Thursday, December 8, 2011

7 Tips for Having a Less Busy Holiday Season

Quick 2 minute sketch of holiday decoration
Sketched while out to lunch for hubby's birthday
Sepia Pitt brush pen in Moleskine cahier sketchbook
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

In my last blog post, I shared how I burned myself while preparing dinner. It was the second burn in as many weeks. And although I could claim the two burns as an impossible-to-correct short coming and use them as an excuse to never cook again... oh wait, now there's a thought!
...But to be honest, the culprit here is distraction and not my lack of cooking skills.

So I promised that in addition to telling you of my kitchen woes, I would share some tips for how to be less busy. I have decided it makes sense to focus on tips for being less busy during the holiday season.

And here they are...

1. Decide to be less busy
This is the first, and I believe most important, step. You need to decide that you are done with the "run around like a chicken with your head cut off" busy-ness. And I don't mean a knee-jerk "Of course I want to be less busy" type decision. I mean a real, clear decision backed by the commitment to make the hard choices necessary to give this decision life.

2. Decide what is most important for your holiday season.
Is it most important for you to spend time with friends? Is the holiday nothing without the family traditions you grew up with? Does the true meaning of the season come to you when you are elbow deep in volunteering opportunities? Or is your main goal to win the neighborhood decorating contest? Whatever the answer, determine the two or three things that make the holiday special to you. Then make sure to get those things on your calendar.

3. Make a list of what needs to be done and what is optional - Be honest!
Okay, so it is probably unlikely that you can go the entire holiday season without grocery shopping - unless you can bribe pay someone to do it for you. And the kids will probably disown you be a little upset if they don't get any presents. But do you really need to string popcorn garland for each of the thirteen evergreen trees in your yard. Will the birds really appreciate it so much more than the feeder full of store bought birdseed? I think not.

4. For the optional list, decide in advance what activities you are not going to participate in.
If you are committed to being less busy, then it only makes sense that you are not going be able to take part in every opportunity that the holidays send your way. Make it easier to turn down the events that don't make the cut by making the decision in advance and determining how to graciously decline. Not only will your schedule be more open, but you will be less stressed if you don't have to come up with a reason to say "no" on the spot.

5. Relax your standards.
I tell my kids that it is unreasonable to expect to be the best at everything they do. The same goes for us adults.It is okay to plan to do some, or even many, of the optional items. But if you want to leave time to squeeze in a few hours of sleep or peaceful reflection over the next few weeks, you might want to lower your standards. Try only putting up the decorations that have the most visual impact or the ones that have the most sentimental value. Instead of cooking 27 different varieties of cookies, focus on the two or three you really love. Instead of running around to every store within a 50 mile radius trying to get the best price on that gift, be content with getting a good price at the second store you visit.

6. Ask for help.
This one is especially for the women out there. Yes, I know that no one can do things exactly the way you like them done. And yes I know it would take longer to train them how to do it your way than to just do it yourself. But the kids might love to get out the decorations or bake the cookies or put the stamps on the holiday cards. Yes, it might not be the way you would do it, in which case I would suggest you refer to tip #5 above.

7. Remind yourself to relax, take a few deep breaths and enjoy the holiday.
I think I often feel busier than I am because I tell myself that I am busy. The list of 'things to do' runs around in my head along with the phrase "busy, Busy, BUSY!" said in the voice of the magician from Frosty the Snowman. But when I slow down my mind and take time to enjoy what I am doing, I often find that I still have plenty of time to get everything done. The way I feel is wrapped up in whatever story I am telling myself. So why not make it a story that makes me happy?

And now one bonus tip to help you with next year's holiday season...
This year when the celebrations are over and its time to take the holiday decorations down, instead of putting them all together in one box, pack them away in smaller containers. Label each bag or box with the room where the decorations came from. All of the items from the kitchen go in one box. The stuff from the living room is in another bag. You will be amazed at how much time this saves next year when it is time to decorate again.

I hope you find these tips helpful and are able to enjoy a less busy, more relaxing holiday season.


Jennifer Rose said...

since we have a fake tree, we don't take the decorations off when we put in away in the loft :p just wrap it in an old sheet, saves a lot of time but its staying in the loft this year since sky is terrified of it :/

Stacy said...

Now that IS a time saver! We have two trees - a live one that I decorate with my collection of blown glass ornaments and glass icicles and an artificial tree that the kids decorate. The kids love decorating "their" tree and are old enough to do it entirely on their own so we let them have at it.