The greatest gift.

In the UK we’re lucky enough to be given a number of public holidays over the Christmas period. This is the greatest gift of all: the gift of time. But how do we make best use of this extra time?

Dependant upon your perspective, Christmas can be a time of mass consumerism and enforced fun, or a joyful, sociable, festive celebration. Wherever you reside on this spectrum, Christmas also provides us with the time and space to reflect on the year that has passed, and align our thoughts for the year ahead. With this in mind, I thought I’d share some items that are on my to-do list this week. For all those who have watched the same Christmas movie on repeat since Saturday and already exhausted the family update conversation, hopefully you can sneak off for 30 minutes at a time to give this some thought:

  1. Collate a list of your achievements from 2018. It’s easy to look back on the past year as a blur and remember only the most recent or poignant moments. This overlooks the everyday achievements and the small wins which took disproportionate amounts of effort. It’s important to acknowledge our own achievements and take inspiration from our own productivity if only to recognise that life isn’t one long treadmill – there was joy, there was variety, there was intention. This time last year I was attempting to write 2 x 5000 word essays in 10 days (1000 words per day). Christmas Day was no exception. Roll forward 12 months and the MA is now completed. Yet it felt like fixing the broken light fitting in my lounge expended the same amount of energy, but it got done eventually. I now have LIGHT (shout out to James, the electrical genius)! These wins are definitely going on my list.

2. Get the blood pumping. 
One of my guilty pleasures during this time is the ability to train twice per day, some days. Doing both cardio and weights in the same day (different session) springboards my physical performance from its usual winter plateau and makes the return to work that little bit easier. With no commute, we’ve gained even more time! It’s not dark when we leave the house and there’s no need to pack an extensive gym kit with all the day’s supplies. A work-out has never been so easy and efficient! It may seem selfish to take this time whilst the family are all gathered, but it has such a transformative impact on mood that you’ll find amicable conversation can well exceed its lifespan post-workout. The increase in metabolism also means that you can eat even MORE turkey! Win Win!

3. Reassess your relationship with alcohol. Christmas is a time of excess, particularly with regards to alcohol. It seems that the month of December provides people with the social license to get absolutely trashed. Most days. Why? Because it’s Christmas…on December 2nd. Wherever you are on the drinking spectrum, it’s a fantastic time to re-assess our relationship with alcohol, and (discreetly) take a look at others’. How do you feel the next day after drinking? How about the day after you didn’t drink? What did you say to your boss at the Christmas party? How much did you get done the next day? How does your skin look? How do you feel about those comments that Uncle Nigel made after his 5th glass of mulled wine? Being more aware of behaviours is a great starting point for any attempt to renegotiate your relationship with alcohol in 2019. If you’re looking for a helping hand in doing this, This Naked Mind by Annie Grace is a fantastic resource.

4. Brush up your skills. This is a suggestion for those who have more time on their hands than most over Christmas. I was recently sign-posted to Coursera (kudos: Sarah), a website which provides a range of recognised courses by HEIs, including post-grad certificates and degrees. For £37 per month you can access most of the general courses. With a few consecutive days to hand, it’s the perfect opportunity to taste-test a subject/skill/course that you’ve had your eye on but haven’t wanted to commit to. It could also be a fantastic excuse to consolidate your understanding of a work-related topic that is always a source of anxiety/impostor syndrome in meetings. I find it incredibly challenging to develop these ideas during the course of the normal working week, but what better way to do it than in the comfort of my living room without the pressure of chasing the clock?

5. Finalise your 19 for 2019. I can’t claim ownership of this idea. On her podcast, ‘Happier’, author Gretchen Rubin and her sister, Elizabeth Craft, attempted to work through an 18 for 2018 list and are in the process of collating for 2019 (see episode 199: The concept here is to design a list of 19 to-dos for 2019. These can be work-related, personal, big, small, easy, hard. I’d recommend some easy-wins in there to get the momentum going. Make them fun, but also use them to frame your goals for the next year. What do you want to try out? What’s been nagging at you for a while? Where do you want to be this time next year? Instead of new year resolutions, these are achievable life tasks to add some shape and structure to the months to come. My list is still a work in progress, but I’ve kicked it off with: 1. travel to Rome, 2. learn to play squash, 3. volunteer for a women’s charity, and 4. buy new towels (glam, I know). The task of creating a 19 for 2019 list takes more thinking time than doing time, so perhaps have a ponder whilst you’re prepping the sprouts or soaking away the stress in the bath.

So there’s my five tips to make the most of the greatest gift you’ll get this Christmas: time. Be selfish – take those minutes for some me-time and contemplation. Live the next few days with purpose. Happy Holidays!

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