merry christmas 3 ways leaders can destress during the holidays

3 Ways Leaders Can Destress During the Holidays

  1. April 4th, 2014  | 

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Published in Strategic Planning

This post was first published in 2014, and is being re-posted due to popular response at the time.

It’s a busy time of year.

If your fiscal year ends Dec. 31, it’s an especially busy time of year.

You’re pushing client projects across the finish line. Completing performance reviews with employees. Finalizing plans and budgets for the upcoming year.

And here come the holidays to ladle an extra dollop of craziness onto your over-scheduled calendar.

The leaders of companies I work with are not running what I call “lifestyle businesses” where the business is being milked by the owners, partners or a handful of leaders in order to dole out lots of cash and cool perks for the few.

No, the leaders I work with are committed to growing their businesses. They want to create jobs for lots of people. They are working on leaving a legacy of significance. And they are pouring everything they’ve got into making their business a success.

The mistake these successful leaders must avoid is working so hard there’s little time or energy to enjoy what they’ve achieved.

And this risk is amplified during the holidays when the pressures of the business can be greater than at any other time of the year, the opportunities outside business hours are more plentiful than ever and time seems to be in shorter supply than usual.

Jingle Bells, Business and You

There’s a reason airlines tell passengers, “In the event of an emergency, first put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.” You can’t help others if you’re incapacitated.

Leaders must also take care of themselves.

Here are three steps you can take to make your holiday season a little less crazy and a lot more enjoyable:

1. Make a Personal Plan

Allocate two hours of quiet time (yes, I know this is time you don’t have) to think critically about what you want to be celebrating at year-end in three key areas of your life: business, family, and personal.

What are the three or four most important business priorities you want to accomplish in the remaining days of the year? Your team should already know these priorities are critical factors for the company finishing the year strong. Estimate the number of hours you will invest in these priorities. How much of your time will be spent working directly on these priorities? How much time ensuring the work being done is meeting your expectations? Write down the hours. This is the start of your time budget.

Next, think about how much of your time you expect to allocate to entertaining clients during the holidays, to holiday parties, shopping, and spending time away from the business? Write down those hours. Leaders require stamina and recreation too, so now is not the time to shirk exercise or your vacation plans. If you think you can perform well without taking a break, you are certainly mistaken. Little personal time vacationing with family, and trying some out-of-the-box activities like scuba diving or Kai Kanani Sailing, for instance, might help you get back to your professional routine better. So, write down that time and vacation commitment too.

Now add up your hours. Are you over-scheduled? Probably. Decide where you will cut back (see Item #2 below). The simple act of writing down your priorities and your time commitments will bring these activities and your schedule into sharper focus. A written plan also means you can be more intentional about spending time where it matters most. That’s a big benefit of planning. Now it is time to hold yourself accountable to your plan.

2. Give Your Direct Reports All They Can Handle

Delegating some of the work on your plate assumes you’ve hired good people, given them the tools they need to succeed, been very clear about your expectations and are now willing to let go. It’s the last part that gives some leaders trouble. Yes, you likely can accomplish some of the tasks you’re delegating better or differently. That’s not the point. Until you begin turning loose certain activities and trusting your key executives to develop their own solutions within boundaries you’ve set for them, your ability to make time for yourself, while continuing to grow your company, will be directly proportional to the amount of work you can personally oversee.

Don’t think of delegation as giving up control. Think of it as giving yourself a Christmas present of time…and giving a present to your key execs who are eager to show you they can handle more responsibility.

3. Embrace the Season

The leaders I work with have been working diligently all year to position their companies to achieve year-end objectives. Yes, the holidays are a busy time because of the final push to close out the year. It’s also a great time for personal reflection and to re-energize yourself.

Every year at this time I encourage the leaders I work with to complete a document called “Reflections & Outlook.” These successful leaders tell me repeatedly that completing the document is one of the most significant things they do all year. The document can be downloaded for free at Take time to enjoy the special occasions, traditions and celebrations. And take time for yourself.

Take care of yourself so you can fully appreciate all the experiences the holiday season offers.

Ho, ho, ho!

About the Author: Greg Bustin advises some of the world’s most admired companies and leaders, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of companies in a range of industries. He’s facilitated more than 250 strategic planning sessions, he’s delivered more than 600 keynotes and workshops on every continent except Antarctica, and he coaches leaders who are inspired to take their career to the next level. His fourth leadership book— Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture (McGraw-Hill) —is a Soundview Executive Best Business Book.

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