As the holiday song goes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year—with “the kids jingle bell-ing and everyone telling you to be of good cheer.”
But for marketers, especially those selling consumer products?
“Anyone who has ever worked in retail or e-commerce knows that there is no rest for the weary when it comes to the holiday season,” says Chelsey Davidson, the social and community marketing lead at We Are Rosie. “At one of my old jobs in e-commerce, we didn’t have our holiday party until the end of January because there just wasn’t time during the actual holiday season for everyone to not be working.”
The need for a faster pace is undeniable: In the fourth quarter, companies are focused on achieving their year-end numbers, and in retail fields, the holiday gifting season is the biggest opportunity to drive sales.
“Marketing is often the function that’s relied upon to deliver these,” says brand and product marketing consultant, Katelyn Nugent. “So there’s the added pressure of having ‘all eyes’ on what you’re doing. Reports that might be looked at once a week or every other week are being analyzed multiple times a week.”
And you’re not functioning in a vacuum, either. In the midst of this greater workload, you’ve got to plan your own holiday celebrations—making travel plans, preparing for family celebrations, and buying gifts.
Then it all stops. The holiday arrives, the office closes, and you find yourself with a string of days that aren’t filled with quarterly reports and daily video meetings. The transition can be jarring.
“After months of preparing for the holidays and the actual holiday season, it can be incredibly hard to unplug,” says Chelsey.
Prepare yourself to transition out of the busy season
How do you recover and restore your balance once you’ve gotten over that hump? The first step is seeing your new situation for what it is—a transition into something different.
“Start by surrendering to the idea that you’re going to adjust to a slower pace,” says Emily Rentas LMHC, a mental health professional and founder of the coaching service, Paragon Solstice.
That means understanding why some things need to change. Everyone needs down time to refuel.
“If you don’t create that, sickness and bad health will follow you,” Emily says. “And they will make you slow down.” Highly-motivated go-getters sometimes need this reminder. It may seem counterintuitive in the moment, but shutting off from work is part of the process of high achievement.
“You want to avoid [the pitfall] of not having the energy to carry out your work because you’re so tired from running yourself ragged,” Emily advises.
Be thoughtful about your downtime
After weeks or months of living day-to-day, flying by the seat of your pants, do you want to experience the holidays in this same manner? Instead, Emily says, “really think intentionally about how you are going to spend the holidays and what they mean to you.”
That might mean thinking hard before you over-schedule your family on holiday activities. It might simply mean being realistic about how long it will take to travel, and planning accordingly so you’re not rushing.
Again, the slower pace will help with your work—especially for marketers, who are often called upon to think creatively. Giving yourself an opportunity to mentally drift away from the numbers and the product strategizing is a way of refueling. Focusing on something else actually helps you to access that sense of wonder and imagination that you draw upon for work.
“Try a new hobby or read a different genre or attend a different event or accept an invite that you would normally not go to,” says Emily. “That’s how you typically want to continue the creativity process when you’re recovering. Because essentially what you’re doing is exposing yourself to new experiences, and you are creating new neural pathways of those experiences that are going to help you later on to problem solve.”
Recognize how the slow season contributes to work success
It’s important to give yourself permission to enjoy these experiences. Certified life coach Dr. Richard Mitchell says that some people have a hard time doing this, because they’re thinking about all the emails and tasks they’ll have to face when they return to the office.
“Whatever you do—whether it’s spending time outside or being with your family or visiting friends—you need to get out of the mindset of ‘I’m doing this in spite of work,’” Richard says. Instead, think of these experiences as something you’re doing because of work.
But, you might protest, the work itself never really ends!
Chelsey has experienced this first hand as a marketer in the retail industry. While you might get a break in January, once February hits, she says “you’re retrospecting the season and prepping for the following year.”
Richard says that if marketing executives recognize these pressures—and build a work structure around them—it can be enormously helpful for their junior employees. And since burned-out marketers aren’t well-equipped to achieve, it’s in everyone’s best interest to take a look at this issue.
“Be intentional about building recovery time into the busy season as part of the process,” he says. “Let employees know ahead of time that there will be two months of hitting it hard, no holds barred, and then a month of recovery built in.”
That recovery time might mean a week off for the holidays and then two weeks of transitioning gradually into the new year at work. Marketers might use this scheduled time to review the past quarter and the holiday season sales and to discuss ways to change course for next year. If everyone adheres to it, this structured schedule can function as a means of preventing burnout for everyone.
The best way to hit the ground running in 2024? Give those weary legs a chance to rest from the last race.