How to Avoid December Burnout

    “The most successful people I know have a narrow focus, protect themselves against time-wasters, say no to almost everything.” — Derek Sivers, Hell Yeah or No

    Most people burn out in December. They try to finish everything on their to-do list while planning gift shopping, travels, and family holidays at the same time.

    I’ve seen it again and again with entrepreneurs and writers I work with. If you attempt to ‘do it all’, you will 99% fail. You will feel bad during the holidays because you have too many unfinished tasks. Or, you indeed get most of it done, but with questionable quality —and you’ll likely burn out. Your holidays will start with a mental and physical crash.

    Do you feel worried or stressed when you read this?

    Here is a simple but effective method to avoid December burnout:

    Do one thing.

    Decide what’s most important in December. Then do that one thing.

    If you’re used to being busy, you might feel that this is an outrageous proposition.

    Can you let yourself off the hook and tap into self-kindness? Can you allow yourself to work towards quality instead of quantity? Do less, but better.

    “A limit-embracing attitude to time means organizing your days with the understanding that you definitely won’t have time for everything you want to do, or that other people want you to do.” — Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks

    Here are three steps to shift your mindset and plan out your December goals in a better way.

    Step 1: Envision your Future Self end of December

    Take a deep breath and envision the Future You on December 31st. How will you feel?

    Are you going to feel drained, unfulfilled, and upset about all the half-finished tasks you didn’t complete? Did you sneak out from family festivities to secretly work during the holidays? On December 31st, are you worried you might start 2023 drained and defeated?

    Take a deep breath. It doesn’t have to be this way. How about this scenario instead?

    On the last day of the year, you look back and feel accomplished because you finished that one thing. You were focused. You spent the holidays guilt-free, liberated from all the little things that cause busyness and stress. You feel you’ve made a mindset shift towards quality over quantity. And best of all, you preserved your energy to start 2023 with a bang!

    Where do you want to be? You can train your brain, this December, to learn to focus on what matters, recover regularly, and preserve your energy.

    Here’s a six-minute goal-setting exercise to get started.

    Step 2: Pick the ‘one thing’

    If you could do only one thing, but do it well and without stressing out, what would that be? What’s the one thing you want to get done by end of the year — no excuses?

    Set a timer for 3 minutes and write it down on a post-it. What exactly does finishing mean? What will it look like when it’s done? Where will you submit that finished project? Be as clear as possible, then hang it above your desk.

    My one thing for December is:


    Then make a weekly plan with clear deadlines to get that thing done, step by step. Put these deadlines on your calendar. Can you already envision how you are finishing it, with focus, flow, and ease?

    Do you still feel uncomfortable leaving out all the rest? It’s hard, I know.

    Take a deep breath, lift up your shoulders and then let them settle back down while you breathe out. Repeat two times.

    Imagine your best friend, your child, or someone you care about. You see them struggling throughout December, stressed out, without enjoying the last month of the year. If they asked you for advice, wouldn’t you help them find the self-kindness to concentrate on only one thing? What would you say to them to help them bring up the courage to drop everything else?

    Can you, now, turn toward yourself and do the same?

    Here’s another exercise that will give you some relief — you are allowed a few bonus tasks in December.

    Step 3: Select bonus tasks

    Since it’s so hard to stick to the ‘only one thing’ rule, here’s a step to ease your mind. Make a short list of bonus tasks that are manageable, small, and don’t distract you from your big goal.

    Schedule them during low-energy times. For example, I write my content in the morning, and I do admin and marketing in the afternoon when I find it harder to write in flow.

    Don’t overdo that bonus list. It’s only here for you in case you have time left during your work day. The better decision is, always, to do one thing, and then recover and do nothing else.

    Take 3 minutes and write your bonus list — and note the date when in December you can fit these goals in.

    Bonus task list:




    Again, take a few breaths, and see if you can allow yourself to see them as icing on the cake — you don’t have to actually do them. It’s a bonus.

    Again, don’t sneak them onto your bigger list. In fact, if you can tell yourself on December 31st that you ignored all bonus goals, but you finished that one thing that was important to you, you have achieved a mindset shift!

    How does it feel in your body to know that you only have one thing to do in December? Will you be courageous? Will you give yourself the space to focus on what matters, and practice letting go of ‘doing it all’?

    Declutter your to-do list with this free Goal Filter tool.

    Photo by Surface on Unsplash

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