The Herald Bulletin

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Columns

December 19, 2012

Susan Miller: Staying unfrazzled in a season of dazzle

Ask someone how they’re doing this time of year and their reply is apt to be, “Busy!” There’s nothing like the holidays to add an extra measure of frazzle into the razzle-dazzle of the season.

Every December seems to bring a measure of stress, but this year brings along the added urgency of the Mayan calendar. Yep, if those Mayans were right, we only have until tomorrow to get all our to-dos checked off our lists.

Such a frantic pace in the days leading up to Christmas seems especially perplexing in the context of Advent, a season that traditionally includes a time of expectant waiting. But who has time to wait, you ask. There are gifts to wrap, stamps to lick, and fruit cakes to de-thaw and re-gift.

Those who don’t put in long hours working or shopping during the holidays can be labeled unproductive. Stores open early because the early bird gets the worm, or at least the early bird discount.

This weekend, at least one major retailer is staying open for 48 hours straight, giving new meaning to the saying, “shop till you drop.”  

Perhaps you’ve guessed where this column is going (good, because I fear I may be meandering even more than usual). As much as we may strive to meet year-end deadlines lest we fall off the fiscal cliff, getting too caught up in the holiday rush can sabotage what matters most.

Two incidents brought this experience home to me. Several years ago, I opted to stay late one December night to prepare a report for the late-night drop-box. I frantically met the deadline and employing every ounce of work martyrdom, in me, made my way to the overnight drop-off.

Tired as I was, I didn’t pay much attention to the labels on each drop-off box. One indicated local mail, the other was for overnight mail. Guess which slot I dumped my package into? Yep, the local slot.

That sinking tummy feeling descended, as I tried to brainstorm ingenious inventions for fishing my package out of the drop-box. It turns out my guilt for wasting family time was plenty of punishment.  The client didn’t even comment when she received the report a few days later.

You’d think I’d learn, but that same holiday season — oops, I did it again. This time I stayed to type up notes after a meeting on New Year’s Eve, even though the office closed at noon. I was working ever so efficiently, until I locked myself out of the office suite after a bathroom break.

Frantically, I searched unsuccessfully for another tenant, but evidently, they all had their priorities right. After an hour, I reached the building’s maintenance staff who dispatched someone to let me back in.

Eleven days remain in 2012 — unless you’re a Mayan. Take some time to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year, slow down, and concentrate on those who really matter. Merry Christmas!

Susan Miller is founder of Ewing Miller Communications. Write to her at susan@ewingmiller.com.

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