Though the bulk of the holiday madness is behind us, many leaders are still in need of a vacation, or maybe a vacation from their vacation. If you're a CEO, an executive, or anyone leading a high-impact team, the holidays can be stressful as your projects and problems from the past year converge with your need to prepare for the year ahead. Top that with the worthwhile but acute stressors of family time, holiday event planning, and gift-buying, and you have a recipe for a rocky end to the year.

The lack of ability to relax and recoup during the holidays can spell bad news for leaders, as the energy you have going into the new year will only wane as time goes on. If you're already out of steam, your ability to motivate your team and make sharp decisions will worsen, and it will be a challenge to climb out of that funk in the busiest parts of the year. If the most recent holidays weren't restful and you're still not up to speed at work, here's how to tackle your stress level going into the new year.

Focus On What's On Your Plate Now

If there are large challenges looming over your head and keeping you from looking forward to 2019, now is the time to tackle them.  It's tempting to look ahead or to feel guilty diverting your attention from friends and family at this time of the year, but if a work-related issue is taking up half of your brain, your attention is already divided. In order to move forward, you need to get the highest-impact tasks for 2018 out of the way.

Make a to-do list ranked by priority. The best-case scenario is that everything on the list is entirely within your control, but if some of it involves others on your team who are in and out of the office for the holidays, do your part and set a due date in early January to have the matter resolved. To give your future self a leg-up, set a deadline for big projects in 2019 well before the holidays to avoid running down to the wire again.

Plan Quality Personal Time

Once the biggest distractions from work are off the table, steer clear of career-related activities until you've had a chance to rest with family, friends, or even by yourself. Turn on your out-of-office notification for once and feel the relief of not having to constantly check and respond to email. Short trips out of town or time spent at home give your brain distance from work to take stock of your life, personally and professionally. They also allow time for you to enjoy hobbies that keep your brain active in positive ways and exercise your all-important creativity.

The key to truly enjoying your vacation time is to let go of expectations and pressure on yourself to balance work and personal time perfectly. Once you've completed your most pressing work, no matter how long it took, put it out of your mind and focus on time specifically with your loved ones and for taking care of yourself. It's the quality of the time, not the quantity, that makes an impact.

Look Forward With Fresh Eyes

Planning for the future is far more enjoyable when the work of the past is done and you feel up-to-date with your family, friends, and yourself. Once you've wrapped up 2018 and taken a breather away from work, it's time to vision-plan. What do you want for your company in the coming year? Were there mistakes you made last year that you want to nip in the bud early this year? How are you going to communicate your vision to your team? Take time at home or in your office to answer these questions and create a big-picture, but precise plan for 2019.

Even if holidays were more stressful than cheerful, you can still finish strong for the year. Stay focused on what's most critical, at work and at home, and you'll be able to start 2019 with a clear head and plenty of energy.

Published on: Dec 28, 2018