When I was young, everyone seemed to look forward to the holidays. Kids were excited about time off from school and the gifts they hoped to receive. Adults seemed to enjoy having vacation time to relax and enjoy the season. There were a few more errands, some store-bought or kid-made decorations to display, and a couple of special family recipes to prepare. Yet, the magic of the season seemed to counteract the stress related to the additional activities.
My experience as a young mother was reminiscent of my childhood. I enjoyed buying presents for my daughter, baking Christmas cookies, writing a holiday letter to send to friends, displaying my winter village collection, and decorating our small Christmas tree. One year, I realized that I was working more hours than in the past and that I had to adjust our Christmas traditions accordingly. We decided we didn’t have to bake cookies or write a long holiday letter. My daughter and I still engaged in the activities that meant the most to us, and Christmas continued to be magical.
My daughter has a child of her own now, and we enjoy the holidays more than ever. Yet it seems as though many people today approach the holiday season with dread. I suspect this is because Americans work more hours than ever before while societal norms related to the holiday season have increased exponentially. So in spite of our extreme work hours, the pressure to create Pinterest-inspired do-it-yourself decorations, to give excessive presents with elaborate gift-wrapping, and to prepare homemade culinary masterpieces persists. If we don’t carefully choose which activities are most meaningful to us, we can easily become more exhausted than joyful.
Thankfully, instead of getting caught up in the holiday frenzy, we can intentionally choose how we want to spend our time. As we think about our holiday to-do lists, we can prioritize, simplify, and delegate. Consider the following:
Prioritize. As the holidays approach, think about what activities bring you the most joy. Prioritize those activities. And recognizing your time limitations, what traditions might no longer work for you? What activities do you engage in out of obligation (e.g., things you feel you should do)? There may be little benefit to those activities. You can edit your to-do-list accordingly.
Simplify. Are there ways to simplify the items that are still on your to-do list? In other words are there less time-consuming ways to manage your traditions? For example, if you are not really into cooking but enjoy baking cookies, could decorating slice-and-bake cookies instead of making cookies from scratch work?
Delegate. Are there ways to delegate some of the activities on your to-do list? Are there family members, including older children, who could participate more? Is paying for help a possibility (e.g., hiring a housekeeping service before a party or buying store-bought decorations and food)?
By prioritizing, simplifying, and delegating, we intentionally choose authentic activities. We keep the holiday traditions that are meaningful to us and let go of activities that no longer fit in our lives. We effectively manage our holiday workload. And, we create space and time for a more peaceful and joyful holiday season.