Even if Christmas isn’t your thing, it is the time of year when many of us can look forward to a break from work – plus it’s dark, it’s cold and that holiday on the Costa del Sol seems like a distant dream; in short most of us are probably exhausted. So a break is around the corner and we should all profit from some time away from deadlines, targets, meetings, emails, commuting and have a moment to focus on family and friends and properly disconnect. On paper this sounds so obvious – 'make sure you disconnect and relax when you are on holiday', but in reality it is not so easy to achieve in a world where we can be contacted 24/7. So here are three simple tips to give yourself a better chance of actually allowing your brain time to rest in order to return to the office in the New Year feeling refreshed! 

  • Manage expectations: Before you go away make sure you manage expectations – tie up as many loose ends as you can before you down tools. If there are ongoing pieces of work make sure you communicate with your boss, your colleagues, or with the client to manage expectations of when the work will be picked up again (for instance by making handover notes where relevant). It’s also important to manage your own expectations – make sure you activate your ‘out of office’ and make it clear that won’t be reading emails on a regular basis. Ultimately the key point is that when you are managing expectations – be realistic and don’t over promise!
  • Disconnect: An obvious way to disconnect is to switch off your work phone – avoid the temptation to leave your phone on all the time so that you can just ‘keep on top’ of email traffic. It’s absolutely fine to have half an eye on what it will be like coming back as nobody likes to return to an inbox stuffed full of 378 emails (most of which can probably be deleted), so maybe carve out an hour every few days to review and manage your inbox but ensure that at all other times your phone / blackberry is firmly switched off and put away in a drawer! If your work and personal phone is the same device you will need to be even more disciplined – perhaps state in your out of office message that you’ll be checking emails at specific times only – and then stick to it!
  • Create down time: It’s also important to build in down time from family. Socially and culturally there is a lot of pressure at Christmas to spend ‘quality time’ with the family. We all know of course that it can be quite intense spending more time than you usually would with the in-laws so make sure you get some time out for yourself – make time for exercise, go for a walk and get some fresh air, perhaps read something you wouldn’t ordinarily read. It doesn’t really matter what the down time looks like – just do something that you love doing and don’t normally get enough time to do. It is so easy to step out of the back to back experience of office life and find that precious time at home has been filled with back to back social and family engagements – it is a good time to see them all but no down time means no rest, no recuperation and just a different kind of busyness.