This week, I’m out of the office and celebrating Thanksgiving. If you’ll also be celebrating, I hope you’re able to enjoy some time with those who matter most to you.

But even if the holiday has caught you a bit less ready than you’d like, there’s still time to prepare to make the most of it. To do so, try these 5 steps.

1. Recognize there’s more to life than your current work demands or next upcoming project.

Academic biblical studies, church work, etc. is one dimension of your life—not the other way around. If we get this reversed, we end up living as something less than whole human beings.

2. Prepare early.

By this point, your plans are probably already set. But take a moment to take stock of where things stand.

Are you already intentionally or unintentionally planning to short change your time away? If need be, modify your plans for the holiday accordingly.

Then, ask yourself what will have to be true over the next couple days for you to unplug from your school or work demands. Ask yourself what will need to happen for you to be fully present with your friends, loved ones, or whomever you’ll be spending time with.

Plan your time between now and the start of your holiday activities to prioritize the critical few items that will make the holiday as enriching as possible for you and those you’ll spend it with.

3. Address others’ needs ahead of time.

Identify who may have a “surprise” work-related need for something from you while you’re supposed to be unplugged.

In reality, such surprises probably aren’t as surprising as we can allow them to be. From past experience, you may well know who’s likely to ask for something from you at the 11th hour (or later!).

Contact these people as soon as you can to let them know that you’ll be happy to field requests from them before or after your time away but that you’ll be unavailable during the holiday window you’ve set aside.

4. Use an auto-responder.

If possible, set an out-of-office reply or other automated bounce back at least a little before you need to start disengaging. That way, you won’t have messages come in that you don’t have time to respond to.

In the automated reply, you don’t need to give a lot of detail. But do try to let whomever know when you’ll be able to get back with them.

5. While you’re away, actually unplug.

Be fully present with those for whom you’ve set aside this time to disengage.

If you find you didn’t start preparing early or fully enough, don’t try to squeeze school or work activity back in around the margins. And if something comes up claiming it can’t wait, don’t be too ready to agree with that assessment.

But if you really think it can’t wait, start by talking through how best to handle that with those who will be affected by your not unplugging. Then, knock out what needs to be done, and take the scenario as a lesson in how to prepare better for the next time you’ll be away.

Other than that, remember that “inside ‘yes’ is ‘no.'” If you choose to pull school or work back into times you’ve set aside to be more fully present with family, friends, or others, that “yes” to the work is an automatic “no” to those you’d otherwise be giving your time, attention, and presence to during that time. And you shouldn’t underestimate the relational cost of that “no.”

Conclusion

As you go through this Thanksgiving week, enjoy the time you’ve set aside for the holiday’s social activities.

But as you do so, you may also notice at least something where there’s friction because of some school or work hangover or preoccupation you have. If you do, think about what you could have done differently to avoid that friction.

Maybe you tried to squeeze something in around a margin. Maybe you missed something in your preparation. Or maybe you didn’t start preparing for the holiday early enough.

Whatever the case may be, it just so happens that Christmas follows Thanksgiving pretty closely again this year. 😉 So you’ll soon have another to put into practice what you learned over Thanksgiving.

Do that a few times, and you’ll notice yourself gradually getting better at being not just whatever your school or work demands require, but also someone who is and lives as a whole person.

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