End of the year slump

unslumping-is-hardLast week I sent the closing email for one of the projects I run. The email subject line said – ‘Chennai Technophiles signing off for 2019.’ What the subject line should have said is ‘I am signing off for 2019.’ For over a week now I have been literally dragging myself out of bed and into work and then beating myself up for not running at full throttle. I began by telling myself that tomorrow will be a better day and when tomorrow wasn’t a better day, the script changed to 2020 will be a better year. Yes, I have almost given up on 2019. I ran at `100% for 10 months now and my brain has begun protesting against everything. Maybe it is the time to slide into bed and climb out in 2020.

Yesterday, I started talking to a few colleagues about how I was feeling. I realized to both my relief and dismay that the vibe is in trend. Every other person has almost or is at the edge of throwing work into the air and heading out to party. First it’s thanksgiving season, then Christmas and then New Year. It is officially the time of the year to feel like work is keeping you from everything else important.

The question that arises is – does the business recognize this and what are we doing about it (apart from the holiday parties)? While team lunches, laughs around the table and parties will keep me going for a while, when I return to my desk, the slump will return right back with me. Is this something the organization can help me with? Maybe.

Here are some things you can keep in mind over the next few weeks before we head into the New Year. While not all may be possible, I can guarantee you can check some off the list.

  1. Acknowledge it: The first step to action is recognizing the problem. Don’t roll your eyes. It is true. You know it. If you haven’t experienced the holiday slump and someone spoke to you about it, you will likely dismiss it as an excuse. I know I did before the virus spread to me. I read somewhere that the year-end slump hits almost 34% of all employees (don’t quote me on this). Understand that this is a possibility and know that you have to play your part in helping your team deal with it. Next time someone comes to you feeling lazy and blue, say you feel it too and if you don’t, at least don’t dismiss the idea that this feeling is real. And definitely do not allow anyone to beat themselves over feeling this way.
  1. Do not start something new: The worst thing you could possibly do is hand your team or yourself a new goal at this point. It may be tempting to feel like it may serve to energize, however, it will likely make the already signed off brain a little more resistant. Save it for the New Year.
  1. Finish the 2019 goals: While I recommend you do not embark on a new goal, it is definitely a good time to close strong. Check all the goals for the year. There’s nothing worse than entering the New Year wanting to start afresh and being straddled with goals that should have ended in the year gone by. Use this time to finish that work and then send out a big congratulatory email to everyone who should know. It’s ok to make a big deal of your achievements. If you don’t want to send it yourself, get your boss to and if you are the boss, make sure you send it out every time your team member closes a goal. Make it big.
  1. Spend time on reflection: Now that you have decided to end the year strong by checking 2019 goals off your list and not adding another dozen to your to-do list, sit back, relax and reflect on the year gone by. I wrote about the magic of retrospectives a while ago and what better time to start than by reflecting on a complete year gone by. Think through the hits, misses and everything you learnt from them. Maybe even make a list of things you will repeat or never will.
  1. Plan the year ahead: Use everything you listed in the point above to draft where you want to head in the coming year. This can include work that you want to do, skills that you (your team) would likely want to pick up and other stuff that didn’t but should find a slot in your priority list. For e.g. while I have wanted to pick up skills in the area of statistics, psychology and economics, I am ashamed to say I have done squat about it. I intend to put them in my 2020 priority list and hopefully will do something about it.
  1. Take time to celebrate: With daily life getting in the way, it is often difficult to take time and intentionally celebrate everything you have accomplished in the past year. I let two big achievements in 2019 slip by without making a big deal out of it. I still wonder why. I should have gone dancing, taken a day off or just bought myself something nice. Now that I am wrapping up the year, I am intentionally taking a week off to celebrate and treat myself for all that has happened. What are you doing for your team? Do you have a personalized thank you card penned out at minimum?  
  1. Ease the load: The last bit is doing what you can for the team. Is there a way to ease the load? Will sharing the load make it easier? What can you do to help? For me, walking up to a colleague’s desk and brainstorming about the tiniest things helps. All I need is their time and the willingness to listen to me incessantly chatter. Maybe you could do that. Maybe you could let other around you know that it is ok to take ‘slump time off’. Take a day off to stay in bed just coz you want to. The world won’t end.

It is tempting to think that days, weeks, months and years are man-made constructs and that if one day is like any other, why would the end of the year have an impact. Yet man-made constructs rule our life.

I’m curious – are you experiencing the year-end slump? If yes, please do share tips on how I can get through the final weeks without feeling guilty 24/7.

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