Christmastime is here.
Well, not right now. Right now it’s only September. But about 100 days from now excited kids will be opening gifts from Santa and you’ll be crashing at the end of a long Christmas task list. Hopefully Santa will bring you something stronger than milk and cookies.
That’s right, the Christmas deadline clock is ticking.
It happens every year, and every year we struggle to figure out what we’re going to do this year.
Which is why I love Advent.
If you’re feeling stressed about Christmas planning, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Advent did your Christmas planning for you. (And even if your church doesn’t want to get all liturgical and you do want to reinvent the wheel, at least Advent can be a good tradition for you personally.)
Advent is supposed to be about hopeful expectation. That’s not exactly how most of us approach the Christmas season. Rattled frenzy might be a better description.
So what would it take for you to feel hopeful expectation—instead of the other feeling—in your office as you approach the Christmas season?
Aside from more money and more volunteers and an entire team of elves at your disposal?
Just imagine it: You come into the office after Thanksgiving break, and instead of feeling frazzled at your to-do list, you’re humming a tune and you’re full of joy (and turkey). It’s not that your task list is any shorter, but it’s that you’re better prepared for it. You’re in the right head space. Maybe your task list is a bit shorter because you planned ahead or intentionally paired back.
That might seem like a magical dreamland with unicorns and leprechauns, but you could make it a reality. What would it take to get there?
5 Ways to Get to Hopeful Expectation
We’ve got a few suggestions that could help you get to hopeful expectation as you approach Christmas this year.
1. Talk to Your Pastor
We’re all about communication, but that doesn’t mean we communicate well ourselves. If Christmas has been a cause of stress and worry in the past, talk to your pastor or supervisor. They might not even realize they’re asking too much.
That can be a scary conversation to have. I get it. For some big picture, head-in-the-clouds pastors, someone saying they can’t do it all might be a first step toward being replaced. But honestly, most bosses aren’t like that (and if yours is, maybe being replaced wouldn’t be such a bad thing).
Some helpful ways to have this conversation:
- Remind them of the concept of picking two: fast, cheap or good. They can’t have all three.
- Show them your task list and ask for help prioritizing. Ask which things should be lowest priority and might not get done. If they balk at that, ask for approval to hire some help.
- Offer alternatives. If your pastor has a wild, impossible idea, suggest some alternatives. Say, “We can’t do X, but what about Y?”
Remember that the greatest marketing in the world is a failure if it’s not serving your pastor. But how can you serve your pastor well if they don’t always see the value of communication? Here are nine ways you can serve your pastor.
Check out chapter 3 of Kelley Hartnett’s You’ve Got This for more help dealing with your supervisor.
2. Boost Your Productivity
I hate to tell you to get more productive as you approach Christmas. Some of the type A folks will revolt—they’re already at peak productivity. For others this might sound like silly advice: If I could get more done in the day don’t you think I’d be doing that?!
But hear me out. A lot of us think we’re being productive, when we’re really not. We think we’ve maximized our productivity, but the reality is we’ve let some bad habits slip in and we’re not as productive as we think we are. Working more hours does not always mean more is getting done.
So read over some productivity tips and see if there aren’t some areas you can address. We’ve got a helpful list of 12 tips (or our Courageous Storytellers members can tap into an expanded list of 75 productivity tips).
I always thought email and social media notifications weren’t eating into that much of my time. Yikes, was I wrong. Killing notifications actually made me a lot more productive.
My other favorite productivity tip is actually putting my tasks on the calendar. Seeing how much time they take up in the day compared to a simple to-do list helped me plan my week better.
3. Take Time to Recharge
What does it mean to de-stress and recharge for you? What’s your creative fuel? Maybe it’s coloring, reading, listening to podcasts, playing with Legos, taking a walk, going on a retreat.
Whatever it is, plan for it right now.
If you need a lot of time to recharge (a retreat), put it on the calendar now. Pencil in a day off in November when you’re going to need it. Sometimes the best part of a vacation is the anticipation. So maximize that benefit by planning your vacation now. (You could also plan that vacation for January if you’re the kind of person who needs to get the big job done before taking a break.)
If smaller things work for you, like a walk or playing with some toys, schedule that time into your week. Seriously, block off half an hour on your calendar every week for a “Creative Meeting.” If you take that time every week to rest and recharge your brain, you won’t be nearly as fried when Christmas arrives.
A vacation doesn’t happen until you book it, so take the time right now to make sure you get the break you need.
4. Unplug From Social Media
OK, I love social media. I wrote a book showcasing the positive impact of social media. I get a little twitchy when people talk about taking a social media fast.
But even still, sometimes social media can be a drag.
It’s designed to suck you into conversations (read: arguments). That can be good, but it can also be bad. Negativity abounds on social media, and sometimes it’s exhausting to constantly try to see the positive and be a force for good when you’re surrounded by so much angst.
So take a social media break.
Maybe not completely, maybe not entirely. Your job may require you to be plugged in. But take a personal social media break for sure.
Or at least tone back your activity. Maybe you commit to post only positive, happy things. Or maybe you limit your time or your activity.
Whatever the limitation is, try something and see if it works. You can always come back to social media later, and maybe you’ll have learned something through the process that can make social media a more positive experience for you.
5. Develop Your Systems
One of the reasons we feel frazzled during the holidays is because we’re doing so much and we don’t have systems in place. Or we had a system, but it completely broke down under the holiday onslaught.
Your system should be robust and resilient enough to handle busy seasons. If it’s not, you need a better system.
Wait a minute. I’m supposed to develop a whole new system in the midst of preparing for Christmas?! What kind of eggnog are you drinking?
Yeah, I get it. This can sound like terrible advice. Building a new system in the middle of a busy season might sound like a bad idea.
But you know what? There’s never a great time to implement a new process. You’re always busy, it’s always difficult. So why not do it when it’s going to benefit you the most?
A new system might be just the thing you need to manage all those Christmas tasks and deadlines. It might take a little more time to get things set up, but knowing you have everything tracked will save you time (and sanity) in the long run.
Make Way for the Coming of the Lord
All of these tips are designed to help you de-stress and actually feel the Christmas spirit, instead of turning into a bitter Ebenezer Scrooge. But systems and recharging and productivity is only part of it. That’s just clearing the way. To actually be filled with the Christmas spirit—God’s spirit—well, you need to enter the presence of God.
So take care of the stuff that makes your job a chore—make way!—and then do whatever it is you need to do to feel the presence of God: prayer, devotions, worship, silence, etc.
Then you’ll be filled with the hopeful expectation that is Advent, literally the “coming.”
And when that happens, you’ll be ready to play your part…
Be the Herald
We are the heralds of the king. It’s our job as communicators to prepare our communities for the coming of the king.
You are the angels, whispering to Mary and Joseph, and giving the good news to the shepherds. You are the star, guiding the wise men. You are the innkeeper, booting the last-minute guests to the overflow seating—OK, this metaphor has become a bit too belabored.
But just like Mary, you are bringing something wonderful into the world. In all the pictures Mary looks all comfy and serene, but she had labor pains. And so will you. Birthing creative ideas is never easy.
Or maybe you feel more like Joseph, standing by and helping your pastor birth this Christmas experience into existence. Mary is screaming and throwing things, and you’re just along for the ride, wondering who’s going to be cleaning up the mess—and then realizing it’s all you.
Christmas is the one time of the year when people actually want to hear the greatest story ever told. And you get to tell it!
Just as you are preparing your congregation, your church is preparing your community. Your church will introduce people to the baby Jesus. It’s more than presents and food and too many people at the mall.
As the Grinch said, “perhaps Christmas means a bit more.”
You get to empower your church to bring this message into the world: Come thou long expected Jesus!
So yes, it’s hard.
Yes, it’s tiring.
Yes, it’s starts way too early.
But you can do this. You’ve got this. There’s plenty of help available. There’s no shortage of ideas or resources. Take it one bite at a time (and yes, that’s advice geared for Easter, but it still applies) and you can devour a whale.
Yes, even the whale of Christmas.
Check out Christmas at our Courageous Storytellers membership site. We’ve got all kinds of resources to help, but we’ve also got some pep talks from the pros. Church communication—especially at Christmas—is hard. We can help.
Kevin D. Hendricks wrote this originally at Church Marketing Sucks .