Holiday Stress Strategy: Plan of Action = Peace of Mind

While there are lots of great things about the holidays, among them, time off of school or work, a seemingly endless supply of iced sugar cookies, and the giving and receiving of gifts, this time of year also tends to be among the most stressful. It sometimes seems almost as if time starts moving faster, like we’re all caught up in some sort of bizarre holiday season time warp.

For me, the key to getting through the holidays without a major meltdown boils down to two words: time management. Time management is all about organizing your schedule, making the best use of your limited time, and creating a realistic plan for accomplishing everything on your “to do” list. Time management can mean creating a plan for accomplishing specific tasks each day or week or month, being honest with yourself about what you can and can’t actually accomplish, rearranging your schedule to fit it all in, and even knowing when you need to take something off your plate and following through. Plainly put, time management is figuring out the tasks at hand and coming up with a plan for executing them.

So, how does this help reduce stress?

Well, stress often comes from fear of the unknown or being overwhelmed about everything that’s going on. Time management takes the mystery out of the equation. Plan of action = peace of mind.

Here’s how to get real about getting it all done:

  1. Create a detailed, and complete, list of everything you want to get done.
  2. Figure out how long each task will take you (your best guesstimate is fine, but be as realistic as possible)
  3. Come up with “deadlines” for each thing you want to accomplish
  4. Backtrack from the deadline and create mini-goals for completing each task
  5. Add tasks to your daily “to do” list so you can work toward your bigger items each day

If you’re working on bigger tasks or projects that have many steps, you might want to create a separate list for each project. For example, if you’re planning a big holiday bash, you’ll probably want to fill out a template just for that, noting each step involved (picking a date, making a guest list, sending out Evite, getting/making decorations, going shopping for food, picking an outfit, etc.) and their related deadlines.

A few last thoughts on integrating time management strategies into your life so they reduce your stress:

  • Keep your “to do” lists in a visible place where you can easily see them
  • When you figure out your deadlines, put them in your calendar or in your phone (with an alarm)
  • Set aside time each day to check things off of your list (choose a time/place with minimal distractions so you’ll be more productive and efficient)
  • Create a mini “to do” list each morning of specific things from your bigger list you want to accomplish that day
  • Don’t forget to schedule hangout time with your friends or alone time with yourself to recharge!

How do you get it all done over the holidays? What time management strategies work for you?

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For more strategies on beating stress, check out my book Chill: Stress-Reducing Techniques for a More Balanced, Peaceful You!

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