I love the holiday season, and I have a sense that I will love it even more this year. For the past two months, my four-year-old son has been talking about the holidays with a twinkle in his eye and a spring in his step. Mystical, magical, and awe-inspiring, the holidays are near and dear to the young, but as adults, responding to children’s enthusiasm can be a challenge. While my son is ready to throw himself into the holidays (and apparently has been ready since September!), like most adults, I recognize that it can bring a lot of additional commitments and demands while also loving it. So, how can one make sure the holidays are fun, magical and as stress free as possible?
I have greater appreciation of Santa’s maxim, “Making a list, checking it twice.” I could be biased, but I imagine that Mrs. Claus was probably behind this great productivity hack. After all, with the right level of preparation, the holidays can be fun and memorable rather than stressful. The question, then, is not whether to prepare but how to prepare and when to begin?
Make a “Gift” Plan
Think many times and think deeply about all the different people in your life, including those at work, at home, and in the community. Create a list of these individuals and then, put them into categories based on giving needs. For employees, you might opt to give everyone a uniform gift (e.g., a gift certificate for an online store, a membership, or subscription). The same may hold true for clients. For teachers, caregivers, and other people who have direct contact with your family, you might choose another type of gift solution but again, opt for something you can easily order and even have delivered. For close relations, you will likely need to carve out time to shop but schedule it in advance. There is nothing worse than running around late in the game searching for the one-of-kind gift for a spouse. Also, they will likely know exactly what you are up to when you dash out in a panic at the 11th hour!
Stock Up on Supplies
During the holiday season, you will need to be prepared for surprise drop-in visits and last-minute dashes to parties. Stock up in advance. Buy holiday supplies, including snack foods, in bulk. If you have kids and anticipate school parties, stock up on supplies for school events. If you anticipate hosting friends and family and/or having many invites to other people’s events, take time out to buy a case of wine (at most stores, this can save you anywhere from 10% to 15% and will also save you the time of dashing off to the wine store on your way to an event).
Remember: Done is Better than Perfect
Sorry, perfectionists, it is time to give yourself a break! At this time of year, done is better than perfect. Sure, you may want to make the classic Yule log that you remember your mother making in your childhood, but you have to be realistic about it actually happening. It may sound like a great idea, but if you are working full-time, replicating complex recipes from the past may simply not be in the cards. (Also, I hate to break it to you, but your kids and even your parents might not even appreciate the difference between something you have spent hours baking and the store-bought equivalent.) Don’t get me wrong–I love home cooked and healthy foods, but given the season’s demands, something has to give. If you buy a Yule log at the local bakery, so be it!
Get Clear on Your Must-Dos and Want-to-Dos
I am a huge fan of Laura Vanderkam—a mom to four children and a prolific reader and writer. I love that she thinks purposefully and intentionally about what really matters and is always looking for ways to realize her priorities. One of her hacks is to make lists of her seasonal “want-to-dos.” These are not our “must-dos” (e.g., buy 30 juice boxes for the holiday party at your child’s school) but rather the things we really want to do during the holiday season.
As you enter the holiday season, take a page from Laura and make a list of “want-to-dos.” If you want to see your child’s school play, even if you have a busy work schedule, put it on your list. Likewise, if you want to take an hour off on Christmas day to go for a long run—entirely alone—put it on your list. Your want-to-do list is your chance to identify what really matters. Keeping this list front and center and not letting your must-dos crowd out your want-to-dos is one way to ensure you will end the year on a happy, healthy, and stress-free note.