For most people, the holiday break, usually at least a week or so, is a welcome respite from the daily grind and the perfect opportunity to spend lots of time with family and friends.
Sounds wonderful, yes?
But for business owners or entrepreneurs, extended time off can loom like a black hole of what I’ve started calling “jello brain.” Yes, we love our family and friends, good food, movies, shopping and everything else, but the brain like the body, can get a little soft with no workouts and little of the adrenaline-laced stimulation it feeds on normally.
This is different from travel, where new places to visit are exciting and stimulating. The holidays at home can become a blur of Jimmy Stewart and Frosty, endless board games, sugar, sugar, sugar, late nights turning into late mornings, and more sugar, all in the name of relaxing and resting.
Okay, I’m stretching it a bit. There is benefit in time off, and a break from the routine. A little bit of lazy can be good. But for those of us who earn our living by creative thinking and problem solving, too much of a good thing can result in struggling to even remember what we do or where we left off before the holiday break.
Yes, I pledge to play a few board games, and watch the classic movies (I’m already deep in by the 20th with Rudolph, Frosty, and Wonderful Life!). And I will, hopefully, make and eat copious amounts of gingerbread people.
But I need to return to work on January 2nd knowing where projects were left and ready to roll into a month of three board meetings, two major conferences, a new business nearing launch, as well as heading quickly towards the final weeks of our rolling 90-day plan.
Can we have it both ways? Cookies and no loss of momentum?
Yes! With a tad bit of planning and forethought, I’m determined to wake up on January 2 with a brain fully intact with these 5 things to prevent holiday “jello brain”:
- Get up at 7am. That’s about 30 minutes of sleeping in, but the sun will be up, and it will give me a few hours of time to exercise, read, and utilize my brain prior to the day’s events or anyone else being awake. (Full disclosure – it helps that my spouse is 100% committed to this with me).
- Exercise. Along with the getting up, I’m committed to the same daily hour of walking to start the day. I know I’ll fight it, but I’ll return with a clear mind and a refreshed body.
- Get outdoors more. Locking up inside under blankets with a cup of mulled wine is great on a winter evening. But using time off to get outdoors for hikes, walks and bike rides during the beautiful, sunny winter weather is energizing. The snowy weather folks have even more options with skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, and winter hikes.
- Read good stuff. I read a lot of light books during the work week to relax my brain before sleep. Here’s a chance to do some day time reading but catch up on some of the big reads I am often too tired to digest. Here’s a list I’m going to start with from Bill Gates:
Educated, by Tara Westover
Army of None, by Paul Scharre
Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou
21 Lessons for the 21st Century, by Yuval Noah Harari
The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness, by Andy Puddicombe
- Get some greens. There will be lots of gingerbread and mulled wine. But I find that getting the greens in there helps keep me feeling good, staying well, and on the right track. I’m going to stock up on easy to get green drinks and pick up a bag of frozen greens to add to a morning smoothie. Along with the slice of pie.
When everyone is around – or even when I’m the guest in someone else’s home – these things are like a sneaky little way of feeling great and even energized, while so many seem to go into a sugar coma. It even feels a little sneaky, as most of it won’t even be noticed.
Until January 2.