Here we are, in those few magical days between Christmas and New Year when the world stops, or at least slows down, and we can metaphorically get off. At least, that’s how it used to be before technology ensured that we need never be cut off from emails, social media, news reports or online shopping. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – I’ve been very glad of the internet during my Christmas preparations, but I’ve also noticed that it’s been a bit of a double-edged sword.
Yes, we can get things done faster, we can email friends and family abroad to save on spiralling postage costs, buy presents in other countries so that they can be delivered locally and make all those last minute preparations to make our Christmas celebrations perfect literally at the last minute.
But what I’ve also noticed is that whilst in the pre-technology days everyone used to work their socks off to be ready for the Christmas shut down as offices would have skeleton staff, factories would close and many businesses would let their workers take holidays until the New Year, this practise hasn’t stopped despite the fact that we take fewer holidays and seem to have less time off than ever before. I've watched my husband and many other people work their socks off (me included – and I’ve been knitting the socks as well!) to have everything done for Christmas - but actually, would it really have mattered if we didn't? The emails haven't stopped, the phone calls and texts are still continuing and to a large extent, life is going on as normal - except that at Christmas, normal isn't good enough and everything has to be perfect. The technology that should be helping us is making us work harder than ever, and our desire to create a picture-book Christmas simply adds to the workload.
I’m not for one minute suggesting that we should ignore the demands of business because it’s a different world these days, but I do question whether we could let the demands of business go a little as we focus on what’s important at this time of year. Right up to Christmas Eve, my husband was finding emails in his inbox asking if he could “just do this before Christmas” when he was going to be back in work again on a few short days later and presumably whatever it was wouldn’t spoil by waiting for what is essentially only a long weekend. Our need to get things finished – our perfectionism, if you like – refuses to let us stop and take a breath and at the end of what has been a demanding year of highs and lows for everybody, we need that more than ever.
I think it’s time to take the steering wheel again. Put that “out of office” notice on your emails. Turn off your mobile phone whilst you watch that movie you’ve had lined up for weeks. Get off the world for just a few minutes, because it doesn’t stop for long. Mind the gap.