Have a J.O.L.L.Y holiday! 5 tips for Maintaining Work-Life balance

Author: Shanta Ricks

Editors: Nina Bartmann and Jan Willem Lindemans


The holiday season is here. And with it, all the added stress and activity brought on by work and family gatherings, gift buying and home decorating. For many people, juggling this increase in personal demands with work can be overwhelming. These five behavioral science hacks can help you maintain a healthy work-life balance throughout the holidays.

Your holiday needs to be “JOLLY”:

  • J: Joyful, by jumpstarting your day with joy,
  • O: Organized, by organizing tasks by prioritization,
  • L: Liable, by holding yourself liable with SMART goals,
  • L: Light, by learning to take life breaks,
  • Y: Yummy, by enjoying food with families and friends

Jumpstart the day with joy

Begin each day with one small activity that brings you joy to ease into the workday with a clear mind. This can take on many forms like showing gratitude, listening to your favorite song, or going for a brisk walk. It will not only put you in a good mood, but it also makes you more productive at work. You can even make the activity more festive by listening to your favorite holiday song.

Organize tasks by prioritization

Now that you’re in a good mood, it’s time to tackle the day’s activities. Write down all tasks that need to be done for that day and then prioritize them by level of urgency.

Behavioral science teaches us there’s power in doing this. Not only does your to-do list provide structure and thereby help increase your productivity, but it also removes the cognitive burden of having to remember every single task. Checking off each completed task keeps you on track and allows you to see tangible progress made, which brings a feeling of satisfaction.

Remember it’s okay if all tasks aren’t accomplished for that day. The holidays often bring unexpected tasks. If this happens, try re-visiting your to-do list to include space or cushion for those new additions.

An app like Todist is a great resource for listing and organizing tasks with ease. But a notepad that’s specifically designed for writing your daily to-do’s works too!

Liability through SMART goals

Take your to-do list a step further by turning each task into a SMART goal, one that is “specific”, ”measurable”, ”achievable”, ”realistic”, and “time bound”.

SMART goals improve the quality of our work because they increase our understanding of the task, provide specifics on how to do the behavior(s) associated with the task, and incorporate a deadline.

For example, instead of listing a to-do as “prepare for a sales meeting”, a clearer to-do framed as a SMART goal might read as: “Create an agenda for meeting with the Sales team by the end of the work week.”

Check out this SMART goal template for step-by–step instructions.

Learn to take Light breaks

Taking breaks has been shown to reduce fatigue, burnout, and help to retain motivation. This holiday season, mix in a few 15-20-minute breaks throughout your workday.

Effective ways to take breaks include spending time in nature (which has been shown to improve our mood and decrease stress), chatting with co-workers, talking to family and friends, taking a short walk, or just sitting still and looking out the window.

Regardless of the type of break you take; the goal is to make sure that you are fully detaching from work. When doing so, we are allowing our brain to recharge. This means that we will have refined focus once returning to the task which in effect can increase productivity and creativity.

Pro tip: set reminders on your computer to take breaks (of your choice) throughout the day!

Yummy, Enjoy food with family and friends

All work and no play are no fun. The final tip is to know that your social life matters and to use this time to enjoy great food with family and friends.

Now that we’re in the holiday season, try searching for “festive holiday foods” that you and your family can prepare together.



As you wrap up the year and prepare for the holidays, try incorporating these tips into your routine. These small and practical tips can help you not only excel at work but will give you the space to thrive at home so that you can have a “JOLLY” Holiday!