A December survival guide from one career mum to another

I love Christmas especially the build-up. I love the way my children’s excitement builds, all the Christmas cheer in the office and I’m one of those who is not dismayed by how early trees are going up, the festive tunes are playing on the radio and the talk starts. What I do dismay at, is the power Christmas has in causing chaos and disruption to my flow at work and at home. It can be the recipe for overwhelm.

It’s not just the at-home activities which increase with a diary full of shows, social gatherings, tree ceremonies, lights up, sing ups and gingerbread house making (whoever came up with that one as something we can all do at home thank you!). I find that pre-Christmas is one of my busiest periods at work for projects, new business, creativity and completion. So, although we talk about quality time with children, friends and family being key at Christmas, I also believe that maintaining quality at work should also be a priority. However, that’s when the battles begin. if we want to continue functioning effectively at work and at home in December, to have some level of control, it means managing the Inner gremlins and pure exhaustion which burst to the top whenever we put ourselves into a situation where comparison, perfectionism, and juggling come in abundance. Rather than the season of joy, it can quite easily become the season of agony.

So, here are 7 strategies I adopt to survive December, to manage wellbeing, quality performance at work and at home plus enjoy the festive season (something which us mums all too often forget is as important for us as well as for others)

YOUR INFERIOR COMPLEX

Any form of comparison puts unnecessary pressure and expectations on yourself so it has to be the first thing to get in control. You may have this in control all year round but Christmas can send the crazy comparison saboteur tendencies into overload. Costumes, how many festive lunches or nights out you have in the diary, what family treats you’ve booked in the run-up to the big day, when your tree goes up, having all presents done and wrapped, business travel AND nativity show achieved – are just a few I know us mums will have one eye on this season in comparison to others. Make a promise to yourself that you will judge yourself only based on what you believe to be achievable and acceptable and not what you see (or think!) others are doing.

BE SELECTIVE AND DELEGATE

Personally, I would rather see the children singing and visiting Santa than watching them fighting over who is going to stick what where on the gingerbread house. So, be selective on what you actually want to do and understand you don’t have to do everything. Many of the things we initially think have to be part of the plan in the run-up to Christmas can often be parked, delegated or done in a less complicated or time-consuming way. It’s the same with work tasks, do you have to do everything before the Christmas break?, what can you delegate, delay or even delete from the list? Identify your priorities and maintain a rational head to keep the perfection gremlin, mummy guilt and the fear of missing out under control.

YOU HAVE TO SAY NO

All year round, many of us constantly feel a need to prove we are fully functioning and present as a parent and a career professional; always being willing and ready to stay longer, take a last minute business trip, move a deadline, attend an assembly, make rather than buy -and NO is one of our hardest words. The word Yes roles off our tongue, through gritted teeth and with panic or guilt in the belly much too easily. It’s a fear of being judged for not doing our best or being available plus the fact that we all want to please and support others.

Being able to confidently say NO rather than yes when you need to is key to survival in December. Not just to others but to yourself too. Getting hot on life and not just task priorities, deciding what your trade-offs will be, the impact and the bigger picture is important. Always take time to understand what saying yes really means by considering what you are actually saying no to. This way it becomes easier to challenge or counter requests plus put any guilt to bed.

SAY YES!

On the flip side, this is the one time of year which we really should say yes more to social and quality time. I find with the end of year exhaustion, the volume of requests, the huge work and personal to-do list, it’s easy to keep saying no to social engagements in December. Then only to look back end of the month and realise you didn’t make time to enjoy the season, to let your hair down, be social and boost the serotonin levels which you know you need to get through Christmas itself and into the New Year. Try and say yes to as many things you can which will make you personally happy and which will help you feel good. Not just the kids or the extended family. Then lead yourself effectively during the period with personal rules on indulgence!

ASK QUESTIONS

Communication is key in managing my work and home all year round but never so pivotal in December. Gathering insight and arming yourself with facts before decisions will always make things easier. Ask people what they want for Christmas rather than trying to work it out – they won’t judge you at all. If you’re asked to attend a meeting which adds travel, requires a trade-off with something else take time to ask a couple of questions to clarify purpose, requirements and flexibility. Asking questions enables an element of control in decision making and helps manage the personal gremlins. Create conversation as much as possible to manage your time, priorities and your emotions.

SCHEDULE, PLAN AND ORGANISE EVERYTHING

You wouldn’t operate a project without a plan and list, so treat December and Christmas in a similar way way. Open the diary and block time for all you have to do, create a list and don’t just check it once or twice like Santa, keep it updated and in check throughout the month. Manage the overwhelm with daily lists and celebrate the successes and completions with a Christmas treat here and there!

YOU CAN’T MULTI-TASK

Well, you can but you won’t do yourself or the task in hand any good. Juggling doesn’t mean doing things all at the same time, it doesn’t mean multi-tasking, it means getting the right things done, in the right time and the best way possible. Scheduling, saying no more often and prioritising all help with focus. The other must is to switch off electronic devices, use personal self-talk and set boundaries to keep yourself present on whatever you are doing in the moment.

I hope even if you use just one of these strategies you can bring things in line, take back control and manage overwhelm, conflicts and performance battles at work and at home so as to enjoy December.

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