It’s December, 1996. I am a wife of one, mother of two, sister of five, aunt of eight, daughter, friend, volunteer, and neighbour. I own an active speaking and training business, and for the first time in over two decades, I am, once again, a student.
Having stepped into a Masters program earlier in the year, this is my first experience combining formal education with parenting, business ownership, and the demands of the holiday season.
I’ve booked seminars for nine of the first ten working days of the month. Two of these clients have a history of canceling at the last moment. I expect to be presenting only five of those days. No one cancels. I’m on for nine full days (plus travel in between).
Both daughters play soccer. In addition to the regular league play, an out of town tournament is scheduled for the first weekend in December. I go along to chaperone. I squeeze the reading for my class and the Christmas card writing around the games and room checks.
One daughter sings in a children’s choir that’s heavily booked for pre Christmas performances. This year the choirmaster invites the parents to work up a couple of songs and join in at the performances. Back in October this seemed like a good idea. Now, I find myself with evening practices and performance dates jamming my calendar.
My class work winds up mid December, but a major 30 page term paper is due one week before Christmas. I’m burning the oil – midnight and morning – reading, writing and researching.
And, of course, there’s Christmas with the decorating, the entertaining, the shopping, the wrapping, the visiting, and the expectation of peace and good will for all.
I am not exercising. I am not relaxing. I am doing nothing to care for myself.
It is my December from hell. I am exhausted. I am numb. I am a zombie. I can barely put two coherent words together. Even wishing someone ‘Merry Christmas’ is a reach. I vow to myself and all who will listen – never again! Those who suffered through that month with me are equally desperate for change.
Fast forward. My Masters work spans another two years. My business thrives. My health improves. My family continues to love me. All this is only possible because I learn from the experience and change my approach.
My December 1996 errors were two fold. I optimistically crammed too many activities a four week period. And, I sacrificed the rhythm of performance and renewal to an unsustainable nonstop go..go..go.
Here’s what changed in the months that followed.
I worked more with clients early in the booking process to help them be more certain their dates were firm. Using that approach, I booked dates on the assumption they would go forward, and followed a policy of booking only three up front days in any given week.
I completely withdrew from community volunteer activities for the remainder of the Masters program. They all survived without me.
I inquired early about each term’s major projects and papers, I reserved an entire week before each due date for class work only – no seminars, no travel.
These three changes helped me prepare more calmly for my work and do a better job for my clients. They let me enjoy the education experience instead of sidelining it to one more thing on a lengthy list.
And, they allowed me to build in regular time for renewal – to exercise, to take care of myself, to stay in touch with my own thoughts and feelings, and to connect more often with friends and family.
What I learned through it all is that we create many of our own problems and stresses. The good news is we can also set things right.
© Patricia Katz MCE CHRP of Optimus Consulting is a speaker, author and consultant who helps individuals and organizations restore the rhythm of renewal to work and life. To bring Patricia’s expertise to your organization, contact her at www.patkatz.com or toll free at (877) 728-5289.