Only someone with my sick idea of rest could develop a list for things to do in order to maximize relaxation over the holidays. Disclaimer: Effects could vary depending on your profession and holiday plans. If nothing else, use these tips and take a day or two for yourself whenever you get the chance.
The goal of holiday and vacation rest is to ensure that you have time to be spontaneous when it really matters. Your family wants you around. Some of your oldest friends want a chance to re-connect. Don't let them down with a never-ceasing calendar and task-list.
1) Limit Digital Time
It's really easy to convince myself "As long as I do not work, I am on vacation." But let's be honest. I have a tendency to read articles and watch videos throughout the day. It's easy to get pulled into digital hermit-hood over the holidays.
Put away the computers and phones in most cases except a sleepy car ride. Try to find the best ways to interact with others with no help from screens. If you are watching a movie together, make sure it's something the group wants. I have a bad habit of suggesting movies only I would like.
I nice to make a small exception for Kindles and physical books. Getting lost in a good (ideally fictional) book is the antithesis of my work. It forces me to think on another plane, and feels much more recreational. Reading aloud is one of the best things we do during the holidays. I recommend you take those must read articles and read them to your loved ones in the car. This will act as a nice filter for what the group wants to hear.
Most importantly, talk about a policy for holiday digital time with your spouse and children. This way, no one feels hurt by your absense when you do decide to get lost in a book for an hour or so.
I actually just failed on this one. I should've been clearer with all my obligations (work and social) about my holiday plans. People who are likely to send you an email or give you a call over the holidays should know what to expect, in-advance.
The workplace norm is the out-of-office message. It's a fairly effective way to ensure the little email requests are warned about your absence. My only issue with this approach: it's reactive instead of proactive. While reactive plans make the best of the situation, a proactive approach puts your goals in the front seat. By the way, this applies to budgeting, investing, and productivity, also.
Work obligations in particular should know in advance of your vacation. I would take the approach of letting the individual/group know about your holiday rest plans. It will give them one last chance to make small requests. They will feel better served and less surprised by the out-of-office message. For real estate investors, this is also works with tenants and property managers. Although your tenants will always need an emergency contact on call.
Use communication as a chance to inform, and try not to brag. People don't really care that you're hiking the alps with a legendary campfire sommelier. If they really want to know, they will ask.
3) Manage Expectations
Don't eliminate your expectations. Just don't cling to them. Holidays and vacations are very quickly ruined for those of high expectations. During our vacation, we took out the trash and saw the neighbors ice-skating in the street. This little observation betrayed the obviously dangerous conditions of the roads that day. Sure, we got to ski less then expected, but nobody was too miffed.
As my mom says, "we make lemonade out of lemons", and that's what we did. There are always other restaurants with shorter lines. Movies for the icy roads. Later days to hit the slopes. Every negative comes with a positive in the form of decreasing expenses or new and unexpected family traditions. With our group, even a trip to the grocery store is fun.
Take your expectations and make them into opportunities. You will sleep much better for this.
4) Take a little Personal Time
I put the E in extrovert, I don't always assess my need for personal time very well. You need to have some time for yourself. In some cases, time with smaller groups will do the trick.
Our family holiday group consisted of three couples (Mom, Dad, my brother, his wife, my wife, me). Some groups of two, three, or four would split off from time-to-time. Some went beer tasting, some went climbing, sub-groups would go shopping, or walk the dogs. I would hide out in the garage, listen to marketplace and do a few pull-ups every day. I treasure these private moments.
Sometimes resting is about being okay with what's going on in your life at that exact moment. It' hard to know if you're being personally mindful if you are constantly distracted by others. Introverts call this recharging, and it's at the heart of rest. Find a way to get your recharge every day during vacation. If you're in small quarters, you may have to sneak out to a local cafe and read for an hour or so.
5) Be Spontaneous
Or at least be open to it. Some of the best memories, gatherings, and bargains are completely off the cuff. Be ready to snatch a good opportunity while you're at rest. Your time is money when you work, but your time is whatever you want on vacation.
I've been criticized for caring more about trips than destinations. Trips are a big part of my memories. If you do it right, and with the right people, everything can be a great situation.
We had a one day layover in Minneapolis on our way to family Christmas. Seems like a cold, unfamiliar location for Christmas day. Except, Delta airlines covered our hotel and gave us a gift in excess of our ticket price. Christmas comes with high emotional demand from a lot of people. Our willingness to shift our schedule ensured that we could try three of the most iconic restaurants in the St. Paul / Minneapolis area on our way to our family Christmas. We had a fun time, and part of that fun was the adventure of this unexpected destination.
There are travel-planners, and I love these people! They manage to make everything educational, fun, well-timed, and usually save money normally lost to spontanaeity. I recommend planning activities with a little room for flexibility. Occasionally, drive down a different road back to your hotel.
From staycation to mountain getaway, make sure your vacation doesn't look like an unfocused version of your work week. Create mental space for positive reflection and relaxation. Studies show that it actually improves productivity.
Like investment, take the long view on time, your lifestyle, and stress management.