I posted this to my work colleagues in December 2022. It was as much for me to set myself up for a break as it was for others. My 18 days until I can fully rest was something I directed at myself. Then, in February 2023 I had time off due to burnout.

Day 1 - Permission

This is the first in a series of posts leading up to the Christmas Break designed to help you get the most of your time out of the office.

I’m hearing from people all over that they are mentally tired at a level not experienced before at this time of the year. There is something beyond the normal end of year weariness. I’m wondering if it’s because Covid meant we never really ended 2020 or 2021 and so 2022 is the end of a single 3-year long year! Don’t underestimate the impact Covid has had this year either. Everyone I know who has suffered from Covid did so in 2022. It’s impacted our clients as well, and from them to us. 3 years is a significant percentage of all our lives.

So what can we do over the Christmas break to recover?

Give yourself permission to be selfish What! Selfish! Me? I’m a caring person. I don’t want to be selfish.

I’m talking about being “properly selfish”. If you don’t take care of yourself, you are less resourceful to take care of others. I’m not talking about, “The election was stolen from me selfish”.

Over the break be deliberate in what you need to take care of yourself. In the coming days I’ll put forward some idea on how to:

  • Set yourself up for the break
  • Relax your mind as well as your body
  • Start new habits (resolutions) in a way that will help them stick
  • Set yourself up for your return to work

All of these will require you to be properly selfish. It’s easy in the busyness of life to forget to take care of ourselves first so that we can take care of others.

How can I be properly selfish? The answer will differ for everyone. Here are some thoughts.

  • Be clear on what you want to achieve from your break. Write it down. Talk about it with others close to you.
  • Don’t stretch yourself too far. Have a lot of projects planned? Which are necessary? Which are realistic?
  • Plan downtime. This may involve speaking with your partner and family to set everyone’s expectations and make clear requests for time. How can you help them with their being “properly selfish”?
  • Be compassionate towards yourself. Do only what you can. If you can’t do more, that’s fine. You may find you are the only person judging you.
  • Be “properly selfish” with pride. Even shifting the needle a little towards yourself will benefit all.
  • Have fun along the way

Day 2 - The Set up

Rush, rush, rush. Christmas is coming and everything has to be done beforehand. It can feel like you need a break just to cover the stress of preparing for your break!

Here are a few tips to help you prepare.

Be realistic in what you can achieve. The last thing you want is to eat into your break time, or be worried throughout about what you’ve not got finished. 1. List what absolutely, positively needs to be done. 2. Work towards completing your list 3. Defer everything not on the list until your return.

That all sounds simple but it does require discipline on your part.

  • Schedule time in your calendar and stick to it (discipline)
  • Ask for help if you need it (discipline and a bit of courage)
  • Negotiate more time if you need it. Depending on the nature of the work, clients are more responsive to such requests at this time of the year than any other. They are in the same situation as you. Asking for more time isn’t a case of half-assing it. It’s choosing to lead and delivering the whole experience. Not managing the reality of time pressures risks you needing to half-ass work and nobody wants that. (discipline and a bit more courage)

If I were to characterise the change in thinking needed in the lead up to a break it’s be deliberate rather than reactive.

Get this right and all you’ll have to deal with over Christmas are annoying relatives.

Day 3 - Habit

Do you have your New Year’s Resolutions ready? Are you planning on start a new habit over the break?

Here are some tips to help you develop a new habit. You can also use them to break a habit by replacing it with a new one.

Habits take time It takes at least 30 days for a habit to embed itself to the point where you no longer think about it. That’s a lot of points where your best efforts can go astray so you need to protect that time somehow.

Habits build habits The best way to build a habit is to attach it to an already existing habit.

I meditate for 30 minutes every weekday morning because I have attached the meditation habit to my teeth-cleaning habit. As soon as those toothy-pegs are sparkling white and minty, I grab my headphones and meditate.

From the time I get up, to the time I start the day’s work it’s all habit.

  • Get up
  • Shower
  • Breakfast
  • Teeth
  • Meditate
  • Dress
  • Pack bag
  • Drive to work - same route
  • Park - same or similar place
  • Walk to work
  • Set up for the day

1.5 hours of not having to make a decision at all.

There will be plenty of places throughout the day where you can insert a habit into the stream.

Coming back to work I typically don’t meditate on weekends. My routine is different so the habit doesn’t kick in.

  • Wake up
  • Watch youtube in bed
  • Breakfast
  • Shower
  • Teeth

The sequence isn’t there so the habit doesn’t fire. This is an important consideration for any habit you want to take past a Christmas break. Remember, it takes 30 days for a habit to embed itself. If you set up a new routine that will change the first day back at work… well, you can see the problem.

Be aware of the transition that is coming and adjust. Perhaps you need to set an alarm to remind you on the different days. Perhaps the habit can be set after dinner rather than in the morning.

Day 4 - Coming back to work

You’ve reached the end of your break, relax and ready for 2023 after being properly selfish and looking after yourself. What next?

Before you leave home Like preparing this week for what you needed to handle before leave, consider what you need to have complete on your break before you come back. Leaving any important personal items unfinished will likely create some regret and even resentment at having to return to the office.

Back at your desk Remember those items you’re pushing into next year now. You will want to check your calendar/schedule before going any further. Decisions you make about handling what’s come in over the break need to have an awareness of your existing commitments.

Your inbox content will have grown over the break. Give yourself some time to:

  1. Quick pass for emergency items
  2. Quick pass for spam/items you don’t need to handle
  3. Full pass for everything else.

There is a trick to items 1 and 3. It’s really easy to get caught into handling the first email, handling the second, and so on, only to find by half-way through the day you still have a long list of emails to deal with.

Use the 2-minute rule. It works like this.

  • If you can complete what’s required in under 2-minutes - do it now
  • If you don’t need to do anything, delete the email
  • If an email is reference information - file it
  • If what is required takes more than 2-minutes, use the 2-minutes to schedule it for later.

This will allow you to clear your inbox fast with proper consideration for each individual item and where it fits within the whole. You will find the rest of the day is much easier without the burden of unhandled emails hanging over you.

One last thing. Use the 2-minute rule to schedule 2-minutes at the start of your first day back to review this post.