It never ceases to amaze me how fast life gets at this time of year. Without warning, I’m buried under a tsunami of work deadlines and I have as much hope of making them as I do of actually getting all the wrapping and decorating and cooking and shopping done.
The crazy holiday season dance. I love it — wouldn’t trade any of it — but there’s no denying that my juggling act requires a lot more precision this time of year.
8 stealable holiday season survival strategies
I’ll let you in on a secret — my holiday survival planning begins long before the holidays. Like choosing to eat healthier or exercise more, it’s a series of smart (and sometimes hard) lifestyle choices. Feel free to steal my ideas and have yourself a less stressful, more joyful holiday season this year.
- Schedule religiously. Making time for everything begins with making time for everything. In my world, every task owns a time slot in my digital calendar, which keeps me in check with regular alerts and reminders. And I organize myself based on knowing what times of the day are better for different tasks. For example, mornings are for detail-oriented, highly focused tasks while the afternoons tend to be for more creative work. Meetings can happen at any time of the day — but they never happen without an agenda and a goal.
- Set digital boundaries. How many times a day do you check email? Social media? The problem with digital is that there’s no natural stop. A newspaper has a finite amount of content — when you’re done reading, there’s a decision to make about what to do next. A digital feed keeps going as long as you keep scrolling. Set boundaries for how long you’ll scroll, and stick to them.
- Declare tech-free zones. We’re perpetually tethered to a steady stream of information from the outside world and that can rob us of intimate time with our friends and families. Trust me, you’ll hear your phone ring from another room if someone calls while you’re eating. That precious time at the table with your partner might be just what you need to organize the holiday menu or how you’ll juggle office closures and child care. Old-school multitasking while enjoying a meal — brilliant.
- Plan ahead. Knowing the impending busyness of the holidays, I stockpile work tasks ahead of time. Getting regularly occurring deliverables off my plate during slower times creates space for the disruption I know is coming as we approach the holidays.
- Prioritize sleep. When stress ratches up, 4 a.m. and I get intimately acquainted in ways I could easily live without. To combat holiday stress that threatens to rob me of a good night’s sleep, I aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. If I’m wakeful during the night, I only allow myself to read a book — not scroll social media. A half-hour of reading usually makes me tired enough to sleep until morning.
- Balance work with life. During the holidays, taking a whole day off is almost impossible. But taking a half day or even an hour off affords me valuable breathing room. And that sense of accomplishment reduces stress and helps me feel connected to my family instead of feeling I’m squeezing them into my day.
- Take time to play. When we’re constantly task-oriented, our brains don’t have time to relax or rejuvenate. It might sound counterproductive but just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean playtime isn’t important. Whether it’s taking a half-hour to play Super Mario or cribbage with your partner, letting your brain play for even a short time will refresh it in a million ways.
- Practice acceptance. When stress levels are running high, it’s easy to let little issues erupt into geysers. But if we’re doing the best we can — and assume everyone we interact with is also doing the best they can — acceptance and patience and generosity are our best friends. If we can accept that we’re all struggling, a helping hand is easy (and feels good) to extend. There’s no room for judgment or frustration any longer, which makes for a whole lot happier for you and me.
From my family to yours, I wish for the happiest of holidays this year and that joy and hope and love shine bright in your life. As we progress toward 2024 and the beautiful promise a new year holds, I wish all the best for you, my friends.