There were not many days in the year when my father, a horse trader by trade, actually took time off, but Christmas Day came pretty close. He always said that when you had responsibility for living breathing animals – sometimes upwards of 100 horses – there was no such thing as a day off.
But on Christmas morning, ideally a sunny bright wintry day in Ontario, after the chores were done at both farms, Dad would take me and my sisters and brothers (whoever happened to be old enough at the time) to my Uncle Cam and Aunt Bessie’s kitchen. Aunt Bessie was an amazing cook, the house always smelled heavenly and the treats were truly divine.
We rarely took off our snowsuits and boots. Instead, Dad would proclaim “no, no we can’t stay” and we would sit with snow melting on the newspapers on the floor as over the course of the extended visit, we peeled off layer after layer in the warm kitchen. Over the course of an hour or so, pleasant Christmas greetings were exchanged and we kids stuffed as many goodies into us as we could, we would suit up again and depart. Home to a big mid-day Christmas meal that my mother had been working on since the early hours of the morning – no day off for her either! After some opening of presents, we would be back in the barn for evening chores.
This may seem like it would barely qualify, but it is the closest I remember to my Dad actually taking time off. There might have been the odd few hours by a summer lake or nap in the chair in front of the TV, but not much real shut down and chill out time. This took its toll on him, and his family, in many ways but one of the most notable was that when he got into his older, so-called retirement years – he had no idea how to relax, pursue any interest other than work and really did not have many friends. Sad results of a life lived in which he never really lifted his head from work to see what else there might be.
Do you truly shut down and turn off over the holiday season? Today’s equivalent to my Dad’s experience might be that you take some time with the family, but you still slope off to knock off a couple of emails or sneak a peak at that report that someone sent you. While we might be able to recite the benefits of truly going to shut down mode, not just temporary “sleep” mode, we can easily slip into full on work mode particularly since it is so darn easy with the technology at our fingertips.
I am as guilty as the next person of being a slave to my iPhone. Plus I love the work I do so it does not feel like a hardship to pickup a file and do some work after a bit of down time. But if you never completely shut it off, work permeates your life and after a while you can’t really tell the difference between on and off.
So here’s how I am truly going to OFF over the holidays – might be something in here that resonates with you:
1. From electronic hearth to wood-fired hearth – NO electronic devices will pass before my eyes each day of the holidays (Dec 24-Jan 2) – except for a designated half hour in the morning to ensure my world has not fallen apart (like that is going to happen!). Instead, the wood-fired hearth will occupy my time with a book – a REAL book! – in hand. Love my Kindle but it is an electronic device – back to the paper pages!
2. Take that snow suit off and stay awhile! – I will fully commit to time with family and friends. I will not be partway in the door or dashing from place to place. Emphasis on quality of time, not quantity.
3. Reflection qualifies as down time – there is never enough time in our day to day lives for true reflection, so I am going to set aside time for that. No forms, no self-help books, just quiet reflection on where my life is going and what I want out of 2016.
4. Someone else’s desperation is not my desperation – I knew someone who worked for a CEO who would go in to the office every Christmas Day and fire off a fax (in the days of) to his senior team. Some team members would actually see it and respond – all so they could demonstrate that their commitment was so great, they would even respond on Christmas! Someone else’s desperate need to prove how busy and important they are is not mine.
5. My down time has equal or greater value than my work time – I know I will be happier, more productive and prosperous in the ways that I want to be prosperous if I turn off, shut down and chill out.
Happy Holidays everyone and here’s to a great 2016!
PS – watch for announcements of new workshops in my January newsletter! Partnering with some great folks to deliver a Designing Your Third Chapter workshop in BC, Alberta and Ontario! More soon!