To piggy back off of a post from Austin Kleon yesterday, “How I’m Spending Dead Week,” I thought I would share what Dead Week is like around here.
Dead Week is a term from an article by Helena Fitzgerald from The Atlantic: “All Hail Dead Week, the Best Week of the Year.”
“The time from December 26 until the afternoon of December 31 is generally considered part of “the holidays.” Kwanzaa, and very occasionally Hanukkah, falls during this period. But for many of us, whether still celebrating holidays or having just finished Christmas festivities, this week is like a long hangover.”
“Nobody knows what to do with this leftover week, awkwardly stuck to the bottom of the year. I call it “Dead Week,” a time when nothing counts, and when nothing is quite real.”
For years, I dreaded the week between Christmas and New Year’s more than I dreaded a flu. My first job out of college was with a public accounting firm, and thus began my career as a CPA.
I graduated from the University of Kentucky in December, enjoyed Christmas, moved into a new apartment, and started my very first tax season on January 2. And every year after that in my early career days, I dreaded the week between Christmas and New Years because I knew what came after: three and a half months of 60- to 80-hour work weeks (No exaggeration. I even worked over 100 hours in a single week, and I vowed I would never do it again.), very little sleep and exercise, and little to zero fun. To say that I loathed tax seasons in my early days is an understatement. Not so much anymore, but I’m better at it these days. (I also don’t work those kinds of ours for three and a half months any longer.)
But Dead Week, as Fitzgerald has called it, was always a week when I
dreaded prepared for what was to come. Maybe not “move into a new apartment” prepare, but it’s a week when I ready my house. I take down the Christmas decorations a little faster than some so that it’s not hanging over my head when the busy season of taxes begins. I clean the house so as to start the season off right. And I get my mind set for a few busy months.
I have never been a resolution setter. In my early days, my thought was: who wants to set resolutions when you’re entering a time of working so hard that there’s no time left for yourself and all resolutions would be broke before the end of the first month of the new year. I know that sounds dramatic, but it was difficult to keep exercise goals or good eating habits when most of your waking hours were spent working.
But as I said above: I’m better at it these days. (Not perfect by any stretch, but better.)
I’m better at getting a healthy mindset going into a busy time.
Reviewing the past year
Like Austin Kleon, I keep a journal/calendar/planner (all in one). And this week, I’ve been looking through that book, flagging anything important that needs to be migrated over to my new book. Last year, I used this bullet journal. This year, I’m actually switching back to a Hobonichi Cousin. I use both pretty much the same way, but the Hobonichi is dated.
The book I keep is for planning and scheduling, keeping important notes, and documenting memories and gratitude. It’s an all-in-one book for me. You can flip through my bullet journal and see the ups and downs of my year, including deaths of family and friends, places we traveled, and how we spent holidays. But you can also see endless, almost daily to-do lists, appointments scheduled, and other important dates noted.
It’s difficult when it’s been painfully cold out to get into the mood to clean the house and rid it of Christmas decorations. I’d much rather be lazy during this dead week. But I know how much more prepared I’ll feel to jump into January with everything in its place.
Also, I spilled an entire glass of red wine across my home office’s white carpet a couple of weeks before Christmas, shattering the glass and turning my office into what looked like a crime scene, complete with “blood” spatter.
So, I ordered a new rug to cover up the stain and make my office pretty. It’s coming today, so I’m spending this week getting my office in order since it’s where I will spend most of my waking hours for the next three and a half months.
Continuing to spend time with family
Unlike when I first got out of college, I’ve learned to balance my time between what I love and what I need to do.
Family is at the top of my “love” list. And with both of my children home for another week or so, we have been enjoying a lot of quality time: cooking meals together, watching movies, and playing games (Adult ones! So much fun when your kids become adults.).
I also carved out some time to help my father with a few electronic items this week. It means a lot to me that I live close to my father, and my husband and I are able to help him out any time we can.
Preparing mind and body
Probably the most important task for me during dead week, and continuing into the new year is preparing my mindset. And this is all-encompassing. This includes preparing the mind for a busy season of work, but also preparing the mind for balancing health & fitness and personal & spiritual well-being with long work hours.
I do this by reading A LOT! I read fiction to escape. I read nonfiction to center my my mind. And I exercise for both my mind and body.
I don’t wait until the new year to start a new exercise routine. Honestly, I don’t ever really start new routines. I just assess what’s currently working with what I might need to change or add.
For example, I hurt my back over Christmas. (I’m over fifty. It happens.) When I wasn’t moving as easily, I realized I had let my yoga routine go AGAIN, so I am determined to add yoga back into my exercise routine even if it’s only fifteen minutes a day a few days a week. I started this yesterday. (I’m not good at keeping yoga in my routine, so we’ll see how long that lasts. I’ve committed to January.)
Relaxing and celebrating
To complement everything above, I am committed to relaxing this week. Reading fiction. Watching TV and movies with the family. Eating good food, also with the family. And celebrating! Not just the holidays and the end of one year and the beginning of another, but celebrating the accomplishments of each member of the family.
The point to all of this is that there’s no wrong way to spend Dead Week. I will do a little of all of the above with left over tasks for next week. What will you do? Tell me in the comments. However you’re spending it, I wish you all the best as we say good-bye to 2022.