• Advice

4 tips for staying focused throughout the holiday season

November is here. Many of us are heading into the Thanksgiving season and shortly thereafter, we are greeted by Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and New Year’s Eve. These are festive times that often center around family, faith, food, and celebrations.

They are also times that may find us being pulled in many different directions as we try to participate in various social events.

Like many of you, I love this time of the year and the numerous holiday parties, galas, and fundraisers that accompany it. For many of us who are not anchored to institutions, these events become even more important because we may not have built-in colleagues with whom we socialize with on a daily basis. In turn, communal and familial gatherings often provide us with a chance to catch up, to be sociable, and to celebrate each other.

Yet, in the midst of all of this celebratory cheer, we still have to be mindful that we have businesses that need our time and attention. For this reason, staying focused at the end of the year may be difficult, but it is not impossible. Balancing your business life and your end-of-the-year social life requires some planning ahead. Here are a few, quick tips for staying focused at the end of the year.

Consider your workload before you say “Yes”

After being self-employed or freelancing for a few years, you will start to figure out your peak seasons. For event planners, photographers, tailors, and other service-oriented or seasonal fields, late October to early January may be one of the busiest and most profitable timeframes of the entire calendar year.

Based upon prior years’ productivity and time constraints, most of us can project our end-of-the-year workload. This comes in handy when the tidal wave of end-of-the-year celebrations surges and we still need to stay focused.

Even if it is just an educated guess, use your own litmus stick to determine just how much socializing you can do. Whereas some people may be uber busy, others may find that things calm down and the workload is relatively light. Whereas some people can be more sociable and able to go out more, others may find that their workload is too heavy.

So, before you say “yes” to that invite, make sure that you truly can commit.

Keep a master event calendar

You probably already have a calendar that you use for scheduling purposes: Perhaps it is on your smart device, somewhere posted in your office or a combination of both.

No matter how strong your memory is, it is important to have a visual reminder of what’s going on in your life. Invitations to events tend to pick up at this time of the year. As you start to get them, or as you start to set the dates for your own events, be sure to plug the dates and times into your calendar, even if your attendance is tentative.

As you start to populate your calendar with social events, pay attention to your business project due dates and deadlines. Make sure that the addition of a few new commitments does not lead to your overcommitting, and make sure that your social calendar does not put you in a position where you are overselling and underperforming for your clients.

The best way to create a healthy balance between your business and social life is to have a clear sense of your availability and to know when to say “No.”

Bow out gracefully

As much as you might like to attend everything, you will probably have to miss something, and that is perfectly ok. Some of the invites that you receive may be obligatory, whereas others are more personal and intimate. Some events may even be work related and may provide you with an amazing opportunity to network.

Regardless of the intent, you have every right to say “no.” The key is to decline the invitation in a manner that does not burn a bridge while also keeping the door ajar for future invitations to social gatherings.

Most of the people who know you and/or who love and support you will understand if you can’t attend, especially if they understand the nuances of self-employment or freelancing. In the past when I have had work-related conflicts, I have reached out to friends to see if we could catch up for lunch, dinner, or tea at some other time.

The purpose of most social events at this time of the year is to celebrate, so even if you can’t do it in a large group setting, the person who invited you may still want to (re)connect with you in a different capacity.

Staying focused

The reality is that we all make decisions on a daily basis about what’s best for us. If not, we could easily become distracted. Staying focused, especially at this time of the year, is really about prioritizing and recognizing what is important.

Yes, there is a lot of societal, and even peer, pressure at this time of the year. At times, it may even seem like everyone is going to something or that we are missing out by not going to something. Just this morning, I received a Facebook invite to an event in December where over 200 people are interested and over 300 indicated that they were going. As tempting as it is to just click "Going," I will think it through first.

In the midst of this celebratory season, we must recognize that our need to be business-savvy and strategic cannot be placed on pause. As such, make sure that saying “yes” will not lead to more stress and that you truly can relax and enjoy the time that you have set aside for merriment and joy.

Tyra Seldon Tyra Seldon is a former English Professor turned writer, editor and small business owner. Her writing addresses the intersections of race, gender, culture and education.