This article was previously featured on the Professional Editors Network November 2022 newsletter.
“The holidays are upon us” is a sentence I dread hearing. My mind associates it with the fall and winter decorations I should be putting up now and then will need to take down and store away. I start thinking of the dinners with family and friends we’ll need to start organizing, and wonder how I’ll navigate a busy social calendar that for the last three years I’ve (gratefully) been able to keep to an absolute minimum. It means making lists of gifts that need to be purchased and wrapped, cards that need to be sent out, and of course.. . there’s my freelance editing work. I have projects that need to be completed, I need to keep booking work for the next months, I should check my year-end goals, and I need to start thinking about my 2023 goals.
How can we balance work and family over the holidays?
If you’re already exhausted after that first paragraph, I’m with you! As freelance editors we juggle so much more than our freelance work, and few people understand our world. But I’ve learned over the years that if I have a plan of action, if I give myself permission to choose what’s important for me this year, and if I prioritize my mental and physical health, I can finish the year with hop in my step and a feeling of not only “I did it!” but also “I’m proud of myself!”
Here's what helps me have a solid course of action. Each one of the questions below allows me to transfer the things that are starting to make me anxious onto the page and out of my mind, but more importantly. I ask myself,
1. What are my business goals for the next two or three months? I write those down. All of them!
2. What are my personal/family/social goals and activities for the next two or three months? Write those down. Then, I ask myself,
3. What can I give myself permission to let go of/not do this year? With a pencil, I cross them out on each list. (i.e., design and order custom-made holiday cards)
4. What must I absolutely do? I highlight those in yellow (i.e., dinner with my sister, nephews, and nieces; my son’s school holiday show).
5. Which of those activities brings me joy? I draw a star next to those. (i.e., meet up with girlfriends for coffee and small gift exchange; take a holiday craft class; keep doing my Tuesday evening walks with my neighbor). I don’t skip this one, as it is key to my mental health and well-being.
6. What do I not want to do, but can ask for help with? (For me, gift-buying, gift-wrapping, grocery shopping, house cleaning or chores when we host guests.) I jot these down and put the name of the person who can help me.
7. What days do I need to take off? Either because I have guests, because we are traveling, or because after a celebration night, the next day, I may need a breather.
8. Put approximate due dates and “ideal execution times” on all of them. For example, I’d rather do my “deep” editing work in the mornings, and when my family is home (afternoons/evenings) do things that don’t require utmost concentration (decorate the house, bake the cookies).
By now I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do, what I can let go of, and who I need to approach for help with the things I don’t want to do but that have to get done. Then, by looking at the due dates, I can backtrack on my calendar and schedule the tasks. And don’t forget to schedule your days off! Over the years I’ve learned to be more conservative with how much time I think something will take. Better to plan for more time than less time. And keep that list handy (I keep my initial draft taped in my planner). Check off the tasks in your calendar as you accomplish them. What’s more, add a note of what worked, what didn’t work, and why so you can look back at it next year and be better prepared.
Finally, here’s a networking tip suggestion: Meet up with a fellow editor (in person or virtually) in these next few weeks and share your list. See how they prepare to work during the holiday season, how their planning could benefit your planning and vice versa.
Linda Ruggeri is a nonfiction bilingual editor and writer based out of Los Angeles who specializes in memoir, biographies, cookbooks, and Spanish translation reviews. She co-authored the award-winning book “Networking for Freelance Editors: Practical Strategies for Networking Success” with Brittany Dowdle.