If ever there was a time of year you’re likely to miss being employed, this is it: Christmas and New Year.

You may not miss the Christmas party, work’s Christmas dinner or the potential angst caused by Secret Santa (you weren’t even sure who Maureen was). But a Christmas bonus wouldn’t go amiss, or a nice bottle of wine from the boss. And what about that most wondrous thing: paid time off to enjoy yourself with friends and family? As a freelancer, that doesn’t exist, and you may not get any time off unless you plan it yourself.

So here’s a few tips to ensure you’re not frazzled by Christmas Day—and that you do get some time for festive fun!

Lay the groundwork earlyTips for Taking a Festive Break

Freelancing means being your own boss and so, like any good boss, you have to plan ahead. Be wary of taking on too much work or projects with deadlines close to Christmas, particularly if it’s a big event for you and your nearest and dearest (and you’re the main organiser!).

You’re likely to have extra commitments in the run-up to Christmas, so reduce your workload and aim to have everything that needs to be completed done before Christmas Eve.

That way, you have a spare day to play catch-up, do any last-minute festive preparations and maybe even relax with a glass of mulled wine!

If you’re intending to take more than Christmas and Boxing Day away from work, tell your clients well in advance so they know when you will be contactable and when they can expect work or progress reports.

It works the other way round too; make sure you know when your clients will be reachable and ensure you have all the details you need to complete their work before the holiday season starts. It’s no good rushing to your desk on the 27th December and discovering a query that halts your project, only to find there’s nobody in the office to answer it until 2nd January!

Prioritise

If doing everything is impossible (and it usually is), then you need to decide what’s essential and urgent, and make those things a priority as Christmas draws near. Any work with a close deadline needs to be worked on steadily until it’s done, while there may be other things you usually do that you can let slide if they’re not urgent.

If it seems like every task—be it Christmas-related or work-related—is equally important, it might be worth considering the consequences of completing them late, partially or not at all. This can make it very clear where you priorities should lie.

During one very busy year, I faced the prospect of a crazily hectic Christmas Eve with work still to do, presents still to wrap and even a couple still to buy. But it occurred to me that the unbought presents were for people I wasn’t seeing until New Year’s Eve and the unwrapped presents weren’t needed until the day after Boxing Day. I put both those tasks out of my head, wrapping the presents on the morning of the 27th before travelling, and popping out a few days later to buy those last few presents in the sales.

Let it go

Yes, you could take on that extra job. Yes, you could pursue your dream of homemade presents for your friends and printing your own wrapping paper. But I urge you not to, unless your December has been really, really slow and you’re sitting there a week before Christmas, twiddling your thumbs.

Professionalism is great. Enthusiasm is wonderful. But perfectionism can lead us down a dark path, so accept that trying to make everything perfect may just cause you (and those around you!) more hassle and stress. You’re unlikely to enjoy the festive season if you’re exhausted and on edge.

Extend your working day (or week)

If lightening your workload isn’t an option due to the pressure of deadlines, contract obligations or just the plain old need for money, then start extending your working day or week well before Christmas to ensure you complete your projects.

Whether it’s an extra 15 minutes a day or a Saturday morning, figure out the best times to fit in some extra working hours so that you can get ahead, leaving you time to relax and enjoy Christmas and New Year with family and friends.

Remember, just because you work for yourself (and from home) doesn’t mean that you don’t need or deserve a break. Downtime does us all good, so make sure you take action now to ensure you enjoy the festivities!

Are you planning time off over the festive period? How do you usually manage your workload this time of year? Please share your thoughts below.