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Why I Won’t Work During the Holidays

Harmonie SpaldingLast Updated: December 17, 2014

We’re taking a full week off this December to celebrate the holidays. It’s a little more than what most teams take. Having this extra time made me wonder how I can make the most of it. I’m only half joking when I say I want to optimize my bliss.

Last year, some Flow users demonstrated some very interesting (and anti-holiday) tendencies: between December 27th and Sunday January 5th there was an unusual spike in completed tasks per person in Flow. This means a small group of people were sneaking away from their family eggnog chugging, snow-dampened forest hikes, and drunk uncle reining to check tasks off their work lists. Was it you?


This gave me pause, since I usually take a hard-line on holidays: I think they’re a time to relax, and that work shouldn’t get in the way.

Now ultimately, the amount you work during the holidays depends on your personality, workload, and team expectations. If you’re someone who works more than 70 hours a week on a regular basis, then you’re more likely to feel a distinct sense of accomplishment from checking in over the holidays. And that’s okay. Neil over at Quicksprout works during the holidays to keep ahead, set an example for his team, and take a deeper look at his company’s strategy and vision.

But that’s not me, and that’s not us. That’s not most people. The average person desperately needs time to relax distraction-free and recharge their batteries. We’re not the only ones who think so: it’s been proven that unplugged holidays lower stress and help reduce burnout.

Much research has been done into the benefits of time-off, it appears that the extent to which you benefit depends on:

  • how completely you detach from work,
  • the level of relaxation you enjoy during your time away, and
  • the time you spend with loved ones (source)

Detaching from work

I’m particularly interested in that first point – the importance of detaching from work.

Detaching from work means not checking in, not thinking about work stuff, and not working on company projects. It improves mood and reduces fatigue. Oh, and it doesn’t negatively affect job performance.

There’s even a direct connection between number of hours worked and ill-health. Like Sonic with shovel shoes, you can definitely run yourself into the ground by working too much.

So what helps you unplug and stay unplugged?

  • Having a heavy workload with upcoming deadlines makes it hard to detach, so try and wrap up as many commitments as you can before leaving on your last day.
  • Team norms go a long way towards feeling comfortable detaching, so make sure employees and direct reports know your expectations.
  • Connecting with friends and family will help you take your mind off work (source), so make a point of spending quality time with loved ones.
  • Having work apps on your phone makes it hard to detach (source) so hide or remove them temporarily while you’re away

So now that I know how to optimize my bliss, I’m gonna try not to worry too much about whether I’m doing it right. Happy holidays!

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