Are You Stuck in the Holiday Messy Middle?

For this article by Jo Ilfeld, Executive Leadership Coach on the end of year at work the image shows a set of two arrows going in two directions

Between now and the end of the year, we are in that slog between Thanksgiving and New Year’s where everyone is either gearing up to close the year strong or starting to check out mentally. Depending on your industry, you might be wrapping up projects and tasks, or going into overdrive to close sales, meet budgets and end 2023 as strong as possible.

Where are you right now, Sharon?

Are you clear on your end-of-year path – whether that’s focusing on family and festivities or going into overdrive at work? 

Or are you like so many of my clients who find themselves in that messy middle pushing themselves at work while wishing they were enjoying more holiday time with family; motivated to keep going but not enough to make a substantial impact at work.

We’ve all been there, right? Staying busy but lacking the true drive to take the big new steps that get new results.

What’s the solution? 

My first piece of advice is to choose your year-end path. Make a clear decision about whether you’re diving into the “full-on work push” OR putting your energy into family and holiday prep. This is not to say that someone can’t prioritize work AND family, don’t get me wrong; it’s just hard, during the holiday season, to walk that same tightrope that you are usually so good at. Sometimes just making a clear choice can free you from the mental ping-ponging over what you should prioritize right now.

But wait, is there another option?

Recently, a client opted for a different route.  With the recognition that she, and her team, were tired, and that her heart wasn’t fully into work right now, we designed a third path. This involved scaling back, slashing all ‘housekeeping’ and maintenance tasks, and pushing much of that to the new year. Instead, she’s dedicating her precious work energy to one big goal that could move the needle for her. For my client, it was prioritizing the most important client relationships while delaying reports and “business-as-usual” proactive client follow-up.

What about you? If you pulled back on some of those check-box items and instead put your focus on one essential undertaking, what could that be? What would truly move the needle for your team and your org?

Personally, I love this third path because it can have the motivating effect of a work sprint. For those unfamiliar with work sprints, it’s a focused effort to tackle one crucial task. The whole team digs in together to solve this problem, often breaking out for individual work and then coming together to share insights and work before breaking off again. Sprints are effective because they focus the whole team’s attention on solving one high-impact problem.  Picking a narrower “one big thing” focus for your end-of-year-path might similarly motivate you and your team for the hours you are at work, while keeping your nights and weekends free for holiday prep and festivities.

This holiday season I’m looking forward to time with my college kids as they return home, lazy nights with my doggies reading a book, and social time with friends. And I’m doing a sprint of my own as I focus on preparing to launch a big new project in January 2024. 

Whatever you decide, I urge you right now to stop, take a few deep breaths, and make your choice for this holiday season.

More lessons from the holidays here.

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Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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