Don't burn out before you're officially able to burn out.
That's my mantra, and with just a couple more weeks left until the end of the year, that's what I have to keep reminding myself as I start running out of puff the closer the finishing line actually gets.
But if you're like me, you're probably wondering when you'll finally run the last bend and see the line you've been looking for since starting the race. You're cramped and thirsty. You're feeling nauseous. You're contemplating quitting the race altogether, and trying again next year.
These seven strategies should help.
- Cancel. If you're out for the third night in a row and it's dawning on you that you can't actually attend all the functions you planned to attend back in November, then it's time to start pulling out. Be polite and call the host as soon as possible so they can cancel your portion of the catering if necessary – let them know your situation, and potentially follow up with a card or small gift to show how much you appreciated the invite. They'll understand.
- Forget the '2012 deadline'. January's a really great time to catch up on work. It's quiet, people are less likely to organise events and meetings, and fewer fires need of putting out. So think about what can be done early next year compared to what absolutely has to be done before the year's out.
- Keep on exercising. Exercising's one of the best strategies for staying sharp and focused. So why do so many women let this slip when things get busy? This may not be the time of year to improve your fitness, but that doesn't mean you can't maintain it. No matter how full the diary, make sure there's time for exercise – even a 20-minute run instead of your usual 40-minute run will release some much-needed endorphins and do wonders for the mind.
- Get your Santa hat on. Buying presents is stressful and too often we forget those we're buying for are getting just as flustered about the task as we are, but don't want to say anything out of a commitment to tradition. Step in. Find out who's bought gifts for whom then organise a Kris Kringle – making room for those who've already purchased items.
- Stay positive. This one's always easier said than done but your own attitude to approaching the end-of-year rigmarole will do a lot for your actual ability to get through it. This is supposed to be the silly season after all, so do what you can to keep the smile on your face and enjoy the lighter side of the seemingly impossible schedule you've set for yourself. Joke with others about how crazy everything feels. Share your holiday plans and what you're looking forward to.
- Pay for more help. If simple household duties are getting in the way and you can afford to pay for extra help, then fork out the cash and do it. You can always save on paying for such help in January when things slow down. Get the cleaner to put in a few extra hours, get a midweek babysitter in to look after the kids while you catch up on some work. Take that load of washing to the drycleaner. It all helps.
- Celebrate! Be merry. Go a little crazy. It's Christmas; it's another year done. It's another set of achievements to give yourself a pat on the back about, so lighten up and remember to enjoy yourself during the upcoming craziness.
You survived another year. That's reason enough to celebrate.
Meredith is a contributing writer to Women's Agenda. She is is not a consultant, or a management guru. She's not even a published author. Just someone who's made plenty of mistakes, and learnt a few lessons along the way.