Holiday stress can turn a joyous time of the year into an overwhelming nightmare instantly.
But it doesn’t need to be that way.
You can make meaningful memories with your loved ones without any hassle with just a little planning.
Here are 5 tips for helping make this holiday season more fulfilling and stress-free.
1. Make a plan.
Not sure where to get started? Sit still for 5-10 minutes to reflect and settle into yourself.
Ask yourself what you need for this holiday season to be successful. If you’ve ever written a paper or painted a room at home, then you’ve done project management. If you’ve ever thrown a party where the expectations were low, and the results exceeded expectations, then you were successful. A happy marriage of project management and low expectations is the perfect roadmap for planning a holiday gathering.
What were the discrete individual steps that got you to the finish line? Apply those steps.
Here are a few to get you started: create a shopping list AND a to-do list, then do the work incrementally instead of a mad scramble as the holiday gets closer.
Quantify each item on the to-do list so you adequately budget enough time. In as few as 15 minutes a week for three (3) weeks, you can accomplish everything on your list and manage it more comfortably.
On the day of the event, have a list of things you enjoy doing and do well.
If it’s cooking and people want to help, let them be the sous chefs; there is always plenty of chopping and prepping that needs to be done.
Let someone else set the table — the napkins don’t need to be perfectly folded.
If you know you can be a bit controlling, shift your mindset from perfection to pleasure, so that everyone feels included, engaged and useful and you aren’t constantly disappointed. You’ll have a better time and so will everyone else.
Give everyone an opportunity to participate by preparing a simple list of the tasks and chores people of all skill levels can do if they want to help, then either assign them or let them choose their own. I promise you will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
3. Get organized and clean up.
What can you do now that’ll prepare you for next time?
Use The Organizational Triangle® and put like with like, and give everything one home. You’ll find anything in 30 seconds or less.
Gather all your seasonal decorations in the same area and label each container. Halloween decorations are stored with other Halloween items and not mixed in with the Hannukah or Christmas decorations.
You’ll soon see how this simple tool will help you organize everything from your kitchen to your closets and garage.
4. Follow up.
At the end of the holiday, take 10-15 minutes to sit still and reflect on your success. It’s not a time to beat up on yourself.
You can extend the warm holiday feelings by debriefing with friends or family and talk about what worked and what didn’t — what were the highlights, the surprises and what could be skipped next time. It’s another way to have everyone participate in the process.
It’s best if this exercise is not turned into an opportunity for blaming or shaming for what did or didn’t happen, but a chance to problem solve and strategize how next time can be even more stress-free and easier.
5. Let Go.
Perfectionism needs two items.
If you ARE a perfectionist, it’s a good idea to examine and let go of some of those expectations.
Allowing others to participate will reduce your stress. If prepping food is not their thing, let them help decorate.
If you’re comparing yourself and your home to photos in a magazine or tv show, then you’re setting yourself up for possible failure and disappointment. It’s may be just as meaningful, or more so to let your kids or whoever do things their way. It builds self-esteem and gives everyone a stake in the outcome and gets you out of the hot seat.
Ask yourself which is more important—a tense, picture-perfect gathering or a warm, relaxed event filled with laughter and ease?
In two months, people won’t remember much about the event beyond how they felt.
Why not have that be about the love you all feel for each other rather than a bunch of posed photos that don’t capture the true essence of you and your family?
One of the pioneers of professional organizing and productivity, Andrew Mellen is the best-selling author of Unstuff Your Life!. He travels the world speaking, teaching, and coaching individuals and global brands including the New York Mets, Genentech, American Express, Time, Inc. and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.