Slowing Down to Speed Up: Recharging During the Holiday Season
Stop and smell the cider. And delete those damn emails.
As the December chill ushers in a festive ambiance, there's a palpable shift in the air — the end of the year beckons, urging us to slow down and recharge. For many professionals, including writers, PR pros and marketers, this season offers a unique opportunity to step back, reflect, and rejuvenate.
Image co-designed with the assistance of OpenAI's DALL-E, facilitated by ChatGPT. Copyright © 2023 by Alex Greenwood. All rights reserved.
As January marks my 14th year as a PR and marketing consultant, I've noticed my business cycle often slows down (with a few stray exceptions ) towards the end of the fourth quarter—the holiday season in much of the Western world. Initially, the slowdown wasn't by choice, and it was often financially challenging.
Now, I've come to not only accept but also cherish and protect this quieter time. It's an opportunity to rest, recharge, wrap up ongoing projects, and strategize for the new year. Let's explore why you might want to consider doing the same, if possible.
The Art of Slowing Down
In our constant rush to meet deadlines and hit targets, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that productivity isn't about pushing ourselves nonstop—it's more like interval training, where rest periods are just as important as the times of activity. December, with its festive atmosphere and shorter days, serves as a subtle nudge from nature to take it easy.
To decelerate without jarring halts, I suggest easing off the accelerator rather than hitting the brakes abruptly on an icy road. It's not feasible to cease work entirely, but you can certainly navigate the twists and turns using your existing momentum. Let’s look at why you should seriously slow your roll in December.
Why Recharging Matters
1. Creativity Boost: Creative professions, like writing and marketing, thrive on fresh ideas and perspectives. A rested mind is more likely to generate innovative concepts than one bogged down by fatigue. Ever wonder why you often get your best ideas in the shower? The brain craves a change of pace and scene.
2. Improved Focus: Periods of rest can significantly enhance focus and clarity, leading to more effective strategizing and planning for the upcoming year.
3. Emotional Well-being: Taking time to unwind and enjoy the festivities improves mental health, vital for maintaining enthusiasm and motivation.
Strategies for Slowing Down
Setting Boundaries: It's crucial to have open communication with clients and colleagues regarding your availability. Clearly defined expectations about when you can respond to emails and meet project deadlines are essential. To facilitate this, I activate an automatic email responder indicating the times I'm out of the office and truly unavailable. Naturally, if you're handling crisis PR or are in the thick of a holiday campaign, you'll need to tailor this approach.
However, for non-urgent matters that can afford some delay, it's important to be upfront and adjust your actions accordingly. You might be surprised to find that your clients are also winding down and appreciating the slower pace.
Embrace the Season: Engage in holiday activities that bring joy. Whether it's decorating, baking, or spending time with loved ones, these activities can be incredibly rejuvenating. I love to cook for my family and serve as bartender at gatherings. It’s a great feeling. We also do some travel to see family and friends, but keep travels brief, low-impact and financially reasonable.
Reflect and Plan: Use this slower period for strategic thinking. Reflect on the past year's achievements and setbacks. Plan for the upcoming year with a clear, rested mind. Getting a little distance from the daily grind gives you perspective. Perspective is the coin of the realm for growing and improving your business and yourself.
Digital Detox: Consider reducing screen time. Social media and constant connectivity can add to stress. A digital detox can be surprisingly liberating. I take Dec. 26 through January 2 “off” as much as I can. While it's important to recharge, completely disconnecting might not be feasible for everyone, especially for those building platforms like podcasts or Substack (hi!) or Medium newsletters. The key is balance — maintaining a presence while ensuring you're not overextending yourself. I schedule posts in advance or share lighter, more reflective content that resonates with the season's mood.
Try it—you’ll thank me later when you find you sleep better, your blood pressure improves, and you don’t get riled up about news of the day, or worse: compare your holiday to someone else’s.
BONUS TIP: I've long embraced the tactic of 'email bankruptcy.' If your inbox has ballooned to Santa-sized proportions (meaning emails have gone unanswered for a week or two), simply mark them as read and move on. It's wise to include details of this in your holiday autoresponder message. Inform correspondents that if their issue is urgent, they should reach out again in the first week of January.
Beginning the new year with a decluttered inbox is incredibly freeing. Give it a shot—it could be a real game-changer for you!
Nurture Your Creativity: Engage in activities unrelated to your work that stimulate creativity. This could be reading, painting, or even taking leisurely walks in nature. I hike in the snow if I have to. I go to the gym five or six days a week. I do this to improve my physical health, but also to get out of the house and out of the chaos of my head. I also write fiction, which is a tremendous balm for my creative side.
The Snow Will Fall No Matter What
December's gentle pace isn't an obstacle to our productivity; it's an essential pause. As we gear up for the New Year, let's seize this chance to rest and recalibrate. It's worth remembering that to gain momentum, we often need to downshift first.
How do you unwind and recharge during the holiday season? Share your traditions and tips in the comments. Wishing everyone a restful and joyful holiday—see you next year, but probably not before then.