Once Halloween is over, I usually blink and the next thing I know, I am knee deep in all the frenzy and chaos that comes with the holidays. I am stressed, miserable, and what’s more, I am less productive than ever.
Well, in an attempt to take a pre-emptive strike against this negative state of affairs this year, I’ve decided to focus today’s post on five tips to stay balanced AND productive during the holiday season.
1. Get it all out of your head.
If you are like me, you have a million things swimming around in your head. And I tend to remember things I have to do at the most inopportune times. I’ll be racing through this proverbial, never-ending “to do list” while chauffeuring my daughter to her latest activity, or while shampooing my hair in the shower. And as my stream of consciousness leads me to remember a task I just have to get done, I will feel this surge of anxiety and panic. Just as quickly, my mind will move on to the next thing I’ve got to take care of, and I’ll forget what I was just worrying about … and the pattern repeats itself.
One of the best things I’ve done to clear my head and keep track of all the to-dos was to find a method that would allow me to document and prioritize all things I need to get done the moment I am thinking about them. There are traditional tools, like post-it notes or paper to-do lists. There are also more contemporary tools, like apps, computer software, or even your iPhone task list. I found a cool program called “Toodledo” which allows me to very quickly document a to-do, and in about 10 seconds, I can classify the task, prioritize it, and even assign a due date. The result is I am successfully knocking things off my to-do list, fewer things are falling through the cracks, and I have given my brain permission to “download and delete” the things I have documented on my to-do list. Less stuff swimming around in my head also equates to less anxiety or more opportunity to be present in the moment.
2. Build in margin.
Margin is that little bit of space you create to account for unexpected things. Like, if you have to be somewhere in an hour, and you know it will take you 60 minutes to get there, leave a little bit earlier just in case you run into traffic or get lost, etc. Or, if you are going to host a party, and you know it will take you a couple of hours to cook the food and prep for your guests, give yourself more time than you’ll need to get things ready, so you have a few minutes to unwind and rest before your guests arrive. Or, if you have a specific budget for gifts, try to spend a little less than you budgeted, so, you have the cash to pick up a gift for someone you inadvertently forgot. The truth is we often create our own unbalanced, stressful situations by not giving ourselves any margin. By not scheduling ourselves to the max or spending more than we have budgeted, we give ourselves the opportunity to enjoy the holidays at a more realistic pace.
3. Take some time to meditate/recharge.
Schedule time to reflect and recharge. You could vow to leave your home office for an hour each week to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee and an earbud of classical music at the local Starbucks. Or, perhaps you could get up 20 minutes early to pray or meditate, or, maybe you could commit to celebrating the things you are happy about just before lights out at the end of your day (the Happier app is perfect for that). However you go about it, if you make a conscious effort to reflect on why the holidays are important to you and what/who you are celebrating for, some of the petty things we typically get stressed about during this time of the year won’t matter much at all.
4. Set some goals/deadlines for things you want to get done over the next two months.
I don’t know if it is fatigue or all the changing priorities, but, I find myself fighting “winter fever” during the holidays. I will be completely unmotivated about the work I need to wrap up before the end of the year. Keep yourself on task by setting some specific goals for yourself. This could involve giving yourself some deadlines over the course of the next two months, outlining milestones you plan to reach along the way or scheduling meetings with customers and colleagues that are integral to the progress of the project. Mapping out a plan of attack will help you to stay focused and productive. But, remember to build in some margin and schedule some downtime, too, so you don’t set unrealistic goals or work through the entire Holiday season.
5. Say no.
We don’t want to disappoint people. So, sometimes we will commit ourselves to do things because we feel obligated. But, if going to that extra Holiday party, or, cooking your grandmother’s homemade fudge for the holiday bake sale is going to add lots of stress and angst to your life, it is ok to graciously say “No.” Other people do not know what your commitments are or what your calendar and to-do list looks like. They are also not focused on maintaining balance in YOUR life. You know what you can do well, how much time it will take to do it, and whether the added responsibility is going to overextend you. So, fight for your sanity and a sense of balance in your life by learning about the power of the phrase “No, thank you.”
Are there any other tips you would add to this list? How do you stay balanced and productive during the holiday season?