Over the festive season, one word jumped out at me whenever I spotted it on a card or sung it in a carol: peace.
At no time is peace more valuable than this week – the ‘dead period’ between Christmas and New Year. No other days are so sacrosanct – it’s our only oasis of calm in the whole year.
Think about it. This is the only time when the fairy lights in our homes are flashing more frantically than the incoming messages on smartphones. The guilt that we’re slacking ebbs away as email ‘out of office’ replies flood in.
Joy to the world! No one else is doing any work either.
It’s not always like this. As 24/7 and 7/7 working have become the new norm, not even our holidays abroad are sacred.
Before, it would have taken a full-on work crisis to trigger a work call when you were lying on a beach trying to reset your cortisol levels. Colleagues would think twice if they heard a foreign ring tone.
These days, with fewer of us risking going cold turkey on tech, any old banal query can jettison our brains back to the office.
That’s why we need to take advantage of this week and use it to reboot – not only ourselves but our careers too.
The mince pies may have run out and the Christmas tree may be starting to droop. But that eerie quiet descends when we can finally collectively breathe out.
So, as the only time when we can truly take stock, how can we come up with ideas (let’s drop the term ‘resolutions’) that won’t get shot to pieces by the second week in January?
I asked some top business leaders and coaches how to use this uniquely peaceful period to reboot for 2016:
Mull over your successes – and failures
You can’t look forward without looking back.
Give yourself a mini-performance review – but in the voice of a good friend, not a critical boss. Tech entrepreneur Louize Clarke of co-working space GROW@GreenPark says when women review the year; they tend to focus on what they’ve failed at, rather than what they achieved.
“Professionally, there’s a tendency for women to be caught up in a constant cycle of striving for more and proving themselves in the workplace.
“Combine this with relentless comparison culture and the enduring cult of perfectionism and it leaves little space to look at the bigger picture and identify their successes and highlights,” she told me.
Janet Prosper, HR Director atCareerBuilder UK, agrees. Before looking to the New Year, she thinks women should give themselves a pat on the back – and identify at the strengths they can build on in the coming year.
“All too often women worry about the things they have missed the mark on.
“Acknowledge any career setbacks you had and consider how to avoid them moving forward,” she explains.
“But also take time to think about what you achieved in 2015 – a promotion or pay rise – how you achieved it, the actions you took to get this recognition and how you can apply this to your career next year.”
Don’t make resolutions – take steps
Resolutions have a bad reputation. So instead pick three straight-forward steps that will take you to where you want to go.
Start-up expert Louize Clarke says: “This could be adjusting childcare to free up more time, setting a target to network with one meaningful contact a month, or putting time aside on a Sunday evening that’s dedicated to planning your week.
“These achievable, positive changes will help you feel excited and prepared for the year.”
Use this time to find out how your work makes you feel, adds John Mervyn-Smith, chief psychologist for online assessment tool The GC Index.
“When we are in work, we tend to think about what we do – rather than how we feel.
“But Christmas offers us time away from the chaos at work. As a result people are more likely to access their heart, rather than their heads.
“Stop thinking about what you are actually doing – and start focusing on what energises you instead.”
Break it down
If reviewing the whole of 2015 feels like too much? Break it down into quarters, advises career coach Sally Henderson.
“Use a traffic light system – green for great things that happened, amber for the good things and red for things that didn’t make you happy.
“This helps you break the year down and prevents you feeling overwhelmed. It also stops too much disproportionate reflection.
“It may be the recent months have been challenging so you are feeling tired, exhausted and sad, but actually great things happened earlier in the year that you have forgotten.”
Look the year through different lenses too – don’t squish everything into one box, adds Henderson, co-Founder of people strategy consultancy Pello.
“For example, break the year down across family, relationship, friends, career, creativity, adventure, and learning – whatever you want.
“This way you can see how different areas of your life are working, or not working so well, to have a more balanced view and some perspective.”
Doodle your year ahead
Ditch the lengthy list of resolutions. Doodle what you need to do instead.
Jayne Morris, author of Burnout to Brilliance: Strategies for Sustainable Success, says: “Get some paper and coloured pens, because your creative brain transcends your logical mind.
“Give yourself permission to draw, doodle or jot down thoughts without editing or trying to make it perfect.
“Then map out your future by envisioning yourself having your best year yet. Fast forward 12 months. How does your life feel different? What has gone well? What has stayed the same? What do you most need to change to make these things happen?”
Business coach Averil Leimon of White Water Group suggests: “Draw a ‘mind map’, with you in the middle and on each of the lines radiating out, one important aspect of your life – family, friends, work, writing, health.
“Then branching off each of these headings put some key words that sum up what you want for 2016.
“Scrap it if the map ends up as a ‘to do’ list. That’s not the purpose. Project yourself forward, see yourself in 2016 and walk through your ideal day.
“It will be easier to make plans because your brain has now seen our future as if it has already happened.”
Give yourself permission to breathe out
See this quiet time not as ‘bunking off’ but as a way of rewarding yourself for your work in 2015 and getting yourself ready for the year ahead.
The only person who can ultimately give yourself time-off is you.
Life coach for NHS online, Jayne Morris says: “It can be challenging to get clarity on our lives when we’re stuck in everyday ‘busy mode”.
She recommends we draw the curtains, shut out the dreary winter weather and make our homes into mini-retreats.
“Set aside a space where you can spend some uninterrupted contemplation time. Make it a sanctuary for rest and renewal.
“But by shutting the door during the festive downtime we can truly take stock, reflect, reprioritise and powerfully plan for the year ahead”.
Tanith Carey is author of Managing the Mayhem: Timesaving tips to calm the chaos, published by Crimson Publishing on April 25, 2016
This article was from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.