At this time of the rolling year I suffer most.
Jacob Marley, from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
These last days at work, before Christmas break, can be taxing or terrific, depending on the demands of your job. For some, this is slow season; for others, panic time abounds. Regardless, we’re deep in December and the year’s winding down quickly now. What can you do to protect your energy, lend a hand and make a good start for 2012?
Consider these 14 strategies to deliver yourself to a happy and peaceful holiday and satisfying new year:
1. Cut yourself some slack: 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 accepting that sometimes, “Good enough really is good enough!” As well, give at least one person a little extra help, where you can. Ask yourself, “What extra mile can I go for this colleague, that client/customer?”
2. Nurture a special workplace friendship: You probably spend more time at work than at home. 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 ugly? One who really understands your workplace’s ups and downs? Who are your “safe” workplace colleagues? We all need at least one. Take a moment to stop by and say “thanks.” If you haven’t got one, do what you can to nurture such a relationship in the new year.
3. Reserve judgment of another (especially based on the office rumour mill): Just because you “heard it through the grapevine” doesn’t make it so. Check things out for yourself. Stick up for that absent person when the rumours start flying. Declare your ears a “no rumour/no gossip zone” for the remaining days of December (and perhaps extend this declaration into the new year, too). I once heard a story about a man who observed that most people’s conversations were about others, rather than ideas or what was to be done or accomplished. To experiment with this observation, the man decided he would not talk about another for one full day, whether in praise, neutrally or unkindly, if that person was not present. His shocking and somewhat embarrassing result? He eliminated 90% of his conversations that day! Try this for yourself. I promise you, it’s a challenge.
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 those individuals. And explain why. Make these last few days of the year your “mushy” excuse for sharing what’s in your heart and rarely said during the other 11 months.
5. Patch things up: What office relationship, between you and another, is mildly or seriously fractured? After all this time, does it really matter anymore who “started it”? Use the excuse of this season to do what you can to mend your fences or at least clean up “your side of the street”. “The Woodstove” 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 woodstove. What incredible good fortune! He scooped up a few logs, stood before the woodstove 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 the rest of the night? They froze to death. If things are ever going to be patched up between you and another, someone needs to be the first to extend the olive branch. Let it be you.
6. Surrender to the magical turn around that six to nine months can bring: Be kind to yourself if you’re in a new position, however “high up” within the organization–or do the same for the other guy. New professional opportunities and career moves usually include a steep learning curve and some days and weeks where the new kid on the block feels as though they’ve duped the recruiters. Give yourself (or the other guy) at least 6 months, if not 9, to properly learn the ropes. Most of us were deficits to our teams before we became jewels in the crown.
7. Tend the grass in your own backyard: Too many people pine over what else they might be doing if it weren’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. Recognize what good value there is in whatever work you perform. Truth is…your contribution/your job is an important part of your organization’s overall success, otherwise, in these budget conscious days, your job would have already been eliminated!
8. Set two new professional development goals for 2012: 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 or division? another branch or division? To what special projects can you volunteer or contribute? What newly created position can you propose for yourself?
9. Act as if you have the best job in the whole world and love coming to work every day (even if you don’t really think this is true): Make sure it shows to colleagues and clients. If you already feel this way, this suggestion is easy! If not, adopt the old, “fake it ’til you make it” philosophy. Over time, perhaps you’ll deliver yourself to this self-fulfilling prophecy. The Zen philosophy espouses, “What you think about expands”. Maybe this will work for increasing your salary as well as your demonstrated love of work!
10. Peace on Earth is a pretty grand goal. In the meantime, do your part to increase peace on your team and with your clients and 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. Surrender at least some of your preferences. This strategy will save much of your daily energy for things that really matter and increase team harmony, too.
11. Accept a little more: Don’t judge colleagues today, by what you used to know about them back then. People often change and evolve. You have over the years–right? Think back to the way you were in the workplace ten or twelve years ago. Have you developed greater wisdom from your intervening years of experience? Does that wisdom show up in how you now deal with day-to-day relationships and challenges? Probably. Extend that benefit of doubt to others, as well.
12. Talk slowly, think quickly: 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 and then put what you’ve learned into practice.
13. Go on and take a chance: What’s one thing 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” in 2012 by taking a preliminary and do-able” step in the direction of your dream and get started on it before the end of January.
14. Spend some time alone, doing as you please: This one seems almost laughable to so many. As impossible as it seems to protect a patch of truly private time for yourself every now and then (or dare I suggest on a regular basis), do try harder for this goal in 2012. Start once you’re back from this two weeks of break (at least a break for so many, that is), by, e.g., picking a pleasant winter day to go outside for a lovely walk at lunchtime. That’s right…tear yourself away from your desk/office, etc., at least once a week and take a good long walk! Get out there! During the winter we could all use a little fresh air and all the sunshine we can find (and you can’t experience either hunkered down behind a desk or sequestered in a windowless room). Author Julia Cameron champions this idea in her book, The Artist’s Way, where she suggests we regularly take ourselves on a date. I’m suggesting you take yourself on a workday luncheon date walk once a week at the very least. Good for your body. Good for your soul. The Ancient Greeks had it right all those millennia ago: Sound body, sound mind. Give it a try.
So there you have it, dear reader…my earnestly offered suggestions for these last days of 2011 and early days of 2012. May any or all of these offerings give rise to joy, health, happiness, peace and prosperity in your days ahead.
I’ve shared fewer editions of Working Wisdom this year, owing in part to my focus on climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro at the start of 2011 and afterwards, due to focusing on the writing of my second book (still in progress, recounting my lessons learned for work and life, from climbing Kili). I intend to return to a full 12 editions of Working Wisdom in 2012. I hope you find this pleasing news and I thank-you all for your many emails and calls of enquiry as to where your Working Wisdom went in 2011. It was on a semi-hiatus and will now return!
Whether at this time of year you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan or merely the Winter Solstice, I wish you a light and glad heart and many blessings to count through the balance of this festive season and into 2012.