Ah the holidays. Time to enjoy the company of family, and to hear from far-flung friends. Time to take in the beauty of winter. Time to appreciate the gifts of the season. Or, are you thinking, “Time?! I need about 10 more days on the calendar to get everything done this month. There is definitely not enough time in December!”
December is crunch time for many of us. We’re cleaning, we’re shopping, we’re wrapping, we’re decorating, we’re cooking. All to create happy memories for our loved ones.
How can we maximize our time to get everything accomplished in this busy month and still be able to enjoy the holidays? Well, it isn’t exactly time that we should be looking to maximize; it’s our energy. In the book The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working by Tony Schwartz, he highlights the cacophony of urgencies coming at us all day — e-mail, voice mail, information overload. And he identifies four energy needs:
1. Sustainability (our physical energy)
2. Security (our emotional energy)
3. Self-expression (our mental energy)
4. Significance (our spiritual energy)
Optimally we strive to move between activity and renewal in each of these dimensions. And he advises, “Our physical capacity is foundational because every other source of energy depends on it.” Yes, ladies, we’re back to self-care: nutrition, fitness and sleep.
For the first time in my professional career, self-care was actually discussed in a business meeting. I’ve been helping on a training project with the roll-out of a new software package for a large organization. At the meeting before the start of an intense five-week training cycle, our leader, April, started off the meeting not by reviewing the schedule and not by highlighting the goals of the project, but by starting with the most important point — self-care. She stressed the importance of getting enough sleep and directed all of us to eat breakfast every day in order to have the fuel to sustain us during a training day. How refreshing to have a leader who understands the critical link between self-care and performance!
Another practice encouraged in the Schwartz book was to work highly focused for 90 minutes and then take a break. So often we keep logging more and more hours when in reality, we could be more productive with more breaks. In a pilot program the author conducted with Ernst and Young during tax season, his team taught the accountants to work 90-minute segments with breaks and opportunities for renewal. Many people also started working out in the late afternoon and found they had more energy to focus when they returned to work. This allowed them to actually leave earlier in the evening and thus, also reap the benefit of more sleep. A positive energy renewal cycle instead of the typical downward spiral of a crunch time.
So, as we all enter a period of “intensity,” here are some brief thoughts for keeping those energy levels up:
Either skip the 10 p.m. shows or DVR them for later. Or better yet, keep the television off for a night or two each week.
My favorite is old-fashioned oatmeal with frozen blueberries. Or whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter. Eating a healthy breakfast has become a habit thanks to the coaching of Chris Johnson of On Target Living. (And then have a healthy snack a couple hours later.)
If you can get in a work-out, that would be ideal. However, if this is a challenge with all the extra errands after work, try walking up and down a flight of stairs 10 minutes before you leave work. Or go for a quick walk when you get home — something to get your body moving and your heart pumping.
Yes, that’s it. We have enough on our “to do” list this month, so just focus a tiny bit on the foundation of our physical health — sleep, nutrition, fitness and see if you’re able to create the energy needed to manage and enjoy this busy time of year. Happy holidays!