possible. And while it might seem counterintuitive, I struggle to fully enjoy myself when I feel like I have to.

If you’re already feeling the holiday stress, you’re not alone. Let’s work on minimizing it so you can spend your holidays doing whatever the heck you want.

Holiday Stress for Business Owners

In the past few years, I’ve noticed that the holiday stress seems to affect business owners even more than it does the general population. Unlike people in most corporate positions, many business owners don’t fully “clock out” at the end of the day. They might check their emails after dinner, get a little extra work done on the weekends, or even lie awake at night thinking about their businesses. 

Plus, many businesses experience either a major drop or spike in sales during the holidays, meaning more money stress. And do I even have to mention taxes?! There’s nothing like trying to buy thoughtful, quality Christmas presents with tax season lurking just around the corner.

So while everyone could benefit from a more sustainable work-life balance during the holidays, it’s especially important for busy business owners and solopreneurs. Luckily, the aspects of business ownership that cause the most anxiety–management of time, money, and people–are also the tools you can use to improve your work-life balance and create more mindful routines.

Creating a Better Work-Life Balance During the Holidays

Ready to plan your low-stress, high-cheer holiday season? Let’s get started!

Before the Holidays

The best cure is prevention, and that’s especially true when it comes to your mental health. Before the holidays get into full swing…

Create your schedule well in advance.

And I don’t just mean your “days off.” When I sit down to schedule my holidays season, I plan for three types of days:

  1. Standard work days. Though I’m sure we’d all love to take the entire month of December off to sip hot cocoa and bask in the light of our Christmas trees, that just isn’t realistic for most business owners. If you plan on working at all during the month of December, put those days in your calendar so you can comfortably plan your get-togethers around them.

  2. Light work days. There might be days you work until lunch and then meet up with family in the evenings. Or you might not actively work but still be available for your clients via email. Whatever your “light” work days look like to you, schedule them! Then, set parameters for what those days look like. Will you work at your desk at all? Allow clients to book calls? Answer texts? Set your boundaries and stick to them!

  3. Zero work days. If you need me, don’t. These are the days you spend entirely away from work–no calls, no emails, no “just one more Instagram story.” This time is vital to your mental and creative rest. Plus, they allow you to be fully present with your friends and family. So put on your footie pajamas, pour yourself some eggnog, and block off your calendar.

By planning your holiday work schedule in advance, you’ll be able to better prepare for non-working days. This might mean you have to work a bit more before the holidays start, but it’s worth it for that stress-free time off.

Communicate your boundaries.

Once you’re clear on when you will and won’t be working, you need to let the other people in your circle know. In my business, those are my teammates, my clients, and my friends/family.

For my team, I give them a detailed view of my holiday calendar, including when I’ll be semi-available and totally unavailable. That way, they know when I’m around to answer questions, shoot off a quick email, or help them finish a project. And because I am a self care coach, I use this as an opportunity to remind my team to set their own boundaries during the holidays. Rest is a necessary, money making activity for me and everyone else who keeps my business strong.

For my clients, I usually send a quick email before the height of the holidays letting them know when I will and won’t be working. Here’s my trick, though: my “light” work days are “zero” work days in my clients’ eyes. That way, there’s no pressure on my end to answer an email or take a last-minute meeting if I don’t have the time or energy (which, let’s be honest, are in short supply during the holiday season). 

For my family and friends, I might give them a gentle reminder that my work and holiday schedule looks different from theirs. Your mom might assume you have every weekend off and book a big family gathering, only to get frustrated when you can’t show because Saturdays are your busiest workdays. Your out-of-town friends might be sad they missed you during their short stay, totally unaware you were available for brunch on a weekday morning. While you might be used to your nontraditional schedule, your friends and family probably aren’t, so a kind reminder when making plans can go a long way.

Set up systems to keep your business on track.

It’s much easier to step away from your business when you know it can survive without you. That’s why creating systems and automations is vital to improving your work-life balance during the holidays and beyond.

When I help my clients improve their work routines, we usually focus on systems that…

  • Automate client communication, like email templates and scheduling links.

  • Help you get paid on time, like automatic invoicing software and bank transfers.

  • Keep your marketing consistent, like batching content well in advance of your time off.

With these systems in place, you can cozy up on the couch or travel to see your family without worrying about your business. When you set up the proper systems, your business can pretty much run in the background while you take a much-deserved break.

During the Holidays

The gifts are wrapped, the eggnog is chilled, and it’s time to celebrate! To avoid unnecessary stress during the height of the holiday season…

Take a few phone-free days.

Yep, you read that right. Your holiday plan should include spending time away from your phone and fully immersed in the present moment.

Not only is time away from your phone great for your mental health, but it also makes it that much harder to break your own rules about working on your days off. (Ever checked your email while scrolling Instagram late at night? That’s what I thought.) By scheduling time away from your devices, you set yourself up for a more restful holiday season.

So plan a few device-free days. Put your phone on “do not disturb” in the other room. Check out a book from the library, try a new cookie recipe, or invite your friends out to sip hot cocoa and look at the lights. You deserve it!

Avoid work-related conversations.

If your family is anything like mine, everyone has an opinion about your entrepreneurial choices. As if work talk at the dinner table wasn’t uncomfortable enough, owning your own business adds an extra layer of weirdness. 

The best tactic? Avoidance. If someone brings up your business and you don’t really want to talk about it, kindly shut them down and change the subject.

“Yeah, I’m as busy as ever! How’s your job, Uncle Rick?”

“Work? It’s Christmas! Who wants to talk about work?!”

“You know, just living the dream! Speaking of, tell me about your Florida trip!”

Part of creating a better work-life balance during the holidays is keeping your work and your life separate to a healthy degree. Don’t be afraid to protect your energy and your mental rest!

Keep your boundaries.

Setting boundaries is much easier than keeping them. Once you’ve created your own “rules” for balancing work and life during the holidays, stick to them. Make a commitment to spend time away from your business and enjoy your favorite parts of the holiday season. It only comes once a year!

After the Holidays

Oh, the post-Christmas slump. When all the festivities are over and your holiday break is coming to an end…

Give yourself a buffer.

Taking down the tree and lights is depressing, but you know what’s even worse? Dragging yourself to your desk when you’re still hungover on eggnog and social interaction.

Ease into it, would you? Give yourself a day or two between your final holiday event and your first day back to work. Spend those days recovering from the festivities, taking down your decorations, and getting back into the “work” mindset. The holidays are great at throwing us off our regular routines, and it might take a bit to get back into the swing of things.

Set new goals.

With the end of the holidays comes the start of a brand new year. It’s time for a refresh!

When you’re ready to jump back into work, spend some time planning for the new year, setting goals, and creating new boundaries in your business.

What did the holidays teach you about how you run your business? Did you realize you need more time off? Stronger boundaries? Outside support? Maybe you really enjoyed starting non-work projects, like hand making gifts or baking cookies. Invite those habits and hobbies into the new year, and leave whatever didn’t align for you in the past.

Practice gratitude.

It’s easy to rush back into work without reflecting on your time off. But rest is great for your body, mind, and yes, even your business. Practice gratitude for the time you got to spend with your friends and family. The good vibes don’t have to end on January 1!

Want to get some healthy distance from work this holiday season?

The best way to do that is to step away from your devices! My FREE “Phone Detox” Guide will help you create boundaries with your devices, break free of your phone dependence, and finally get that undistracted, intentional rest you need. Download it for free today!

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