Know a Hard Work Season is Coming Up? Let’s Make Future You’s Life Easier

September 4, 2023

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As we head into fall and the accompanying work ramp-up, let’s talk about ways you can help Future You’s life be more manageable during hard work seasons AND build in recovery time. 

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Full Transcript

Episode 18. Holiday Season

[Upbeat Intro Music]

Kelly Nolan: Welcome to The Bright Method Podcast where we’ll discuss practical time management strategies designed for the professional working woman. I’m Kelly Nolan, a former patent litigator who now works with women to set up The Bright Method in their lives. The Bright Method is a realistic time management system that helps you manage it all, personally and professionally. Let’s get you falling asleep proud of what you got done today and calm about what’s on tap tomorrow. All right, let’s dig in!


Hey, hey! So it is September, and whether you have kids or not, this is really like a turning point away from summer and into the fall where I just feel like everyone kind of re-engages with work again. A lot of people have punted things for this fall period. And so, even before I had kids I felt it. Like okay, now this is where work’s gonna really pick up for a period of time. And as we head into that season I just want to help you (kind of before we get into the weeds of it all) still keep a head up and look ahead and plan for busy periods at work. You can do this in your personal life as well. I’m kind of thinking about it from the work perspective, but if you know there’s a busy personal thing coming up too, this is definitely applicable as well.

So just to explain what I mean, the kind of stereotypical (or more obvious) busy period I think of is let’s pretend you’re an accountant. You know tax season, which is in the next academic year, is gonna be a busy season for you. You obviously see it coming. There might be something that if you’re not an accountant that’s comparable like the end of a fiscal year or something like that, and also, it might not be something that comes around every single year, but it just might be something that you can foresee sitting here today, that the next academic year is going to be trickier for you. It’s just gonna be a busier season. If you’re a lawyer or a litigator, you might know that you’re going into trial at a trial that really looks like it’s gonna go at a certain period of time or something like that. Something that’s a little more one-off but you can see it coming right now.

If you don’t have anything like that on your plate, totally fine. I didn’t always know when those periods would be for me. But sometimes you can see them coming, and those are the things I want to talk about today. The things that you can see coming down the road that are gonna be a busy couple of weeks or even months for you and what can we do about them now to make future you’s life easier?

The During-It Period – 2:26

So I think the easiest place to start is to think about the during-it period. If you’re like, “Okay, I know, roughly, these four weeks are gonna be hard for me, what can I do for me during that period of time that would make my life easier?” So things that come to mind for me are, if you have kids, maybe getting extra childcare, maybe getting extra evening childcare, whether it’s hired or getting your partner aware of it and getting their calendar blocked right now for that.

Similarly, maybe a weekend day. If you’re like, “I just know this period’s gonna be bonkers. It would give me a lot less stress and more breathing space to know that every Saturday from this time to this time we are just planning on me being unavailable. Again, you could hire help for that. You could talk to your partner about that, if you have a partner. If you have family that can step in, that’s one thing.

If you don’t have kids, same types of things though, and this goes for whether you have kids or not. Being very aware that you’re going to be tired and stretched too thin are good things to remind yourself about, to really think about how you want to approach that period of time. So you might want to think about things like how you’re gonna eat healthily, how you might want to incorporate some sort of movement, even once a week, into your schedule. You might want to think about — and I’ve talked about this in that episode about the year of ease — but you might want to really plan on not drinking during that period of time just to keep your energy up. You might not be getting full nights of sleep, but that way the sleep you do get is the best type of sleep. Just anything that comes to mind of how will I optimize how I feel during this period of time, both physically but then also just emotionally. How am I gonna give myself the bandwidth to not be overly stressed during this period of time.

That’s the beautiful part. I mean, even though I know it’s stressful to see these things coming down the pipeline. Because we know we’re coming, let’s really just try and think ahead about what could help there.

What Could You Start Doing Now or Down the Road? – 4:25

I’m gonna transition into kind of what you can do beforehand now, but these kind of bleed together. So just kind of thinking ahead on that of, “How do I want to feel during that period of time and how can I make my life easier,” is what could you start doing now or down the road. Even if you’re an accountant, and it’s spring that this isn’t happening until, you don’t have to start planning for that now, but start calendaring when you would start planning it because you might think, “Oh, I’ll just do that three months before,” and then you start seeing, “Okay, that’s holidays. And so, maybe I do want to start doing this before.” It can be really helpful to think about. When will I start planning this stuff, put it in your calendar, and then you can start seeing the conflicts where they arise and maybe adjust that plan.

So, along those lines, I’m gonna just throw random stuff out there. Do you want to create freezer meals that will make it easier for you to have food that you don’t have to cook when you come home during that period of time? Do you want to do a meal delivery service, and not just one of those things that you have to make the food, but a fresh food, meals show up fresh every week or every day, or however they work (I’m not totally sure, in ways that could be delivered to you, And you don’t have to do it forever. Obviously, it’s an expense that might not work for everybody. But for that two-month period, would that really help you out to have that going on? If so, I would recommend trying it maybe a month earlier to make sure that you like it because that would be terrible if you’re really looking forward to this thing, and you rely on it, and it’s not good. So test out some of these things before so they’re not new to you during that crazy period of time.

Similarly, if you don’t have house cleaners, is that something you would like to line up for the month before and then going into that month of craziness? If not, maybe the house stuff isn’t a big pain point for you, if laundry’s a big pain point for you, would you like to figure out a laundry service or these types of things (meal delivery, cleaners, freezer stuff). Again, it does require research and stuff like that to get these lined up in place, and so, do you want to do a little bit of work now or down the road? But give yourself time before the actual event starts to do that research.

Shoot off a couple text messages to friends to ask if they use something like this and recommend anything. Look on that local Facebook group to see who people recommend and what their experiences are. Just calendaring 20 minutes/30 minutes of time to chip away at the research and then maybe line a trial up and that kind of stuff now will pay off down the road when your life’s a little bit on fire because of a crazy period at work that you’re gonna get the benefit of that.

So, for me and for example, it’s literally my favorite day ever when the house cleaners come. And so, when you’re feeling like, understandably, that work is a little crazy during this crazy period and everything at home already feels a little bit on fire because of that, if you can have a clean house at least, I mean, that is just magical.

And so, just thinking about how that might not be the case for you, but whatever would make you really happy during that period of time, not having to cook or all these types of things, really think that stuff through and then start protecting time now or a couple months before where you can start playing with the budget of it, the experience of it, is this service the right person to be using for this, things like that, to really make your life feel better.

I threw this out before but similarly, working now to start thinking about who would be that extra childcare? Should we start subbing in some one-off sitters every now and then, so the kids are comfortable? Or should I get this on my parents if there’s a grandmother in the picture who’s really great with the kids, do you want to get them to come help out for a week, or if they’re local, each Saturday and do that Saturday sitting? Whatever it might be, really think ahead about that now because you could put stuff on the other people’s calendars. Again, you could even put it on a partner’s calendar, the coparent’s calendar. Whoever would be able to help, the earlier you can get it on their calendar, the better and the more likely you are to get it. So you might as well think about those things now so you can start putting those things in place.

Along with the kid thing (and again, this isn’t just about kids, but it’s helpful) is do you want to set up carpools during that period of time? Again, do you want to trial that for a couple months before? Probably, but even a month before? So even thinking about that. Getting to know other parents of kids in your activities and seeing if a carpool situation could work there. Also exchanging friend playdates, and this has really helped me in the past, especially if I couldn’t find a sitter in a pinch is thinking ahead and saying, “Having my kid or kids go to a playdate on each of these Saturdays would really be amazing. So let me reach out and say hey could I host one before this period of time, and could we get one on the books for this period of time?” You always have to be mindful that, as you well know, germs can be real, everything, but, I mean, they can be real in anything you line up. So you might as well try and get these things in place and maybe have some backup options as well.

So let’s pretend it’s a really long two-month period that is gonna be crazy. Maybe you have your partner be default person in charge all of Saturday, but if you could lineup some of these playdate exchanges where you have a playdate with them ahead of time, and then during this crazy period, half those weekends have playdates for the both of that watching, that can be really great.

Again, you don’t have to do all of this. You could outsource that type of thing to your partner if you’d like to. I’m not trying to put more and more on your plate without sharing it with your partner. But more to the point is start getting these balls rolling now or at least rolling in your head of what you might want it to look like. And then, again, more time, more heads up to your partner, then they have more time to schedule this stuff as well.

When to Not Take Any More Work On – 10:29

All right. I also think still in that kind of before period is really thinking about what is kind of the drop-dead date of when I don’t take any more work on and really kind of thinking about that because it’s just nice to have that clarity in your calendar of this is the last date.

Let’s pretend it’s a trial example. I’m going to trial in this period of time. A month before trial, two months before trial (depends on the trial) you just say, “I’m not taking any more work from four weeks before, eight weeks before,” whatever it is, and just having that firm boundary in your own mind to give you the breathing space to wrap up your other cases or put them in a good space or hand them off and then be able to turn to this trial will be awesome versus just being a little — I shouldn’t say confused. I just don’t think we look up sometimes to make those decisions, but to have that clarity of, “On this date, I take on no more cases,” it’s just one less thing to decide going forward. And then you can communicate that to the people that are involved. “I’m a month away from this trial. I’m not taking on anything else. If it settles out, then I’ll get back to you, but until then, no.” It just helps you with that component of this.

So that can go for anything. Obviously it’s a little bit different if everybody is in that boat, like if you’re all in an accounting firm and we’re going into tax season, that might be harder to do because everybody’s in that position. But you might even have those conversations within an organization of, “Hey, we don’t take clients X amount of time before tax season because we just can’t sustain it and serve our current clients in the ways that we need to.” So just food for thought there.

Okay, so we talked about kind of the before and the during, things that you might want that during-the-crazy period to look like and what are all the things you could do beforehand to test it out. I really encourage you, any of these things that resonate, figure out what does success look like for that and start calendaring those little steps in your calendar. So again, if you’re like, “I want the food trial thing,” maybe research however you research, texting people, checking out Facebook groups, just Googling around, whatever you want to do. Calendar time to do that and keep the ball rolling on it going forward so that you feel like you know what service you would want to use during that period of time. Calendar when you’ll start it. Calendar when you want to cancel it (if you want to cancel it).

Use that calendar as this tool, the perfect tool designed to manage time, to tie all of these things that you want to do to time so that you have a game plan, you see how it interacts with the rest of your life. As I said, you might issue-spot like, “Oh, I think I can do this three  months before. Oh, that’s smack in the middle of Christmas season, and I celebrate Christmas. That’s not gonna work! Let me do it even four months before.” But sometimes we don’t discover those things until we’re smack in the middle of the holiday season, and then we feel like we’re too late and we’re scrambling. So putting it in your calendar and seeing how it interacts with everything else is really awesome, and it just ups the chance that you’re gonna bring all of this to life, so future you can really benefit from it.

After – 13:34

Then I want to the after. So we’ve talked about the before, we’re talking about the during, and I really want to focus on the after. These are things I want you to do right now as well. If anything, do these right now. If you can see that tricky period coming down the pipeline, I want you to, right now, plan a recovery period of time.

Now, I’m a little warped here. I think trips can be really fun, but maybe I’m warped just from having kids. I don’t actually want you to plan a recovery trip or something like that. I want it to just be unstructured breathing space time for you, and maybe that’s me talking, so push back on this. Push back. I mean, you are very smart. You know yourself. If that doesn’t sound like what you want to do, take this in a different direction.

But regardless of how you take it, if you know you’re gonna be in a busy period for a period of time, I want you blocking your work availability for recovery time now. Now, this obviously only works super well if you know the end date, and even then, kind of be a little conservative or overestimating on when it will be. The reason I’m saying that (just to give context) is trial dates can get pushed out or things like that, and trials can go over and can take a couple extra days for the judge, all those different things, and so, you don’t want to block just three days of recovery time and then the trial doesn’t end until after that period of time and now suddenly you don’t have recovery. So you have to be a little flexible with this and try and kind of guess of when it might be.

So let’s pretend you have trial ending on X date. Two weeks later, block a full week of your calendar off whenever you think it might make sense. But give yourself space, and then just block your calendar. And you don’t need to plan any plans for it or anything like that, but you’re welcome to if you want to. My goal for that is let’s pretend you’ve had two months of craziness. You need to block two days off, three days off, four days off, block two full days and then six half days off, whatever it looks like to you, whatever your ideal would be, to have recovery time.

You can do whatever you would like with it. If you want to go on a trip, go for it, but I just don’t want to add more to your plate. I don’t want it to be another complicated thing of to-dos that you have to do. I want it to be time where you just get to rest. You get to sleep. You get back into doing the things that make you happy, whether that’s working out or painting or doing cross stitch or whatever it might be that really lights you up again, having the breathing space to do that is so valuable.

You might end up using that time for a haircut or something “productive,” but it’s just not that much of a mental heavy lift for you, then that’s also great as well. It can really be whatever you want it to be, but I do want you blocking recovery time in a way that works for you. And I really do love a couple full days off and then some half days off or however it works best for you. But make sure you’re getting that breathing space after to give you the space to kind of come back to yourself and feel solid in yourself again.

I will say, also, as we’re talking about that, there’s a benefit to — let’s pretend you conservatively schedule it for two weeks after it’s over, and then you end up with a week in between a trial or a busy season being over, and then your scheduled recovery period, while you’re gonna be zonked (and so, be realistic about what it is), it is actually kind of nice to have the time to put out the fires that went on fire when you were feeling really busy that you couldn’t deal with, and deal with the email inbox, and do all of that stuff, so that then when you go into recovery period, you don’t have any low-grade or high-grade anxiety around that kind of stuff. So if you end up with some awkward work time between the end and your vacation and recovery period, then that can be wonderful as well.

I will also throw out there that, for some professions, you don’t actually also have to use vacation time for that recovery period. It’s different for every industry, but if you also just want to block your meeting availability from that time and then just take a lighter work week that may consist of three hours of work and then you kind of peace out knowing that you just billed (or however you do your work) a bajillion hours for the last two months and that no one really has a leg to stand on when they criticize you if you work three hours in a day, then use that judgment also.

I don’t want to be advocating for people to take vacation time when they just killed themselves for two months and it’s totally appropriate to keep it light for a period of time. But the concept still stands. You want to think about what that looks like for you. What is really gonna fill you back up? Part of that can be blocking a full week from meeting availability even if you’re gonna work and you’re working lighter. You’re not taking time off, but you’re just kind of doing the bare minimum, and then you’re gonna go do your own thing and rest and recover. It really can look different to other people. Just make sure you’re doing something that you feel confident that you’re taking a break.

If what I just described, you’re gonna feel guilty the whole time and actually end up working the whole time, then don’t do that. Take the time off and really make sure you’re recovering. That’s the whole point of this is to recover, feel fresh coming back, and we really want to make that work for you.

Recap – 18:59

Okay! So to recap, we’re heading into the fall. That kind of kicks off, essentially, an academic year of everyone’s paying attention to work more, it’s gonna be busier, all that kind of stuff. Before we get too consumed in it, I would love for you to look up, see the busy periods ahead, and then really think about, “How can I make that period better and easier for future me?” So that can include setting yourself up on the personal front in great ways. We really focused on that. You can think about it also on the work front. When is the last period of time you’re gonna take on more work?

You can also plan on your other matters or projects or things like that to really wrap them up during that period of time and let them kind of be on pause for a period of time. I know I’m kind of adding more to think in my recap. But if you can see it coming, you’re like, “This other case is kind of gonna also have a lot going on during that time, and I’m not gonna be able to give it its due,” maybe you pull someone else onto that case knowing that that’s happening and then they’re up to speed by the time you get pulled into this other busy period of time.

You can be very creative on this, but the whole point of it is if you see a busy period coming, make sure you’re planning on your personal front, on your work front, to make it easier on you now. Use that calendar to help you plan out how you’re going to do that. What are all the action steps that go into that and put them in your calendar, and then make sure you’re protecting that recovery for yourself.

I just want you to keep it light. Keep it unstructured. Don’t make a ton of plans. Give yourself the breathing space of just the freedom of not knowing how you’re gonna feel coming out of that. But let yourself have the space to do what you need to do and what you want to do during that time.

I hope that this helps the next academic year of a lot of hard work that hopefully fills you up in a lot of other ways. I hope it helps you kind of enjoy it more. I mean, I think a lot of us love our jobs. We wish there were certain different things about them, but we love our jobs, and my goal is that this helps you actually be able to enjoy those busy seasons, which often relate to why we like doing that type of work. And so, you just want to make sure that you’re setting yourself up to do well in that, both at that job and then also be able to come home feeling like, “Okay, it might be a little different than I normally do it. Maybe it isn’t the most sustainable pace ever, but it isn’t terrible, how everything’s shaking out over here. I feel good about, on the home front, coming home to food in the fridge. I’m coming home to a clean house,” whatever it looks like, whatever would make you happy. Do the little things now to put yourself in that spot.

If this general approach to stuff really resonates with you — I mean, I really love it, so maybe I’m just transferring all my nerdy interest in it to you. But if it does, I really encourage you to check out The Bright Method. I have a free five-day program that walks you through the basic pillars of it, day by day. You get a video lesson each day. It comes with a guide. It’s very practical, very realistic, and I am biased, but I think you’ll enjoy it, and I want you to check it out. It’s at www.kellynolan.com/refresh. I’ll put the link in the show notes as well. It’ll help you reduce that mental load, get intentional with your work hours, understand how to break tasks down into manageable steps, plan, and feel the ripple effects in the rest of your life. So www.kellynolan.com/refresh, and I will see you in there!

All right, I’ll catch you in the next episode!

[Upbeat Outro Music]

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