Christmas is all about other people. Giving to others, spending time with others and generally being unselfish and generous.

But the Christmas break is also the only time when you get genuine downtime. If you are fortunate enough to have time off, chances are the rest of your workplace and sector are also on holiday. It’s the one time everyone is on pause and you know you won’t be coming back to a banked up pile of emails and tasks. There are no meetings and no deadlines for entire week and a bit.

I like to use some of this paused time for myself, and re-set and refresh ready for the next year.

Deep clean your home

Cleaning might not feel like a good use of your time when there are so many other deep and meaningful life values to contemplate, but it gives me a sense of calm and control. I get a deep clean done on the very first day of the break because it makes other household jobs easier, and I don’t feel that nagging sense of outstanding chores every time I look around.

I use this time to do all the tasks on my monthly checklist, plus the ‘deeper cleans’ that don’t get done on a regular basis. The insides of cupboards and drawers, light switches and sockets, the shelves and compartments in the fridge and a full clean of the car interior.

Declutter a space

Once I’ve done a deep clean, I like to do a declutter. I have already gone through the process of decluttering my spaces, but I still like to do a refresh once every six months. This keeps me on top of items that have collected up, and also makes me revisit my decisions. Things that I wanted to keep six months ago but haven’t touched since are probably worth reconsidering keeping.

If you haven’t done a full declutter, you might consider focusing on one area. Some areas that see a lot of use deliver immediate benefits from being reorganised (see my post on key areas to keep organised), or you might want to start with Marie Kondo’s recommendation, your clothes (see my post on using a ‘uniform’ to help shrink your wardrobe).

Assess your values

The slower pace over the holiday period allows me to take the time to think about the bigger things in life. I like to take at least half a day to consider my values, and whether I want to add any or stop carrying any of them forwards. I workshop what an ideal lifestyle looks like (see my post on workshopping your values and my ‘cheat sheet’ of questions to ask yourself) and then think about goals and practices I need to establish in order to get there.

I don’t worry about getting it perfect, the important thing is to go through the decision making process. You can always revisit your plan, and I find that more ideas come during this time when I am more relaxed and not caught up in the daily grind.

Reflect on your year

Take some time to think about the year and your achievements and highlights. Even if things didn’t go to plan, what did you learn? How did you grow? How has your perspective changed?

Consider how much your actions line up with your values, what needs to change and what you need to prioritise going forwards.

If you did set yourself any goals or projects, evaluate yourself (see my review post of 2020). It might be a bit painful at first, but I can always find positives and it’s an important step in improving how you set up your next goal.

Brainstorm your focus for next year

Once I’m clear on my values, I pick one of them as my focus for the next year. I find this works better than New Year’s resolutions (see my post on this) as I have the whole year to succeed and can improve incrementally rather than trying to revolutionise my life at the stroke of midnight. I then start to plan how I’m going to achieve success in my chosen focus area (see my post on project planning) so that I can hit the ground running in January.

Set up an annual budget

2020 was my focus year for getting my personal finances in order, and although I’ve finished with the initial set-up I continue to keep things ticking along in the background. A big part of this is creating an annual, zero dollar budget (see my post on how I set this up).

Although it takes a bit of time to set up, it makes budgeting each payday much easier, and I can also get a realistic sense of whether or not I can achieve my savings goals (or what I might need to give up to reach them!).

Get a head start on the New Year

I try and get ahead as much as I can before the new year starts and I’m back into the 9-5 routine. I get on top of my laundry, make sure my work bag is organised (see my post on a checklist for this), stock the freezer with lunches (see my post on freezable batch recipes) and tackle as many of my random life admin tasks as I can. I also go through my ‘to do system’ (see my post on my Getting Things Done-based system) and cull any ‘someday’ or ‘maybe’ tasks that I want to drop.

Do nothing!

I want to start the New Year refreshed and energised so I also make sure I keep some time for myself to do nothing (or at least do things that are just because I want to). I’ll be taking some long walks, binge watching some TV, reading, getting a massage and spending some time on craft projects.

It might seem like a lot to fit in, but I tend to start in that wind-down week before work finishes, and I don’t pack out my calendar with engagements and events that I’m not too interested in. I also try to keep Christmas itself as simple as possible and prepare well in advance so that I can actually enjoy my time off (see my post on this).

Christmas is the time to think of others, but just like the rule about fitting your own oxygen mask first, you can’t help others until you have helped yourself.

What will you be doing for yourself over the holiday period?