The holidays offer us time and perspective for reflecting on our activities in both our career and personal lives. In today’s world, it is difficult, and perhaps not even desirable, to maintain a rigid separation between your work and home life. This is particularly important during the holidays;
Many of us have both business and personal (family and friends) holiday parties to attend. In fact, our business parties are likely to have friends in attendance. There are a few mistakes to avoid during this time of year with respect to these parties. First, for the business holiday party, don’t assume that because it is a party, many times with alcohol, it is OK to drink too much and act unprofessionally. Of course it is fine to have fun and even be more casual than usual. But you need to think about where to draw the line; use your judgement and consider the organizational culture. Err on the side of caution if you are not sure. I have literally seen careers derailed due to bad behavior at a party. On a related note, don’t assume that because it is an optional party that it is fine to skip it. A holiday party offers an excellent time to build relationships and develop trust with your colleagues, many times by sharing more information than you can at work. Attendance may be less optional than you think. With respect to your personal gatherings with family and friends, early in a career it is easy to feel that you are too busy at work to take the time for the family gathering. Be careful. Of course you need to be putting in the extra hours and the fact is, the more hours you are able to work (at peak performance), the faster your career will progress. On the other hand, you cannot get that time back. Be sure you consider the consequences of skipping the family gathering. All choices have consequences so it may still be the right choice for you but consider; what if time were running out for you or your family, would you make the same decision? Since time IS running out (none of us know how much time we have!), think hard about this choice.
This brings up the bigger question of balancing work and home life. This balance is never more omnipresent than during the holiday season. I believe your goal should actually be to make this balance very difficult. Not because you have too much work to do or because you have tremendous ambition and don’t want to take a minute away from your career – either of which are likely. The goal should be to have both a personal life and work life that you love! Thus, during the holidays the only complaint you should have is that you are having too much fun. This is not as hard as you might think but it requires a relentless focus on creating consistency between your values and your activities. It also requires substantial self-awareness to understand what is consistent with your fundamental likes and dislikes.
Another holiday activity that you should consider is the chance to reconnect with people. We all have many business acquaintances and colleagues that we meet over the years but rarely have a chance to interact with. The holidays offer a wonderful time to briefly catch-up with such colleagues through a short holiday note letting them know what you have been up to and expressing appreciation for your past interactions.
Another part of the balance required for an effective career is the balance between short-term and long-term activities. Many times the short-term and urgent items on our plate crowd out long-term but more important items. The holidays offer a great opportunity to examine this balance and ensure that long-term activities are not being ignored. Of course this includes the relationships you build and maintain over the years but can also involve items such as training, reading those books and articles that you have been putting off, organizing your task lists and even your cleaning up your office just to name a few.