Do you cringe each year in November when you first hear holiday music playing in the department stores? It can be like a sparkly red and green flashing alarm going off in your brain saying Oh no! It’s that time again – time for holiday parties, shopping for presents, house guests, traveling, decorating, gift wrapping, and elf hiding...
The holiday season is supposed to bring cheer and happiness but for many people, it is synonymous with stress and chaos. With the deadline of Chrismahanukwanzakah quickly approaching, the to-dos multiply exponentially and might leave you fearing you will never have enough time to get everything done. It’s no wonder already busy people have come to dread the scent of pine cones and chiming of sleigh bells.
Stress and chaos often come from the feeling of having too much to do combined with the uncertainty of getting it all done in time. Can you relate? My holiday anxiety has steadily decreased each passing year after figuring out the root cause and choosing to eliminate holiday stress from my life. Previously I approached each holiday season with too much optimism and was not realistic about what I could actually accomplish without stressing myself out. I had an idea of what activities our family needs to do, what the house needs to look like, how large our holiday meal needs to be, and how perfect the gifts for our family and friends need to be. What I never planned on, was how high my level of stress would be – and I mean rip-your-own-hair-out high! I had been approaching the holiday season all wrong. Are you?
Monitor Your Verbiage To Eliminate Holiday Stress
Psst! Did you notice the pesky, little word I unnecessarily used that instantaneously put the weight of the universe on my shoulders? Need. Needing to complete all of those projects meant I was putting an incredible amount of unnecessary pressure on myself. Why did I need to do all of those tasks? I finally figured out that I simply didn’t. I only needed to do tasks of the utmost priority, which these many activities are not. I rarely use the word “need” during the holiday season now and instead use phrases like “would like” and “would be nice” more often. That simple change in my verbiage and mindset shifts the pressure off of me to a happy place where IF we can squeeze in ice skating and the holiday market, great. If not, I’m not going to stress over it or feel I failed. I also don’t make promises to my family I’m not sure I can keep without totally overwhelming myself or them. Stress eliminated.
A couple of years ago during the holiday season, I was working on a few demanding projects in my business so I decided to cut back even more than the previous years and only do the things I “would like” to do. So, that year I did not make candy. You may be thinking big deal, but for me it was – or so I thought. I had made candy every single December for as long as I can remember and most years the task created more stress than merriment. Shopping for the ingredients, spending days making the sugary goodness, cleaning up the mess, and delivering the candy all over town, again for days, was quite time-consuming during an already busy season. I eliminated Candy from my task list for two years and it felt so good!
Last year, I wanted to make candy and I was able to make the time for it in my schedule. That meant not participating in another holiday tradition of ours but that was alright. Just like I do with my tasks, I prioritized possible holiday activities and traditions and some just didn’t make the cut last year. Traditions are meant to bring on a sense of family history and celebration but if they tend to bring on more stress than cheer, you’re likely to give them up altogether anyway. Instead, only engage in the traditions and activities you want to each holiday season, to ensure they stay meaningful and last through the years and generations.
The holidays bring many, many more tasks to your daily life and each one has a finite deadline, whether it’s a holiday party, the first night of Hanukkah, Christmas morning, the Kwanzaa feast, or New Year’s Eve. The increased workload with unsurpassed deadlines is not unlike many large projects at work and in our businesses. Here are two tips you can implement today to make the holiday season or any sizable work project less stressful and chaotic.
Make A List And Check It Twice
Santa Claus creates a list every year, for naughty and nice children, and so should you. Creating a task list forces you to get all of your to-dos out of your head and enables you to determine which ones you need to do versus would like to do. Stress comes from the feeling of not being able to complete everything but you don’t need to do everything – at least not right now! You just need to complete your priority tasks, projects, and activities. Other tasks can wait. Take a complete inventory of your tasks and holiday plans, prioritize them, and realistically plan when you are going to complete them. I recommend making two columns as Santa Claus does, but instead of Naughty and Nice, title them Need To Do and Would Like To Do.
Delete or Delegate! As the story goes, Santa has three main priorities – making a list of the naughty and nice children, checking it twice, and delivering gifts (or sticks and coal) to children. He delegates everything else to the elves. Santa is the King of Delegation! This is an important lesson we can all learn from. I certainly did. In addition to deleting Candy from my holiday task list a couple of years ago, I delegated some gift shopping to my husband. It felt great to check items off my list and not have to do anything. And surprise! He actually enjoyed shopping for presents for the family. My gain was his as well.
Deleting items from your own task list that can easily be completed by someone else is essential to freeing up time to spend on your high-value activities. This reigns true in your personal and professional life. Remember, productivity is not about getting it all done! Being productive is about investing your best time into your best activities so that you can achieve your goals and vision of success. My vision of a successful holiday season is being able to enjoy quality time with my family and friends because I am NOT feeling stressed and overwhelmed trying to do everything and be everywhere.
Whether you are preparing for the holidays or a massive project at work… making a task list, prioritizing, delegating, and eliminating are strategies that work! Eliminate holiday stress by focusing on only what you need to do. It will result in less stress, less chaos, and a more enjoyable holiday season for yourself and those around you.