Throughout my career, I have always enjoyed working during the week or two surrounding Christmas and New Year’s, because typically it meant no one else was in the office and I got to focus. I never questioned any deeper why that time was so valuable to me.
But in November 2012, five months after my husband had died, I was finding that pushing my way into the later part of the year was dragging my energy, concentration, motivation, and mood down to nearly a grinding halt.
I worked with a wonderful coach named Sharon Cox who uses the model of the Chinese elements as a framework for explaining work and life patterns and cycles. She suggested that it was my natural tendency to be like the fire element: passionate and inspired. But the end of the year, and especially the end of that particular year, was a naturally reflective time, and trying to fight it wasn’t working for me. She instructed me to make an inventory of things that inspired me. I wrote a list of 10 things. I’ve kept it close in Evernote and taped to my paper notebook ever since. My fiancé even refers me to it when he senses I need a pep talk.
That same pattern of diminishing energy held last year, and I tried to give myself the space to let it happen. It was still a struggle, but it was during that time that I decided to close [meta]marketer and focus my time and energy on building a business around my speaking and writing. It was a decision I could have only reached after allowing myself the luxury of clarity and reflection.
This year, I have planned my work to allow for this two-week period surrounding the holidays to be all about refocusing, reinspiring, and reenergizing.
I think it’s important to listen to your body and your energy. Pushing ourselves to achieve a specific outcome is healthy and good. Pushing ourselves because we’re not paying attention to a natural rhythm of our energy’s ebbs and flows is going to wear us down.
It’s like cell phone batteries. If you only keep topping off their charge, they start to lose capacity.The way to keep them lasting as long as possible is to let them run down completely every so often and then recharge them fully.
And I think it’s important to listen to the patterns of your business, too. Some businesses are cyclical by nature, like retail, or taxes. But in others, the patterns of your business may be determined by your own energy as its leader. Taking time to wind down and wind back up can mean the difference between a January that feels like a slog and a January that feels like a fresh start full of opportunity.
Today’s the start of two weeks where, unless you work in retail or another peak-season industry, people will be more forgiving if you don’t return calls or emails right away. You can cut yourself some slack and spend some time reflecting on your year, and thinking about the year ahead, asking yourself questions such as:
What went well?
What didn’t go well?
What do you want this next year to be about?
What is your mission?
How will you accomplish it?
I wish you the time for some thoughtful reflection, I wish you clarity, and I wish you the courage to act on the truths you might find when you let yourself sit quietly with your thoughts. That clarity, that courage, those truths are all what is going to charge you back up bigger and better than ever.