Nina Spencer

12 Strategies for Getting Through the 12 Days Before The Holidays:

Deep in December it's nice to remember...

Ahhh December. It's here yet again and speeding right along! Normally, as you know, I share only my own pearls of "Working Wisdom" with you, dear reader, but this particular month it's my heart's desire to bring you a "half-and-half" edition of "Working Wisdom", as we bring 2005 to a close and try to remember all that December means to so many faiths and cultures.

First, my regular December offering of Working Wisdom. Next, since I can't put it any better myself, please take the time to read the wisdom of Colin Moorhouse, Freelance Speechwriter and author of the informative and always witty and provocative "Fearless Files".

These last 12 days at work before the holidays can be taxing or terrific, depending on the seasonal demands of your job. For some, this is the slow season; for others, this is the crazy panic time. Regardless, it's December! Here's hoping that these 12 strategies, for the next 12 days, will help see you through to a well deserved, festive and happy break:

1. There's often a psychological hurdle to "get this and that out of the way" before the 24th. Cut yourself some slack (to keep your sanity and some semblance of good cheer) by under promising and over delivering, as much as possible; it's amazing how this approach can elevate one's credibility and reputation.

2. Decide to give at least one colleague a helping hand, wherever you can--before you're asked. Recently one of my clients lamented that she's incredibly overworked at this time of year while, because of the nature of their duties, other colleagues are caught up and secretly playing solitaire on their computers! Are you that person...so caught up that you've got time to "kill" and spare? If so, ask yourself, "What extra mile can I go for this colleague or that customer? How can I help out...even the crabby or disagreeable ones?"

3. Nurture a couple of special workplace friendships. You spend more time at work than at home, so it seems. Isn't it nice to have at least one "safe" person at work with whom to speak...about the good, the bad and the down right workplace ugly? One who really understands your workplace's ups and downs and all arounds? Who are your "safe" workplace colleagues? We all need at least one. Take a moment to stop by and say "thanks."

4. Share your thoughts of admiration with a person you admire. Make a list of colleagues whose work and style you've always admired...and then tell them. Make these working days before Christmas your "mushy" excuse for sharing what's in your admiring heart, and rarely said, during the other 11 months of the year.

5. Patch things up. What office relationship between you and another is mildly or seriously fractured? After all this time, does it really matter who was at fault to begn with? Use the excuse of this season to do what you can to mend your fences. "The Wood Stove" story illustrates this suggestion nicely: a man goes for a late afternoon walk in the winter woods. Without warning, a furious snowstorm sets in. The man has travelled too far in one direction, and couldn't possibly return home safely, that day. Luckily, he knew these woods well and found shelter in a nearby, abandoned cabin. Upon his arrival, he was thrilled to discover a tidy pile of freshly chopped wood next to an inviting pot bellied wood stove. What incredible good fortune! He scooped up a few logs, stood before the wood stove and asked, "Stove...if you give me heat, I'll give you wood". The stove scoffed, "Forget it! First you give me wood, then I'll give you heat!" And what happened to both of them for the rest of the night? They froze to death! If things are ever going to be patched up between you two, someone needs to be the first to extend the olive branch. Let it be you.

6.See how green your own workplace grass is. Too many people pine over what else they might be doing if it wasn't for "this job", or think that another's position or profession is more exciting and interesting, or makes more of a life changing and profound contribution, than theirs. December is a good time of year to take stock and see what good value there is in whatever job you currently perform. The truth is...your contribution/your job is an important part of your organization's overall success, otherwise, in these budget conscious days your job wouldn't exist at all!

7. Decide now on at least two professional development goals for the New Year. Seriously contemplate your career path; if you want professional growth, start looking within your own organization. What secondments can you pursue in your own branch, division or regional office? to what special projects can you volunteer or contribute? what newly created position can you propose for yourself? Take a chance. What's one thing that you dream of doing, either professionally or personally, but are afraid to pursue, not out of physical danger, but out of fear of embarrassment or failure? Try getting out there on some of those "skinny branches" by taking a preliminary and do-able today" step in the direction of your dreams, before Christmas if possible, or at least during the month of January.

8. Do your part to keep the peace on your team, and with your clients/customers. Decide to have your brain three seconds ahead of your mouth. Bite your tongue over petty disagreements. Before you "go there" with a nasty retort or sarcastic comment, ask yourself, "Is this a preference or a value". Fight for your values. Let go of at least some of your preferences. This strategy will save much of your daily energy for workplace challenges that really matter to you and increase team harmony, too!

9. Accept a little more. Don't judge colleagues, today, by what you used to know about them "back then". People do sometimes change and evolve. You have...over the years, haven't you? Think back to the way you were in the workplace ten or twelve years ago. Haven't you developed greater wisdom from your intervening years of experience? Doesn't that wisdom show up in how you now deal with day-to-day relationships and challenges? Maybe it's true for the "other guy", too.

10. Think quicker, talk slower. Along with practicing the skill of the brain being three seconds ahead of your mouth, learn the skill of thinking creatively and quickly. Take a creative thinking, or "thinking on your feet" workshop, or read some books on this topic. Edward Dubono's books on creative and lateral thinking are always a terrific place to start. In fact, you can have some fun practicing lateral thinking right here and now:

Words, and the ideas and images that go along with them, can change, eg. depending on whether the word is a prefix or suffix, and also because the English language is full of "tricks"...remember homonyms (words that sound the same but are spelled differently)?

Try this brief lateral thinking challenge: eg. trunk, family, house all have the word tree in common. Try the following for yourself (answers at the end of this article):

  1. place, book, week, ____________
  2. fracture, leave, management, ____________
  3. gossip, party, hours, ____________
  4. around, spree, Christmas, ____________
  5. hour, day, New Year, ____________

11. Consciously smile when picking up the phone. Warm things up by ensuring a smile can be heard in your telephone voice. Perhaps even change your live and recorded telephone greeting words/script for the balance of this month. Callers will hear your smile--it will get each and every one of your connections off to a warmer start.

12. Get inspired to take action on Colin Moorhouse's article which follows at the end of this article.

The holidays are a good time to help people--colleagues, clients and others--to forget the past with a present. Perhaps giving the "present" of demonstrating any or all of these "Twelve working days before..." strategies is all you really have to give after all.

My December holiday, dear reader, is Christmas, and so, once again, I offer you the age old prayer of Peace on Earth and Goodwill towards one another, at work and beyond...especially now, given the ongoing state of our world. Whatever holiday you embrace near year's end--Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa or merely the Winter Solstice--may you give and receive the best that human spirit has to offer, each day, at work and elsewhere, for the balance of 2005 and throughout the coming year. My very best wishes to you and yours.

P. S. I'll be back to my "regularly scheduled program" of workplace focused "Working Wisdom" articles in January, 2006, at which time I'll also be heralding the news of the imminent release of my first book, "Getting Passion Out of Your Profession: How to keep loving your living...come what may". Stay tuned!

Answers to Strategy 10:

  1. "work",
  2. "stress",
  3. "office"
  4. "shopping"
  5. "happy"

From the "Fearless Files" of Colin Moorhouse, Freelance Speechwriter (Week of December 5, 2005) On the 12th Day of Christmas My True Love Might Give to Me...

2 ducks - or maybe 2 hens and a rooster or maybe 40 bunnies! Well not to me directly - but on my behalf to those who really need them - via World Vision.

No matter how you slice it, it has been a crappy year for humanity - especially impoverished humanity. A year ago it was the terrible Tsunami that devastated a huge swath of humankind in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand.

In the intervening twelve months there have been countless hurricanes devastating the gulf port cities of the southern US, earthquakes in Pakistan, India and Iran. It is enough to make you weep with hopelessness. But it is never hopeless.

So, dry your tears. Give one less needless gift to those who have most everything anyway and give perhaps one of the aforementioned gifts to help those who have so little.

The cost of 2 hens and a rooster - $50 They will produce over 500 eggs a year. 2 ducks cost $30 and their eggs will provide a good source of protein. 2 rabbits = $35 and said rabbits will beget 40 bunnies. I don't think they keep the bunnies so if that thought makes you a little squeamish.....

You can give 10 fruits trees for $60, 2 mosquito nets for $32 or 3 warm blankets for $45.

But wait. The possibilities get better.

You can stock a medical clinic for $100. Pharmaceutical companies - yes the ones we love to hate - have agreed to multiply our $100 gift so $1,500 worth of life-saving supplies gets shipped.

Immunization can protect a child from deadly diseases like diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, polio, tetanus and tuberculosis. Immunization is a gift of life you can give to many children for just $100, and because of a contribution from the Canadian Government, your gift of $100 will translate to $500 worth of immunizations!

And so it goes. For the tiniest sacrifice on your part, you can make a huge improvement in the lives of others whose only mistake in life might have been being born in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As I say, dry your tears, buck up and give a little. You will feel so much better.

Check out World Vision's entire gift catalogue at: http://www2.worldvision.ca/gifts/app?mc=3221603