We are not even a full week into December and already a number of my clients have expressed regret over being too busy to thoroughly enjoy the season with friends and family. When was the last time you actually enjoyed the month of December and all of its festivities? Perhaps it's time to give up the internal struggle and consider a few workable solutions instead. It's time to slow down and allow your friends and family the opportunity to enjoy your good company during this beautiful season.
If this concept strikes you as impossible, consider the facts. The sheer guilt and disappointment of missing out on the joys of the season only add to the stress of running a business. You already have enough stress and, in the long run, this added stress will very possibly make you a less effective business owner. It may also lead to more serious issues.
Medical studies consistently show that the benefits of taking time off are too many and too critical to ignore. Vacations are proven to reduce stress, lessen the odds of heart disease, decrease or eliminate depressive tendencies, and increase productivity. The largest and longest-running study of cardiovascular disease, the Framingham Heart Study, revealed that men who didn't take a vacation for several years were 30 percent more likely to have heart attacks compared to men who did take time off. And women who took a vacation only once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack compared to those who vacationed at least twice a year. Your business means everything to you, but is it worth taking this kind of risk for?
Here are some insights and ideas that I hope will support you in making this a truly magical season for you and yours.
If it's not urgent, don't do it--yet.
If you are pressuring yourself to get your long list of tasks completed, get real about it. Is your task list ever complete? Of course not. Are there things that have been on your list for more than a week or two? Ask yourself in all honesty if these things can't wait a few weeks longer. View each item and assess whether or not it will immediately impact the bottom life if it does or does not get done right now. What are the true consequences of delaying this action? When appropriate, shelf the task until January. Another option is to outsource what you can, or delegate to an employee. That's right, loosen up the reins a bit. You may be surprised by the positive results.
Let it coast.
Unless you must remain highly engaged in your business because this is your money-making season, give yourself permission to put it in coast-mode through December. This idea may be highly counter-intuitive to your entrepreneurial brain; however, your business is likely to remain in its current state with or without you. Your children, on the other hand, will continue to grow with or without you, and that is not something you want to miss--especially during the holidays.
Resist the temptation to work when you're "doing nothing".
Imagine lying on the sofa with a good book, or guiltlessly enjoying a movie marathon with your children or a friend. It may feel as though you're doing nothing, but in fact these experiences renew your body, brain, and emotional spirit. I've had clients proudly boast that they got some work done on Christmas Day because the kids were busy playing with their new toys. Think twice before you make these decisions, your presence and attention do make a difference to those you love.
If you're running from something, fix it.
Let's face it, many people don't like the commercial aspect of the holidays. If you are amongst them, consider that you may be using your work to put off shopping, or whatever aspect of the season you most dread. Why not break tradition and make this a time to enjoy? I recently read a touching story about a woman whose big-hearted husband wanted for nothing. She gave up stressing over the annual search for the perfect gift and instead performed a generous act of kindness for a local cause. Each year she placed a plain white envelope on the tree describing the contribution made in her husband's name. It touched him deeply and became the family tradition that everyone looked forward to the most. Be brave, shake it up a bit this year. How can you reduce, or eliminate, what you dread the most?
Tell everyone and be proud of it.
I believe that many entrepreneurs wear their exhaustion and suffering as a badge of honor, (sorry to be so blunt, but it's true). The irony here is that most entrepreneurs dream of a business that can operate without them. Tell your customers, vendors, and employees that you are slowing down for the holidays, there's no shame in it. Check on your clients now to make sure they have what they need to finish out the year. Use tools like an email responder and temporary voicemail messages to keep everyone well informed of your absence and what steps they may take for urgent matters.
Lastly, remember--you deserve this freedom. Isn't that really what it's all about?