5 Rules for the Holidays

By Mark Bouris

I’m lucky, unlike a lot of business owners. Why? Well over the new year period I can take some time to switch off and relax. I’m cognisant that others out there in our entrepreneurial community go through their most stressful part of the year at this time.

For part of our community, switching off is not an option. When you lock up for the day, your business responsibilities don’t get locked up inside the business. Banks, government, the tax office, suppliers, customers, landlords, family, friends – they’re all constants in business. They’re the reason that Jiminy Cricket wakes you up in the middle of the night, barking in your head trying to stress you out. 

I’m not insulated from this stuff myself. 99% of my day and week is putting out bushfires and problem solving. None of this hinders me from pursuing what I set out to do. That’s not because I’ve got some mad ability to persevere or anything like that. I have no more endurance than anybody else, but intellectually I made up my mind that I will remain resilient and determined in the face of adversity. You can too. 

I attribute my ability to remain on task to structure. Daily routines. Monthly routines. Rituals and life values that I refuse to stray from… 99% of the time. 

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s time for me to let you in on what I focus on when I deviate from my rigid life structure. Whether you get to switch off and relax in the new year, or the next few weeks are full steam ahead, these are five simple strategies that you can utilise (or ignore) to get the most out of your downtime, no matter how short it is. 

1. Be Grateful

A daily habit of expressing gratitude for something in your life, no matter how simple, can go a long way to ensuring you maintain the right attitude you need for success. 

Practising gratitude is not a new phenomena. Extensive research in the field of positive psychology reveals connections between expressing gratitude habitually and increased well-being.

It’s easy to focus on the negative, on all the things you could or should have done, and all the things you don’t have. We complain, whine and blame…but when are we grateful? Well, I do this daily by counting my small wins. It’s a very minor thing, takes very little time, but I simply take a moment each night to reflect on what made me smile during the day. I bank that small win and am grateful for these when I can be. 

Start small. Build up this habit. Roster it into your day, in the shower in the morning, as you’re having your morning coffee or breakfast, as you’re getting into bed, whenever it is, and remind yourself: “today I’m grateful for…”

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2. Value Time. Personal Time.

Every morning, I set time aside for me to be by myself, away from the daily stresses and challenges, to just be alone. I view it as personal time to be at peace before the shit hits the fans, the emails flood in, and the bushfires have to start being put out. We all know that the majority of our time is spent putting out fires, so why don’t we all roster in time everyday to focus on something lighter?

For me, one of the first wins of the day is waking up early, getting to the gym, and then sitting down at my favourite cafe for my breakfast and coffee. For me breakfast is my favourite time of the day. I’ve been going to the same place for nearly 20 years. It’s post gym, they know my coffee order, they know what I like to eat, they always have the paper I want to read. For 45 minutes of the day, I’m at peace. I focus on my food and reading, removing the stressful thoughts out of my head.

You deserve time away from your work and your inbox. You deserve time away from the stressful things in life. Find that time and schedule it in.

3. Structure

You’ll notice that most of these points rely on a structure in your personal life and in your business. As dull and difficult as routine can sound, I can assure that success and routine are prerequisites for each other. 

Most people will tune out at this point, for the glaringly obvious reason that they simply don’t want to commit to something that is difficult. Unfortunately, too many businesses fail for ignoring this critical element to success, the same is true for talented people who never reach their potential. 

Structure takes discipline, which is challenging, but if only you acknowledge the irrefutable benefits: every morning I experience the reward of working out;  I know what I’m having for breakfast and what I’m wearing, taking up less mental stress each day; I know I start my mornings at breakfast keeping my mind on business. These simple mundane disciplines armour me to take on the day, they allow me to keep my mindset where it needs to be. 

When it comes to business, the systems and processes you go about each day in the business need to be routine. That’s what my Playbook for Success is all about – providing you a system to regularly review in your business to keep you accountable to your actions and promote success at any stage of your business.

4. Get Creative

If you must work through the holidays, or if you come back refreshed and full of great ideas, utilise the January period to have a hackathon. What is a hackathon? Generally speaking, hacking is creative problem solving, ergo hackathons bring people together to problem solve, to be creative and to collect ideas.  

No matter the size of your organisation or business, hackathons are a great way to engage your staff, to empower your staff, to utilise their creativity and to either solve problems within your business, or to come up with inventive strategies to test on the market. 

We did a basic guide on running a hackathon at Mentored recently.

5. Don’t take life too seriously

Don’t flatter yourself. The world keeps on moving without you.

I run myself into the ground. I work until the legs under me can’t keep me standing. When that happens, I don’t complain or break, I simply take a day out. When I’m completely shot to bits, I remind myself that no matter what, the world keeps spinning and life goes on. If you’ve set up your structure right, it shouldn’t be impossible to step away from things.

I usually try to get away to nature, somewhere with water, paddocks, forests. It’s why I bought a farm decades ago, as a place for me to escape to and to take my mind off the day to day stress of business.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gone years without getting to my farm simply because of the workload. But that hasn’t prevented me from squeezing in moments of escape into my structure. When I do, I simply remind myself to enjoy the present moment and to laugh.

Take care of yourself over the break, implement some of these basic routines, and enjoy whatever time you have away, because believe me, it will all feel like a distant memory come January. So relax, you’ve earned it.