This was the start of a chapter in The Finishing School that didn’t make the final cut. Enjoy!
So last Christmas season was bonkers, y’all. We had more orders than I could have ever imagined. A fact to which I am not here to complain about. But I was so not prepared for it. For about two weeks, my routine was wake up at 5 AM, package journals till Vivi woke up at 8, create shipping labels and package orders all day in between taking care of Vivi, hit up Post Office before it closed, then pick up more journals from the printer, go home and take care of Vivi till bedtime, scarf a quick dinner my husband prepared and package journals till 11 PM.
My body was physically so exhausted, but I just couldn’t lay down for even a second. I couldn’t stop working or it wouldn’t get done. Then there was my mind. The mental exhaustion of trying to do more than my mind could handle has me so frazzled and probably little good to anyone. And my poor heart. I put so much stress on myself to get these gifts out in time for Christmas. I had to have a heart to heart with myself constantly that if someone doesn’t get their gifts in time for Christmas, the world would not end. It’s no reason to end up on stress meds or worse.
All I longed for was cooking in my kitchen. This should have been a red flag that I had indeed reached my breaking point. I don’t cook, nor am I good at it. And I’m not being all cute and humble. You can ask my husband.
I have had my fair share of busy seasons over the last few years. As a wedding planner, Spring and Fall, the best weather months in Louisiana, it always got a little hairy. With stationery, any time I designed a new collection, the month before launch was def com 12. And with the journals now, gift season and trade shows, we might has well be Santa’s elves before Christmas. And inevitably EVERY busy season, I get myself sick and crash within hours of it wrapping. I think that might be the worst super power ever: being able to predict when you are going to get sick. I’d much rather the super power of just avoiding getting sick.
I hope to learn from my mistakes as I share a few key things I have learned.
First of all, the difference between busy seasons and overgrown trees is that they are for a specific period of time and not the new norm. This might be tax season for an accountant or the month of a play for a director or January for a personal trainer. A bad example is a new job that will mean chaos for the next 3-5 years. This is not a busy season.
Also, many busy seasons are simply unavoidable. Our job is not to fight it and sometimes just to make it through in one piece. Genesis 8:22 says “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” This reminds us that the back-breaking season of harvest comes as steady as the night, so we shouldn’t try to hold it off. The more we try to fight against it, the more frustrated we can become.
We need to just acknowledge that they are happening and taper back the expectations on tackling the world. Those random home projects or scrapbooking your child’s whole youth can wait a little while. If I plan to read 5 books in a month and only read 1, I will feel defeated. If I acknowledge a crazy season, and manage my expectations realistically and commit to only one book, lookee there! I’ve met my goal! Same result, but much different response.
As I write this book, I have already realized that next month as I fill out my powersheets, my goals will be simple, finish writing this book and maybe a few things that I know will be refreshing and beneficial for me in this season. I won’t go all crazy trying to be super mom or toxin free queen. And I will be much happier for it.
Remember, energy is of the utmost importance in these seasons and good, real food gives me that energy. Now is not the time to slack off as easy as it may seem. Remember that good food will keep my energy up. Taking an extra 15 minutes to make something healthy is well worth the time you will save not slothing around. I am still learning this lesson. Just today, I felt a little frantic to get some work done and instead of making my broccoli slaw salad, I scarfed down left over pizza. It just seemed soooo easy! I’m looking just as forward to the worksheet portion of this chapter as y’all are! 🙂
1. Preparation is key! I don’t care if your busy season isn’t until the end of the year, start thinking about it when you are looking at your goals and plans for the new year. You don’t have to spend a weeks worth of work time. Just use common sense. You won’t look back later thinking “Man I really wish I didn’t waste so much time preparing.” For me, this is asking myself some questions and creating a timeline for deadlines to make BEFORE the tinsel even hits Hobby Lobby, which I guess pushes my deadline up to September.
2. Save a little money throughout the year to splurge during this season. The months are normally more expensive because we tend to pay a higher premium for convenience. Maybe it’s having a maid come during the busy season or buying green juices instead of making them yourself. It could be for a babysitter to help lighten the load or for a massage the week after the dust settles. These months can get expensive but if you plan for them, you don’t have the added stress of blowing the budget too! They can instead be tools you use to lighten your load and to make this season manageable.
3. Be anchored in your relationships. In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor talks about how our first instinct when our little boat is sinking, is to toss out our friends. They go before we chunk the tackle box or food. You don’t have to have hour long chats when you have a deadline but don’t bow out of every single opportunity to hang out with those people who refresh you and fill you up. I have been super bad about this in the past because I forget how much more energy I feel after a little hang out time. I always assume it will expend more energy that should be used somewhere else but if I am not being refreshed, that extra time I spent working is at a meager 30% or even less. That percentage is totally made up, but you get the idea. We simply don’t do our best work when we are stressed out of our minds and exhausted.
4. On the topic of refreshment, plan a few things that you simply enjoy doing and schedule them. Is it a hot bath after a long day? A few quiet moments reading a devotional or just staring off into space. We should try to incorporate at least of few of the activities that refresh our soul and give life to our bones. These times are when we need it most, but also when we think we can do without them.
5. Don’t let a busy season turn into a busy year. They really shouldn’t last longer than a month or two. It’s not sustainable. We can handle a little strain on life, work or relationships, but if they become the norm, it will be impossible to do so with any sense of margin.
I love to look at the analogy of seasons on a farm. I already shared one verse from Genesis that references idea of harvest and reaping. There is a time when the grounds lay barren (rest) and there are seasons where most of the work is done (harvest). This is the natural order of things. Both seasons are necessary. For me to experience the fruit of harvest, I must first allow the grounds to get fertile and rest and then I must do the hard work to reap the harvest.
I think we have to ask ourself a question of utmost importance as we enter busy seasons. What does God desire from me during this period of time? It will be easy to get distracted by the noise that fills up every space in our normal regularly scheduled day. You are maxxed out and that means no room to hear above the chatter. It will be easy to forget spending time with God or praying for His plan. Instead, we just go in survival mode and we might even subconsciously think “God will always be around. I better do this stuff first.” This can be BIG in my life. I always think there will be more time to do it later. This should be our top priority.
Being a mom is the hardest and most rewarding job. A lot of people ask how the heck I make time to read my Bible every morning. The truth is, you would not want to know me if I didn’t get that time in. It’s my sustenance especially in busy seasons. If I can remember that, I’ll manage to stay sane during busy seasons.
Original photo from SMP.