Are you freaking out about now? Maybe you’re reading this during the winter holidays (when I’m writing it). Or maybe you’re reading during some other busy time of year. No matter what’s happening in your world right now, I’m about to help you win back your time and create a season that counts. We’re talking holidays that matter. And events that don’t steal your time, your sanity or perhaps worst of all — your long-term health.
Believe me when I say this: I’ve been there. For years, I crossed off every single item and checked off every single box. I kept up with all the things I thought I was supposed to do, even adding new things to my list each year. As my list increased, so did my resolve to celebrate with greater gusto and perfection. I didn’t miss a beat, cramming in more “special treats”, a longer list of “family outings” and even more of those picture-perfect “homemade crafts” (new traditions, so I thought) with each and every year. I loved doing it all, don’t get me wrong — holidays were (still are) my favorite times of year. But, on the flip side, holidays always left me exhausted, depleted and in need of weeks of recovery. Sometimes, I became terribly sick. And, in later years, holidays began leaving me pretty blue — darn near depressed now that I look back – when everything was finally over.
Are you affected by events and holidays in a similar way?
As a mom, and a homeschooling work-at-home mom at that, I was very needy in many ways back then. I was lacking nutrients and minerals, lacking emotionally, and lacking in — apparently – common sense. Even as I learned to adjust my diet, supplement my body, practice mindfulness and meditation, and nourish myself in other ways, I continued over-doing the holidays for another several years.
And then it happened.
I saw it.
I realized what I was doing, and finally ended my quest for the perfect holidays. Like so many other women (usually) I meet who do EXACTLY the same thing, I quit those mad behaviors and let up on myself.
Forgave myself, too.
You see, I recognized the image I had of celebrating holidays “right” was grander than anything I could ever really achieve. My standards were too high for what my body and mind could realistically handle. I came to understand that much of what I had been doing was unnecessary for achieving the joyous, satisfying, meaningful holiday with my family I so desperately wanted. I finally understood how holidays were stealing my health, happiness, and (ironic, I know) time away from the very people I was trying to spend time with — my family and friends. And stealing their time with me, too.
So, today, I want you to learn from my experience and understand what’s really important. I don’t want you freaking out about things that should be relaxing, joyous and fun. I want to spare you the ridiculous levels of preparation and craziness you may be creating over the holidays or other important events in your life.
Bottom line, I don’t want you missing the lesson that doing LESS means getting MORE. I wish someone had told me back then. That’s why I’m telling you now.
Trimming Your To-Do List
Let’s start by tackling your to-do list. (Er, do you even have one? If you don’t, take a step backwards and make a list. Successful people make lists and check stuff off. You should, too.) I want you to scrutinize everything on your list. Cross out anything that doesn’t make you or your family happy. I mean, really happy, not happy in your mind. Remember, you’re just one person and you can’t possibly do it all. Even with help, it may be impossible (not to mention, unnecessary) to get it all done. So, be ruthless. Start chopping everything that doesn’t belong on your holiday list any more.
Now, when I teach this skill to clients, some find it really hard to decide what to keep and what to trim off their to-do lists. I explain that if something on your list doesn’t: a) make you really happy, or b) directly benefit someone you deeply care about, off it goes. Period.
When in doubt, however, it can be helpful to lump items on your to-do list into 3 categories so you can see things a little clearer. Let’s call these categories:
- Your MUST DO’s
- Your WANT TO DO’s
- Your FEEL THE NEED TO DO’s
Your MUST DO’s are things that cannot under any circumstances be eliminated from your list, lest someone may starve, get stranded, get fired, miss a dose of medication, be left unsupervised, or could die. No kidding. And if those things aren’t on your list, they should be, since they’re the anchors by which you should be living your life already. MUST DO’s always come first, and everything else comes later. Make sure to identify which of the items on your to-do list are MUST DO’s, and keep them on the list, so you’ll have an obvious framework for accomplishing everything else in between. Remember: these are things that need to get done or ain’t nobody gonna have any holidays anyway — like grocery shopping, doctor visits, prescription refills, airport pickups, going to work, paying bills, and the things of daily life, because these are always prioritized over anything else you want or “feel the need” to do.
Your WANT TO DO’s are the things you want to do, hope to do, like to do, or plan to do during the holidays or other busy times. These are the things that aren’t especially crucial to every day life, but make life a whole lot more fun, meaningful or enjoyable as compared to ordinary days. For many of you, this is that part of the list that includes baking special treats, selecting coordinating outfits for your children, planning lavish meals, selecting just the right gifts, taking perfect photos, traveling all over the place, attending every holiday event in town, and creating all the wonderful projects you see in pictures. For others, this section might also include writing holiday-themed blog posts, planning large holiday events, appearing at live events, or participating in virtual projects with like-minded teams and groups. In general, your WANT TO DO’s are the things you’d love to do if you had all the time in the world, but aren’t necessary for basic survival. Make up that list, too. Then, strike a few. Seriously. Pick some you can do without this year — ones that won’t ruin the holidays and probably won’t be noticed anyway – and cross them out. Done!
Your FEEL THE NEED TO DO‘s are the things I recommend crossing out altogether. Right now. Without even batting an eyelash. You might not even want to bother writing them down. That’s because these are things you feel you should do, sometimes things you’ve been doing for years, but really get no enjoyment from. Or, they’re for other people, but not your special people, you know? Or, maybe you’re doing them because you think everyone expects you to. Because here’s a news flash: nobody really cares about that special pie, or that special ham, or those special movies, or those special place settings. At least, not that much. You don’t have to send that giant cookie platter to the office party any more. You can stop sending greeting cards to people you never even talk to. You don’t have to attend every single gathering just because you always do. And, for gosh sakes, you don’t have to throw elaborate parties for people you never see throughout the year, hardly talk to at the party anyway, and don’t really care if you ever see again. That stuff needs to go. And quick.
The next strategy is about making substitutions. It’s also about being okay with them. Because, when it’s crunch time, making a decent substitution (or even a crummy one) is the best that you can do. Which is fine, because usually, you’ll be the only one who notices and the only person who really even cares. And even if someone else does notice, which is unlikely, it’s okay to be slightly less than perfect when you have lots of other things to do. You’re only human. People understand.
Substitutions will be different for different people in different situations. But, what I’m talking about is not sacrificing the act or gesture, just making things easier on yourself. We’re talking using the fake tree instead of cutting down the real tree. Buying cookies instead of making them. Wearing last year’s holiday pajamas instead of getting new ones. Using prepared products instead of cooking them from scratch. Choosing disposable dishes over fine china. Watching movies at home with cups of hot chocolate instead of dragging kids into uncomfortable situations, or visit people and places they’d rather not, and you don’t care for either.
Let me give you another example:
For years, our family held a neighborhood party in our home, for the holidays. It was a tradition I started when my kids were very young, and one we continued for many years. The whole neighborhood would come to our home, where we served delicious foods, signature beverages and homemade desserts. I would even make homemade egg nog — both adult and kid’s versions, too.
Though our party was enormously successful, it was a tremendous amount of work to pull off, taking weeks of planning and several days of execution before the big day. In addition to preparing the spread of food and alcohol, I’d heartlessly put my family through what I can only imagine was a hellish experience of scrubbing our home from top to bottom, cleaning the drive and yard, decorating the gates, lighting our trees, other various jobs I deemed crucial for a successful get together. It’s no wonder that after the party, I’d be left flat and exhausted for days, my husband scratching his head wondering what it was all for.
Fast forward some years later, and it finally hit me I needed to make substitutions. Instead of the party at our home, for example, we changed it to a progressive theme, where neighbors moved from home to home, enjoying a small treat (appetizer, beverage or dessert) at each one. Some years, we skipped the party altogether, choosing ugly sweaters and caroling around the neighborhood instead. Still other years, my husband and I would host the party outdoors (remember, I’m in Florida) making serving and cleanup easier (plus we only had to clean the bathrooms!). I began skipping the egg nog, and served only one beverage per year. We used fresh fruit instead of flower arrangements, party platters from warehouse clubs, or held dessert-only parties, instead of serving a full meal. The party was a blast, and didn’t level me like it did before.
Take Frequent Breaks
The third strategy is about taking breaks. Sounds counter-productive, right? That’s what everybody thinks. But the logic is this: you can’t be productive if you’re a mess. Taking frequent breaks to recharge actually makes you more productive, not less.
Think of it this way. When preparing for holidays, you’re pulling late nights, using weekends, and cramming as much into every day as you can. You’re multi-tasking, too, darting from one task to another, scarcely focusing your attention on any one thing for very long (therefore hardly completing anything, either). Plus, during many of those hours, you’re tired. Exhausted even. You’re lacking sleep, grabbing meals on the go, forgetting your vitamins or exercise, and possibly even catching a virus as your system becomes less immune. If you’d take frequent breaks — for rest, for play, to hydrate, or to nap – your daytime hours become multiplied. Why? Because you’re heightened. In better shape to handle it all. So, you’re super productive. I didn’t make this up. Productivity experts agree — this really works!
These 3 simple strategies — and they really are simple to do – will absolutely transform your holidays this year, and for years to come. Do me a favor and try one. Or better yet — try all three.
I’d love for you to COMMENT about which of these tips you plan to implement this year. Make the commitment. Put it in writing as a COMMENT. You’ll be so glad you did.
Can’t wait to hear from you!
As a coach, writer, recovered over-doer and busyness addict, I understand the challenges of creating a balanced, healthy lifestyle while the mind tries to sabotage your success. In my journey to vibrant health, I created a personalized health system of nutrition and supplementation, lifestyle changes, and I retrained my mind and the energy of my body. I view my success as the formula to my happy, healthy life. I now empower other women to create their own personalized formulas, including the tools and strategies just right for them! Amazing life shifts come from our relationships. I look forward to helping you, too!