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Work/Life Balance: 6 Steps to Survive and Thrive During the Holidays

November 20, 2017

Work/life balance is difficult to achieve normally. It’s even more difficult to achieve during the holiday season.

No matter what your religious or cultural background is, the winter months are filled with holidays. Whether you’re a Christian celebrating the birth of Christ, or a friendly atheist simply getting into the “spirit of giving” — it’s likely you have something planned with friends or family this coming month.

Even this very week, as Americans, we have holidays to celebrate. Whether it’s the Thanksgiving holiday or the “holidays” known as Black Friday or “the big game.” Food, family, football, and copious spending are on nearly everyone’s minds.

With all that going on, how are we supposed to focus on work?

Does having a successful career mean ignoring the holidays completely? Or, does celebrating properly mean forgoing your responsibilities?

Not at all! Work/life balance is primarily about balance. You really can do it all — you just need to adhere to the following steps:

1. Don’t Ignore the Holidays

The holidays are like hungry cats. If you try to ignore them, they’ll just meow louder (and probably claw up your thighs).

The more you try to forcefully ignore the holiday season, the more it will present itself to you. From holiday music on every radio station, to decorations in every store window, to the excitement of your friends and family as they get into the spirit.

Ignoring the holidays will ultimately make you feel frustrated and resentful. Two emotions not conducive to a happy home life (or a productive work life!).

Acknowledge the holidays.

Don’t feel guilty about getting into the spirit of the season. Decorate your home, buy presents, plan a menu, and do whatever you’ve gotta do.

Prioritize your time so that you can “steal” a few moments here and there to engage in holiday activities. Plan ahead and be realistic about the hours you can spare. If the holidays are important to you, you will find the time.

2. Keep Work at Work

Even with the holidays right around the corner, you’ll still need to get your work done. The trick to achieving a work/life balance during these months is keeping your work at work.

Stick to your work schedule, even if you work from home. Once your hours for the day are completed: you’re done.

Refrain from doing work-related tasks while you’re at home. Stay out of your work inboxes. This will be hard for you, I’m sure (it’s definitely difficult for me!); but you’ll have to trust that if your boss really needed you, he or she would call.

Once your work hours are completed, it’s time to be 100 percent present at home.

Just as you commit yourself 100 percent to your work during your work hours, you need to commit yourself fully to your home life. Don’t feel guilty. Your friends, family, and self are immensely important — they deserve your dedication.

3. Plan Ahead

If you know that there are certain days where you’ll need to leave work early — or not show up at all — then you should let your employer know as soon as possible.

This may mean that you’ll have to work overtime on days leading up to the holidays you’ve requested off. This is fine. It’s a good compromise. Just remember Step #2 and keep your work at work. Even if your hours are longer than usual, you can still leave work behind at the end of the day.

On a positive note: the overtime hours will give you more financial strength when it comes to conquering your shopping list.

4. Learn to Say “No”

This is an essential skill for maintaining a proper work/life balance.

While it might be easy to say “no” to your boss or co-workers when they try to heap extra work on you (“No thanks!”); it can be a little harder to say “no” to friends and family.

Trying to be everything to everyone will ultimately exhaust you and potentially ruin the holiday season for you.

Do you really have to bake cookies for church? Or host every holiday event? Or attend your neighbor’s son’s preschool play?

If you want to maintain your work/life balance, it’s important to pick and choose — both at home and at work. Value your time and guard it as the precious commodity it truly is.

You do NOT have to say “yes” to every opportunity that’s presented to you.

5. Don’t Expect Perfection

I’ll let you in on a secret: perfectionists hardly ever achieve work/life balance.

I have severe OCD. Before I was medicated, work/life balance was an impossible dream. Among other things, my mental illness gave me highly perfectionist tendencies. If everything wasn’t “perfect,” I’d throw a fit. (I once crumpled to the floor in a sobbing ball because my mashed potatoes were served on the right side of the plate instead of the left, where I thought they belonged).

Trying to achieve perfection for the first 29 years of my life was frustrating beyond belief. Take it from someone who knows: NOTHING will EVER be perfect.

Settle for “close enough.”

If you manage to get your house halfway decorated, but forget to vacuum… Close enough. At least half your house looks festive, and, hey, a little dust will just help build up your immune system.

If the feast you planned turns into a disaster (my father-in-law caught our oven on fire a few years ago attempting to bake an overly-large turkey!), and you have to order pizza… That’s okay. Who doesn’t love pizza? At least you and your loved ones are together.

If your weird autistic uncle (hi, Uncle Paul!) says something unintentionally rude to your new boyfriend… Let it slide. Everyone has strange family members. If your new beau is worth it, he’ll understand.

At one particularly memorable Christmas party I attended, a guest had an epileptic seizure in the kitchen, smashed his head on the hot stove as he crashed to the floor, and I was the only one sober enough to call 911. Definitely NOT perfect. However, the trauma brought everyone else closer together, made us appreciate that we were all in good health, and we were all happy to hear the next morning that the epileptic man had made a full recovery.

Use those “not perfect” moments as bonding experiences. Or, if they aren’t too serious: laughing points.

6. Keep Trying

Work/life balance means not taking yourself — or the world around you — too seriously. It means knowing that perfection will NEVER be achieved, and being okay with that.

That takes practice.

If you don’t manage to maintain a proper work/life balance this year, well, there’s always next year. Just keep trying.

Practice throughout the rest of the year by saying “no” to things you don’t have to do. Or by letting little “not perfect” things slide.

Prioritizing your time and leaving work at work are things you can do year-round.

If you continue to keep your work/life balance in mind throughout the year, by the time the holidays roll around again, you’ll be a pro!

For now: Enjoy yourself! You deserve it.

Lauren Tharp is a freelance writer and the owner of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She's a proud member of the 133T team, working as their Head Writer and Head Editor, and is dedicated to helping YOU with your business and career.