My employees typically don't like to sit near me while we're all working independently. Why? When I happen to notice that they're stuck in the insatiable email vortex, I'll invariably launch into a ten-minute tirade.

The reason has to do with the importance of creating space for particular activities. If we're completely consumed in responding to email after email, we'll simply be caught in perpetuating the inbox cycle, leaving no room to get other vital projects done.

As a result, I've learned that we need to create dedicated space in our schedules for everything from answering emails to building out the next big product. These dedicated schedule blocks allow us to focus on one priority at a time and move onto the next project when time is up. This same kind of "block time" can also be extraordinarily useful when it comes to time spent with family and friends during the holidays.

Carve out designated time during the holidays

Whether you want to finish up your last-minute Christmas shopping, spend time with your grandmother, or finish up a work project before the New Year, here are some tips to achieve a better work-life balance near the end of the year:

  1. Designate blocks of time to spend with loved ones. If you can't afford the time to spend an entire day (or trip) with friends and family, create dedicated spaces in your schedule to be with them--even if for just a few hours. Treat those times just like you would an important meeting or investor pitch so that no excuses can lead to canceling or interrupting your time together. This dedicated "block time" will also help you to fully immerse and enjoy your time together, rather than being distracted and not "totally there." At the end of this quality time, you'll feel refreshed and ready to re-focus on your projects or tasks at hand.
  2. Choose moments for downtime amidst hectic activities. With so many activities pulling us in a million different directions during the holidays, it's easy to get overwhelmed and lose steam altogether. Because of this, I take short breaks away from the hustle and bustle to re-group and clear my mind. It doesn't matter where I am--in a hotel powder room, a dressing room, or a quiet café--taking five to ten minutes always helps me to refresh and go back to my activities with better focus and a renewed sense of purpose.
  3. Take "walk meetings" and calls to incorporate exercise and reduce stress build-up. It's a reasonable assumption that colleagues and employees are also feeling stressed this holiday season. Rather than remaining cooped up inside an office, invite co-workers on "walk meetings" in which you can discuss topics of importance while getting a little blood flowing to the brain. Increasing oxygen to the brain stimulates creativity, so you could even find solutions or new ideas that wouldn't have otherwise come up while looking at each other across a desk or via screen.
  4. Make resolutions based on a review of the past year's accomplishments. Take a look at what you did well and identify areas you'd like to develop. Build off of your accomplishments and extend your reach to the next level, while pinpointing how you can improve upon your weaknesses--both personally and professionally. I ask my assistant to bring to my attention the things I'd resolved to do differently, but it's also just as handy to work with a close friend or colleague to help each other stay on track.