Top 10 Holiday Planning Strategies
Ah, Thanksgiving, a time to be grateful and happy. Gratitude activates the hypothalamus, which controls a wide array of bodily functions and has a general, positive effect on your metabolism. It lowers stress levels and releases dopamine, causing you to feel good. Those good feelings affect those around us and cause even more happiness and good relations.
It’s a no-brainer, right? Don’t worry, be happy.
While I am quite blessed to have a caring and easy family, that isn’t true for everyone. There are some years when all of the stress of holiday planning combined with the stress of wanting everything to be perfect and the dread of spending time with less than pleasant relatives makes me anything but grateful.
The work of house and holiday prep can be enjoyable when you haven’t procrastinated on the necessary groundwork so the workload isn’t so heavy; you’re at least somewhat relaxed and have strategies in place for dealing with the unpleasant bits. I’m here to help you with these strategies, so let’s get started.
#1 Taking Ownership
Looking at the mountain of work to be done can leave me feeling grumpy and overwhelmed. The first thing I do is take ownership. There’s nothing like having a boatload of work dumped on me, without fully agreeing to it, to ruin any good feelings about the endeavor. So, even though everyone may be expecting me to do this, I still get to decide. When I see clearly that doing this is my choice I feel less like a victim. This frees me to take steps to make my experience better.
#2 Delegate Holiday Planning When Possible
The second thing I do is examine how I can make the job smaller. I delegate holiday planning tasks when possible, not by assigning tasks, but by involving my helpers in the planning process and letting them choose the work they want to do as well as when and how they will go about doing it within the parameters I’ve set up.
I get a head start on my work-mountain by beginning way ahead of time with tasks that won’t “undo” themselves, such as putting up my holiday decorations. Once they’re up, they won’t need continuous maintenance, and I have one less task to worry about.
Then I take what’s left and divide the bigger tasks into smaller ones and tackle at least one, hopefully more, per day.
#3 Get Creative and Have Fun
Especially when the holiday planning task is large, I think of ways to make the job more fun. Sometimes I add my own creative flair to how I go about it or the result I want to achieve. Music or an entertaining podcast can help the time fly and give me energy.
A fun thing to do, especially when you get your kids involved, is to pretend that you are someone else, complete with a funny voice, while doing the work. In the holiday season, EVERYONE has lots of prep to do, so you can trade with a girlfriend. For example, she helps you in the morning and you help her in the afternoon. Remember, it’s important to let go of your creative fears and begin to let the creative juices flow!
#4 Let Go of Perfection
We all want everything to be nice and to go as perfectly as imagined. But why does it need to be picture-perfect? I say that “good enough” and being (at least somewhat) relaxed IS perfect.
When things are imperfect, even in a big way, it makes the event and your guests more relaxed. Haven’t you, like me, gone to someone’s home for an event where every single detail is Martha-Stewart-perfect? It did not put me at ease. I felt slightly on edge and I found it hard not to judge my own less than stellar aptitude in this arena. Your guests may experience that as well.
The most important goal of a holiday gathering is that you and your guests enjoy yourselves and each other. A pleasant setting contributes to that, but trying to control things to make them perfect gets in the way.
#5 Make it Simple
Don’t try to do so much. Pare down the menu as well as your idea of what all really needs to be done. If you’re bringing a dish, make it a simple one. If you need to plan an entire meal, read up a little on some stress-free meal hacks to help you minimize your time cooking by getting organized in advance!
#6 Reframe Your Mindset
Reframe the work and your presence as a host or guest as a gift that you are choosing to give. Consider that these folks may not always be around or that you may not always have the luxury of your current circumstances.
#7 Let Go of Assumptions
Just because you’ve always done things this way doesn’t mean that everyone else isn’t also secretly hoping for something different. Assumptions can keep you stuck. Talk about yours honestly with the folks involved.
#8 Enjoy Yourself
DECIDE that you are going to enjoy your holiday. That’s the first step. Then make a list of things you can do to help yourself enjoy it more and do some of them. Choose to listen to music that inspires you, avoid listening to the news and choose to listen to fun, uplifting podcasts. Make sure you take some time for yourself every day, even in the face of a mountain of work. Don’t neglect to eat well and get some exercise.
#9 Consider Breaking Traditions
Consider breaking with tradition and take a trip somewhere or, rather than celebrate with your family, (especially if it involves a lot of travel) make Thanksgiving a potluck and invite your friends who don’t have another place to go. They will be very grateful. If breaking with tradition is difficult for others to accept, bill it as a one-time event. Later you can decide if you want to repeat it or not. If family members are REALLY disappointed that you won’t be there, make a point to visit them at a non-holiday time of year. Then really do it.
#10 Develop a Gratitude Practice
Gratitude really is an emotion with almost magical transformative powers. Sometimes it overwhelms us naturally, other times we need to give it a little encouragement. Developing a gratitude practice by keeping a gratitude journal, savoring spontaneous grateful feelings, and doing little things to cultivate gratitude can help you get through the holidays and the rough parts of life.
If you’re stressed because it’s getting to be the last moment and you’ve put off chipping away at your tasks yet again, consider taking steps to rid yourself of your procrastination habit once and for all. Transform Your Procrastination leads the way, offers guidance and one-on-one support to help you take charge over how you spend your time.