Happy Holidays! It’s the time of year when most of us make an effort to share our time with those we love. I’ll only be “here for a few” when I reunite with my family and Brian separately, so I have to think about how to make the most of that time. I will fly from Asia to Indianapolis on 12/27 to spend a late Christmas with my family, then from Indianapolis back to LA on 12/30 where Brian will meet me for New Year’s weekend.
Having a limited amount of time with loved ones is not only something I deal with around the holidays, but also every weekend. Here’s how I attempt to tackle it:
- Compartmentalize your life and work where possible.
- Reduce logistics.
- Manage your obligations.
- Set work and tech controls.
- Live your last moment as if it’s not your last.
Because each suggestion above is complex and challenging in itself, I am going to start a series on maximizing personal time and break this into multiple pieces.
Your work commitments are likely more defined than usual over the holidays, so I will focus on number 5 as I believe we can gain the most value from it now: live your last moment as if it’s not your last.
Brian and I spend a significant amount of time taking care of our apartment on the weekends. We love picking out new plants and learning how to take care of them together. Our next step is adding some art to the space. Even though I am only there 3 nights and 2 full days a week, working on our common space together makes it feel more like a home base than a quick stop.
In December, I knew I’d only be home for the first 2 weekends due to traveling for work and visiting family over the holidays. On the first weekend of December, Brian and I decided to get our first Christmas tree together. For a split second, it crossed my mind: does it make sense to spend over $100 on a tree, wreath, and lights, then spend time digging up ornaments, even though we will only be together next weekend then I’m away for the rest of the month? The answer for us was YES! The beauty is not only in the final product (a decorated apartment) but in the journey to get there!
It was funny to transport a tree on foot (we have no car in SF) from Whole Foods (California & Franklin) to our apartment (Sacramento & Laguna). I love seeing our palm next to our pine which is so symbolic of a California Christmas. I also thoroughly enjoyed digging up ornaments and putting them on my own tree for the first time ever and realizing that 95% of the few ornaments I own are from my good friend Kelsey over the years.
The Christmas tree itself serves as a product and reminder of our love and hard work, and I’m happy Brian gets to see that every day when he comes home after long days of work. It was fun to see it the next weekend when I came back, and felt like it had been there for much longer than the 4 days that I had physically seen it. We created a wonderful memory for our first Christmas as flatmates. I even lucked out and got to work from home for two additional days (a third trip) last week before heading out on all of my travels. All in all, my advice is to not focus on the fact that you’re leaving, but focus on what you’re doing with the time you have!
Don’t spend your time getting caught up in “does what we’re doing even make sense right now given that we will only be together for a few days to enjoy it?” The value is in the time you spend with your loved ones. Working together on something can be a great way to bond, even if you’re baking cookies but you’re gluten-free or contributing to a puzzle you’ll never be around to finish.
Live your last moment as if it’s not your last.
Be subtle with your exit. On a normal weekend when I’m headed back to SF from LA, I do not start packing until the real last minute. I may need to wake up on Monday mornings at 4:45 AM to make a 6:45 AM flight and go straight to work, but I am not going to spend all day Sunday prepping and fretting about that. Otherwise, why wouldn’t I just book my flight on a Sunday night if I’m going to waste the whole second half of the day? The advantage of having my flight on a Monday morning is that I can do whatever I want with the time I have on my last night.
Brian and I usually watch a show or go out to dinner on Sunday nights. Last weekend we wanted to check out the notorious Foreign Cinema for dinner, but their only reservation was at 8 PM. I did not let the fact that I had to wake up the next day at 4:45 AM stop me from fully enjoying that date night! We got home around 10 PM and I packed quickly in 20 mins before heading to bed. I had adrenaline to get me by in the morning, and a nice bed to crash in that following night for recovery. Leaving the next day did not define my Sunday, and 6 hours of sleep was not the end of the world. It does help that I have packing down to a science, and we’ll talk about packing soon!
If you’re traveling over the holidays, you may be splitting time between seeing different people back home, or even traveling to multiple locations for celebrations with different groups. That means it will be easy to get caught up in the prepping and logistics. I encourage you be a packing procrastinator over the holidays and make every last moment count with each individual or group that you visit. Don’t waste a bunch of time thinking about your next step, because you probably already planned it all out weeks ago from your desk. Hopefully you’ve already booked all of your flights/stays which are the critical factors, so you can just enjoy your destinations now.