The Twelve Days of Christmas (2019 Remaster feat. PEP)

Partridges in a pear tree? So 18th century. We figured twelve panic-quelling pointers on the best way to navigate Christmas chaos would be a much more useful gift. Read on, then, for the twelve days of Christmas, PEP-style (singing optional):

On the first day of Christmas…

Take a breath.

It may sound counter-intuitive – but stop. Instead of taking on even more tasks, meetings and social events than usual, take a minute to consider what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how well you’re doing it. Are you letting the impending Christmas break affect the quality of your output? Because a rush job now will only slow you down later.

On the second day of Christmas…

Plan ahead.

We get it. It’s hard to think beyond surviving the family Christmas lunch/dinner/bloodbath. But scheduling time to plan specifically for Christmas deadlines will ease your work anxiety at least. Stay disciplined in order to achieve what you need to. Don’t procrastinate. Consider this: would you usually let these tasks or deadlines slide? So why is it different now?

On the third day of Christmas…

Plan ahead some more.

Now think about those first two weeks back at the office. The holiday hangover will be even more grim if you start on the back foot. So what prep work can you complete now to help kickstart your new year? The goal here is to hit the ground running. (Or at least walking briskly.)

On the fourth day of Christmas…


Nothing new here. Clarify what’s important. Remember that (sadly) what needs to be done is not necessarily what you’d like to do or what feels good to do. And stay focused: now is most definitely not the time to start new projects or take on extra tasks. It’s Christmas, not Armageddon: some things can wait.

On the fifth day of Christmas…

Be selective.

Prioritising extends beyond work, too. Face down that FOMO. Do you really need to attend every pre-Christmas social event or meeting? Commit to key invitations only. No one wants to begin their holiday on the brink of burnout.

On the sixth day of Christmas…

Communicate and delegate.

Spare a thought for those holding the fort over the Christmas break. Identify what work needs to be managed in your absence and who will be responsible for it. Is this person clear on what’s required? Are you happy to be contacted over the break if necessary? If not, who can be contacted in your place? You’ll relax all the more readily if you know your work’s in good hands.

On the seventh day of Christmas…

Consider your clients.

Setting up Out of Office notifications on your phone and email is, obviously, a no-brainer. But it’s an even better idea to contact key customers directly to let them know about your availability over the holiday period, and who they can contact in your absence. It’s the thought that counts: your clients will appreciate the heads-up.

On the eighth day of Christmas…

Be wary of tunnel vision.

It’s not just about you. Ensure you understand your customers’ Christmas timelines and availability too. Neither you nor your clients will enjoy starting the year under pressure to close deals or progress work that’s been delayed.

On the ninth day of Christmas…

Do a pre-Christmas purge.

And no, this is not related to Christmas confectionery consumption. Rather, this is about organising your physical workspace and your electronic files, especially email. Make sure everything is where it should be – and be ruthless about binning or deleting what you no longer require.

On the tenth day of Christmas…

Buy yourself some time.

Let’s face it, managing the transition from deck chair to desk is a challenge. Build a gentle buffer around that delicate adjustment period now by extending your Out of Office notifications for an extra day or two. Then schedule some post-holiday admin – clearing emails or catching up with the person covering your role – into your calendar. You’ll congratulate yourself on your foresight come the new year.

On the eleventh day of Christmas…

Give thanks.

This is the perfect time of year to acknowledge and thank colleagues for their efforts, achievements and support. Make this a priority – a small gesture of gratitude can generate a massive amount of goodwill (’tis the season, after all).

On the twelfth day of Christmas…

Switch off – both literally and figuratively.

Sure, those work emails will keep coming. And with these emails comes the compulsion to check them. If you can’t bring yourself to go cold turkey, Outlook users can try this preventative measure: update your email settings so that while you’re away, your emails only update once at the end of the day. If you must check your work emails, this at least limits the number of times you do it. You’re meant to be on holiday, remember?

And on that note, our final bit of advice is this: these holidays, work through a to-do list of treats, not tasks. Prioritise yourself for a change. We think you’ll find that a pretty productive use of your time.

Merry Christmas!