Achieving a healthy balance between work and life is a real challenge that entrepreneurs face on a daily basis. That balance, however, becomes even more difficult to find during the holidays. Between shopping, cooking, traveling, decorating, volunteering, celebrating the holidays with your loved ones and house guests, many freelancers feel that they that don’t have enough time to actually enjoy the most wonderful time of year.
In-between all of this, there are still deadlines to meet and bills that have to be paid. In other words, you still have to work no matter how busy you are right now. No wonder that 85 percent of people worry about finding the time to get everything done during the holidays. The stress can be tremendous, I get it.
If you want to reduce stress and not have your holiday ruined, here are five ways that you can actually balance work and life:
1. Set priorities
The first step in achieving work-life balance, especially during the holidays, is to understand your priorities. Start by thinking about the areas of what provides you with happiness and fulfillment. Is it spending time with family and friends? Doing meaningful work? Giving back to the community? There’s no right or wrong answer here. The questions you ask yourself are merely meant to help you focus on where you want to invest your time.
After you have determined what truly matters to you, evaluate how you spend your time. Spend just a couple of days noting what your biggest time wasters are. For example, you may notice that you’re watching too much television. Instead of binge-watching your favorite TV series, that time could be spent wrapping presents with your family, volunteering or staying ahead of your work. Whatever doesn’t align with your priorities needs to be pushed-back till everything you have to get done is done.
Keep in mind, this is not forever but only during the holidays. You don't have to decide these priorities and keep them for the rest of your life. Be gentle with yourself.
2. Cut back on commuting and traveling
We do a lot of traveling during the holidays. In fact, the average Thanksgiving long-distance trip length is 214 miles, while long-distant trips during the Christmas/New Year’s holiday are 275 miles. That’s not even including the commute to work and the trips to parties or shopping outlets.
If you can reduce the amount of time that you’re commuting and traveling you will have more time for completing assignments and enjoying your friends and family. Here are just three ways that you can achieve this goal:
Work from home. If you don’t already work from home, then ask your boss if you can have a flexible schedule for the next month. Even just just working from home two or three days a week can free-up a lot of time.
Don’t travel. Author April Masini suggests that you either limit or cancel your holiday travel. Staying home is cheaper, less-stressful, and gives you more control than flying across the country to spend the holidays with your family. Maybe think about an every other year schedule.
Online shopping. I still don’t understand why people want to fight for parking spaces and push each-other around for deals on TVs. You can do all of your holiday shopping online while in your pajamas on a Saturday morning or during your lunch-break.
3. Switch up your work hours
“During the holidays, I tend to work early mornings and evenings so I can spend the bulk of my time with my family,” says my friend Murray Newlands. “I prefer to do as much as I can in the mornings so I can spend the rest of the day and evening enjoying holiday festivities. Typically, most of my business contacts are also taking breaks during this time, so the work is much lighter.”
4. Set “off” times
Let’s be honest here. You may start being more assertive during the holidays. This means that you need to designate “on” and “off” hours. Put yourself in a "time-out." For instance, every weeknight between 6 pm and 8 pm you spend quality time with your family. Eat dinner. Decorate the house. Watch one of your favorite holiday films. Go to your child’s holiday play. Whatever you chose, add it to a calendar and stick to it. This is family time and you’re off-the-clock.
On the flipside, this means that you need to have “on” hours as well. If you work from home, then your family should know that between 9 am and 3pm you’re working. If you have an office, keep the door shut and put a "do not disturb" sign on the door. Also block out certain times, such as 8 am and 4 pm, to schedule phone calls and respond to emails. In short, create a schedule and stick to it!
To ensure that you do have off-times, designate someone to be on-call. As Lisa Chenofsky Singer of Chenofsky Singer & Associates explains to Business Insider, “Determine with your group who needs to be the point person ‘on call’ and designate that individual, rotating days. If you are in a work setting where you can’t team base the workload, then designate ‘on’ and ‘off’ connecting times''
“It is all about setting expectations,” Chenofsky Singer adds. “Say you leave the office and drive carpool -- state your off times are from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and the on times are from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. If you receive a message during the off times, let it fall into voicemail. People will respect your off times if you hold true to it. When you answer any time, you set yourself up for the 24/7 routine.”
5. If you feel a cold approaching, stop what you’re doing
Being a germophobe, I’m frightened about getting sick. Besides feeling awful, getting hit with a cold decreases my productivity and prevents me from enjoying all of the holiday festivities. While you can take measures to lessen the probability of getting sick, like eating a healthy diet, exercising and getting enough sleep, it’s inevitable that you will get ill sometime.
Instead of “toughing-it-out,” take a day-off when you feel the first signs of a cold. Stay in-bed and cancel all of your plans. It’s better to take that one day off to recoup and rest than battling a cold for a week or more because you didn’t give your body a chance to heal.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by Entrepreneur.com.ph