Yeah, you know it. It’s that time of year. Time for that obligatory Christmas Blog. Christmas can be a time where we reflect on the year that was. For me, honestly I feel like I’ve written enough ‘what I’ve learnt so far’ style posts: my year has been thoroughly reviewed. Freelancers, I think it’s time to unplug and enjoy Christmas.
Christmas tips and how to ‘do it’ properly aren’t new. The best known and longest lived tips for a cracking Christmas are in a well known Christmas Carol, the 12 Days of Christmas.
My feeling is this:
A partridge in a pear tree is all well and good, but how useful is it really?
This Christmas, I’m giving you a modern, practical, realistic and achievable survival guide to your scheduled break from business. As you prepare to run the gauntlet of Christmas cheer, being crammed into the same dwelling as your family – oh I mean visiting your loved ones – take heart. You can unplug, take a break from your business, enjoy Christmas, and be a Good Person at the same time.
Blurb-ology’s 12 Days of Christmas
These tips help you keep your head out of the office, especially if it’s your living room. They help you keep your eyes off your screen, and give you a Get Out of Freelance-Land card so you can, y’know, actually enjoy your break. Here we go.
On the first day of Christmas, my first tip to thee:
1. Make Christmas Social Media Free
I spent the weekend just gone social media free. It was easy, I unplugged, relaxed and engaged more with my family. It’s a weekend ritual I look forward to now. I don’t consider myself a social media addict by any stretch – I can stop whenever I like, right? When I first decided to go socials-free on the weekend, I was confronted by how twitchy I felt over those couple of days of being unplugged. Try it and see how it feels for you. Maybe more social media free time can be scheduled for the New Year.
On the second day of Christmas, my second tip to thee:
2. Set Your Out of Office
Yeah I know. This should be a no-brainer, but it took a tip from Kate Toon via The Clever Copywriting School to remind me of this one…possibly because my email enquiries aren’t running quite as hot as hers. But still. Set your out of office. Let people know their email will be safe in your inbox, to be read on [insert date]. Let them know you need a break – that you WILL be taking a break. Get onto Canva and make a graphic to advertise your Christmas hours. Before your socials blackout, post them everywhere. And then, stick to them yourself.
On the third day of Christmas, my third tip to thee (you get the picture. Continue this pattern in your head if you choose to. If not, last one promise):
3. Ditch Your Devices
Now you’ve scheduled a date for your socials blackout – or celebrating Christmas cheer. If you’re someone who carries the biz with them everywhere you go, you already know how addictive it can be. I know, I know. When you’re an entrepreneur, a lot of the time you’re the only one who’s going to get through the backlog. Christmas is a time you need to put your sanity first though. Take that break.
The next step is putting down your device: phone, tablet, whatever. Switch the sucker off. Put it in a drawer. You’ve set your out of office, advertised your holiday hours: now…. stop working.
…And keep Christmas Social Media Free
4. Don’t Clatter Keyboards
Think you’ve found a loophole? Think again! Personally, I don’t do business on my phone, and at the time of writing, I don’t own a tablet. I do all my work on a pc, and clatter most of my writing and ideas out on a clunky old keyboard. Don’t do that either. I still find myself hovering around my pc as it buzzes not as quietly as it should in the corner, waiting for it to do something. When I switch it off for the weekend, I feel free in my mind. Do it. Anything that connects you to work needs to go. You’ll probably notice a recurring theme here:
Switch. Off. And. Stop. Working. For. Christmas.
5. Write Your Ideas!
Alright, alright – slight loophole for all this mercenary anti-tech speak. A writer I am, and I realise that sometimes, the muse just comes. And she comes hard. When that happens, you need to write that stuff down. I’m allowing myself easy access to a ball-point pen and a notebook. If something comes to me I need to remember, I’ll be writing it down. Try it. Maybe you do already, but if you’re like me, you’re out of the habit of handwriting.
I’ve read somewhere handwriting is better for creative expression than clunking it out on a keyboard. It’s definitely true for me; when I write poetry, you can bet it’s by hand. So keep a pen and paper with you to record your ideas this Christmas. Find a quiet corner and let your ideas unspool in analogue onto the paper. Take a moment to notice how different it feels compared to typing. You might be surprised at the different directions your ideas sprawl out in.
[Don’t clatter key boards, ditch your devices, set your out of office: And make Christmas social media free]
6. Don’t Think Of Work
Ok I’m not going to police your thoughts. There’s just no way I have that ability – YET. Seriously, thoughts of work will enter your head. Unless it’s Inspiration of a Fab New Writing Thing you need to scribble down by hand, let it go. Work will be waiting for you the other side of your break.
7. Enjoy Family and Friends
I already know one person I’ll see this Christmas who won’t be watching the children play, or actively joining in on our conversations. Don’t be that person. Christmas can be a time of biting one’s tongue to keep the peace, and I think that’s ok. (Conversely, if if you’re doing nothing but biting your tongue, re-think that visit). I’m a fan of spirited debate and discussions, but some people just aren’t equipped for it. Draw on the things you have in common. Among other things, Christmas is at time to catch up with people – people are so very busy these days. Relax and be easily drawn into conversation, games, and human experience.
8. Drink Just Enough
As a white anglo-saxon, there’s something about the sharing of food and drink which taps far, far back into my cultural roots. Not enough to get totally maggot, mind you. From an evolutionary perspective, the imbibing of alcohol has been used for ions because it makes us feel more expansive and social. If you’re drinking over Christmas*, my top tip here is this: drink water inbetween alcoholic bevvies, and drink just enough to maintain a nice tipsy feeling. Drinking too much might lead to arguments, embarrassing admissions, declarations of love to that platonic friend, hangovers, or worse.
*Disclaimer: On a more serious note. If you know you’re a ‘mean’ drunk, have a problem with alcohol or addiction, or a history of domestic violence: there is no shame in admitting there’s no safe level of alcohol for you. Give yourself and your loved ones a merry Christmas – definitely ignore the frivolous quip above, and abstain.
9. Make Christmas Social Media Free
As freelancers, we engage on social media a lot. For work – sure, it’s necessary for businesses to have a presence online and on social media these days. For networking – I’m in a few high value groups. The team work and being able to bounce ideas off other writers is fantastic, and I wouldn’t be without them. Because Freelancing is lonely – that’s the other reason. All those hours spent at our desk, usually minus colleagues in our physical space. Social media gives us the connection and sense of belonging to a collegiate we need as humans. However, at Christmas try and hang with actual humans. Leave your online social life behind – they’ll all be there when you switch back on.
10. Take Lots of Photos
When you’re making memories, take photos. I’m talking to those who are overly conscious of how ‘un-photogenic’ they are, or anyone who finds themselves the unofficial family photographer at large: make sure you’re IN the photos. Mums – don’t just take the photos, be in them. Dads: take photos of the mums interacting with the children. This has been a steady project of mine for nearly a year. I’ve taken oodles of beautiful pictures of my children playing at the beach and around the place, but there was always someone missing: me. I’m trying to change that, and if you think you need to, Christmas is the perfect time to start.
Leave a pictorial record with YOU in it. You never know when you or other family and friends might need those photos to stoke the fires of their memories, or comfort their hearts.
11. Don’t Photoshop
Very closely related to the above tip. The normalising of Photoshop via social media is turning into a big point of annoyance for me. I’m getting ready to write a blog about it. I know through Instagram, and most other social media apps, you can ‘filter’ your photos. Quite severely, as it happens. You say filter, I say photo-shop; you say it’s all harmless fun, I disagree. I’ve seen photos of people I barely recognise – they’ve edited the images of themselves and their children so heavily, I literally can’t see them.
Capture the morning hair, the smile lines, the crinkles around your eyes: it’s you – you’ve earned them. Show the world, your children, and yourself what beauty and happiness means to you.
12. Breathe In The Magic
If you’re by yourself for Christmas, don’t do what I’ve done in another lifetime and ignore invitations to join others for Christmas. Do it. They invited you because they care. And if you know someone who might be alone this Christmas, ask them to join you. Even if it’s just for a meal. Little actions like that are HUGE. And trust me; the person will pack away your kind gesture and keep it in their pocket for a rainy day.
Comforting myths and legends of portly men in red suits aside, I firmly believe there is magic in Christmas. You just need to let yourself see it and feel it. We all work so hard these days, having time where we can stories, food, drink, laughter, song, and play, is a wonderful gift. Here in Australia we hang out in the shade, or enjoy the sun. At my place, shoes are off, my feet feel the grass, the sand, the warm earth. I take it easy, watch the children play with their new toys, enjoy chatting with my partner, engage with friends and family. Breathe in the magic and get carried away with it.
So to recap – singing voices ready?
- Breathe in the magic
- Don’t photoshop
- Take lots of photos
- Drink just enough*
- Enjoy family and friends
- Don’t think of work
- Write your ideas
- Don’t clatter keyboards
- Ditch your devices
- Set your out of office…AND
Make Your Christmas Social Media Free
As Marge Simpson said: “Sorry to repeat myself, but it’ll help you remember.” (Also a bit because I wanted the headers to be consistent with the rhythm of The 12 Days of Christmas carol.) Facebook and other social media platforms are designed to take up as much of your time and your consciousness as they can. Give Zuckerberg and his ilk the finger and unplug from your socials. You’ll be amazed at how much space in your mind there is just knowing your socials are OFF for a week or more. While you’re having your well-deserved break, be a good partner, parent, and person by being fully present. Live in the moment, just for a week or so.
Phew! That was a lot of rules. I think it’s necessary, especially these days, to remind ourselves of these no-brainers.
Thanks for the reader-love and support this year everyone. If you’re inclined to keep reading, click here and check out my other blogs; maybe book mark them for later. For this one time, I urge you to take my advice…now that you’re finished reading my blog, that is. Unplug. Be safe. Enjoy.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas from Blurb-ology.