Christmas cards are a labor of love for me. Well, that plus a chance to unleash my creativity since I create my own. I wait not very patiently for the muse to hit, and it seems to prefer to wait until mid-December, which means I’m always pressed for time, which means I’m lucky to get them out before the next year arrives. I used to stress about that and vow to complete them by Thanksgiving, but then I got smarter about my personal preferences. I realized I wasn’t procrastinating, but gathering inspiration and working well under pressure. I’m not a plan-ahead-schedule-it-up kind of person. Never have been – and now that I know I’m normal and productive in my somewhat spontaneous modus operandi, happy to never become one. Thanks, MBTI(r)
So it came to pass that it was the last week before Christmas. I brought a few of my 2011 cards for members of a team I lead at work. Because it was so close to a tantalizing vacation, I was determined to clear my plate so I could enjoy the upcoming 11 luxurious days of leisure – a much-needed event! So, in the interest of time and efficiency, I prepared my cards at home the night before. My plan was to look up everyone’s mail stop, slip their cards into inter-office envelopes, and be done. It was a 5-minute task, and I could then efficiently wrap up more loose ends. You know, the official stuff.
I grabbed the first envelope, clicked through the web address book, picked up my pen (red, for the holidays), and … stopped. This is nuts, I thought. I should just hand-deliver these seven cards, scattered as they are across three floors of the building. I wavered. That’s time-consuming. I don’t really want to walk all over this rabbit warren of cubicles and floors. There are better things I can do with my time, and interoffice mail will have them in my team’s hands long before the day is out. Though I couldn’t think of any efficient reason for doing so, I decided to actually take the time and drop off my cards personally. I scooped them up and struck out for parts unknown.
The whole expenditure of time took about 30 minutes. Here’s the fun thing: when I got back to my desk, I discovered I felt better, lighter, more centered, and decidedly more in the Christmas spirit.
So I sat there (inefficient, I know) and thought about what had just transpired. I’d had face-to-face communication with five people. I wasn’t there to get anything, or to ask for something, or to talk about work. I gave them my card, then stood and talked for several minutes about holidays, traditions, habits, families, shopping … everyday things. They were real moments, and there was something soft and honest, relaxed and authentic about our conversations. We caught up with life. We listened. We connected. And all because I decided to do the less expedient thing and hand-deliver cards.
I’m thinking it’s maybe the best validation of what my team does – capture lives outside the cubicle. Lives that really matter … the lives we bring to work and that shape so much of who we are. Most of all, it’s given me a wonderful gift – enlightenment. This year I wasn’t much for the Christmas spirit. I did it better when I was a college student. Today, I think I know why that is and what I can do about it.
I need to take time.
Yes, time. Now I’m on a roll: I realize that the other day I stopped working on things that won’t matter in the long run and concentrated on those that will. I gave my coworkers my time and attention (plus a damn fine card). I could have easily sent it through inter-office mail. But it was about the connection. About me saying to them: Hey! You matter to me. And the surprising thing: It was about how that affected me as the giver.
Instead of trying to fit something in my schedule while en route to some other task – rather than doing something that was likely to save me some time – I said no to multitasking, expediency, and efficiency. What I learned is this: work is far, far more than simply getting a job done or completing a task on time. Work IS people; at least I believe my life’s purpose is people. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Wow. Maybe that’s the secret to keeping the Christmas spirit and holding it in my heart, although it’s much bigger than any single holiday. I think it’s the gift of connection. Instead of doing ever so much more to capture that elusive Christmas spirit, maybe “doing” less and “being” more is the key. If what I received is any indication, it’s a worthy pursuit.