1 Look at the Big Picture
It might be widely considered the most wonderful time of the year, but let’s be real: this is a few weeks out of our whole year. Plus, this season comes every single year! If you don’t create all the family memories you pinned on Pinterest, get everyone an amazing gift, or look great in the annual photos, is all lost? Why are we putting so much pressure on ourselves about this? Will anyone even remember what you’re freaking out about in a couple months? When you start to feel like you’re failing your way through the holidays, take a breath, and find some longterm perspective.
2 Prioritize & Prune
Not all events are created equal. What do you want the next two months to be like? What are your goals for yourself and/or your family? Maybe you want to take the time when work slows down to write your book. Maybe you want to create as many fun family memories as you can before your oldest child starts to think it’s all lame. Maybe you want to focus on quality time with ailing grandparents. Maybe you want to reconnect with your spouse. You’re in charge! Make a plan that you can follow. In business, we track and analyze the amount of effort and return on investment that tasks or projects will yield. We need to do this more in our personal life! Once you’ve figured out your priorities, rank all the events, parties, and memory-making opportunities. You also need to look at your routines. This is a few weeks where you might want to swap an hour-long spin class for a 25 minute video workout you can do at home. The more brutal you can be in your rankings, the easier it will be to cut the low ranking options.
3 Make the Time
If you’ve never tried time blocking before, now is a great time to start! When you plot out events and activities on a calendar - including details like the fifteen minutes it takes you to get ready to go somewhere, travel time, etc - you can see with your eyes where your time is going. Bonus points if you use color coding because you’ll see with your eyeballs that maybe the activities you have planned add up to way too much time in the car or that cocktail parties are literally getting twice as much time as family events. You can also make sure you plot time for writing, working out, reading a Christmas story every night, etc.
4 Take Power Breaks
I am a huge believer in using small pockets of time that usually go to waste. After completing steps 1-4, look for (or add) 10 or 20 minute chunks here and there. Make those pockets power breaks by using them for high ROI, stress relieving tasks. You can take the 10 minutes in standing line at the store to purchase and auto-ship a gift to a loved one out of state. You can use commercial breaks during the Thanksgiving Day parade to clean the house. You can schedule 20 minutes of work during days off to keep you from feeling behind. And yes, some days your power break may need to be used for a power nap!
5 Get Help
Sometimes no amount of planning and sorting will provide enough time for it all. What if, for November and December, you cut expenses somewhere in your life in order to use a housekeeper? Imagine the day(s) of sweeping, scrubbing and sweating before you have your entire crew over for the big meal. Now imagine that day spent with your boo or leisurely shopping instead. Beyond house cleaning, could you enlist help with shopping, cooking or transporting kids around? Could you hire an assistant for business tasks that you know might not get done because you’ll be overcommitted?
6 Remember Who Counts
I can hear you. But we can’t just not go to SoAndSo’s party. I can’t actually get some writing in during the holidays. Hiring seasonal help, are you out of your mind?! My mother would have a field day with that. Like I’ve said before, (in this Quick Pep Talk) you are not accountable to everyone in your life. Whose approval do you really care about? The list of names should be short, now and throughout the whole year.
7 Find the Cheer
This tip comes (indirectly) from my husband. He lovingly sent me an article with a comment that read “This is why I’m happier than you.” (I might be paraphrasing.) The article explained that you can find slivers of joy each day if you make a practice of pausing and noticing. My husband is a master at this. Opening a new bag of coffee beans, for example, he’ll pause and breathe it in. He will literally smile and say “ah.” I kid you not. He’s like a Starbucks commercial. I, on the other hand, am in desperate need for the Brown Water of Life and rip through the bag as fast as possible, usually spilling some beans. He does this when a great song comes on, when he gets to sit on the couch after a long day, eating the first bite of a great dish. There is plenty of cheer and wonder and beauty and joy this time of year, we just have to actually pause, notice it, and relish in it for a moment.
8 Double Down on the Holiday Cheer
I created a Quick Pep Talk about this tip last year and it’s still valid. This is a warm, fuzzy, even sappy time of year. Make the most of it! Use the cheer you feel as an excuse to mend a relationship, to finally ask that hottie out, to go in for the extra hug. Use it is as inspiration for your work. Write out a list of all you love about your life while you’re feeling cheery and file it away for down days (which might be tomorrow when Sally has a meltdown in the line to see the Santa who doesn’t even have a proper white beard and the dog pees on the large, wrapped gift you set by the back door. What were you thinking?!)
Get proactive right now and put these steps in place for a happier, saner holiday season. Your self and your work and your family and friends will thank you for it!