How To Delegate Holiday Tasks Without Becoming A Grinch

December 6, 2021
“If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.” John C. Maxwell, American author

If there’s one thing that most folks have in common during the holidays, it is feeling extra busy and extra stressed with all that added busy-ness. 

At the risk of appearing self-serving, if that sounds like you, I’d suggest you check out our time management masterclass, Calling BS on Busy® at Unstuff U®.

Beyond that, your next option is to pay attention to how you invest your time into all the gift acquiring and wrapping, hanging decorations, planning and preparing meals, including shopping for all that food, and coordinating any/all gatherings, parties and transportation! 

Particularly if most of that activity falls to you, or even a small few instead of everyone pulling their own weight. 

If you are prone to people-pleasing, it becomes even easier to just shoulder everything, even if it is beyond draining.

And unless you let others know that help is needed, everyone else may not even realize that you are feeling burdened or overwhelmed. 

Remember, we’re all self-involved and mostly focused on how we spend OUR time, with varying degrees of paying attention to how other people are spending THEIR time.

So instead of growing a resentment, open your mouth and ask for help.

Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? You can’t expect them to ask if you need some help … even if YOU would, if the roles were reversed.

Of course, taking on too much at ANY time is a bad idea … during the holidays, it’s even worse … because this time of year is loaded with spoken and unspoken expectations.

Add in a pandemic, and it’s not surprising that most people want something magical to happen to take their minds off finances, masks, vaccines and social distancing … 

And those same people are not really connecting the dots on HOW that is going to happen other than just wanting it to happen and assuming that someone, YOU, are going to make it happen for them … because you LOVE them …

So, if you really love them, stop rushing around like mad and build your delegation skills so that THIS YEAR, everyone, including yourself, will have a wonderful time and not be a stressed out mess for the rest of the year.

Preparing to Delegate

Before you begin delegating tasks to others, the first step is to organize the tasks that need to be completed. 

Start by separating your holiday to-do list into three parts:

  • The Do’s: 

These are tasks that you plan on taking on yourself because you enjoy them or know that you are the best person for the job. Pay attention to your perfectionism here — anyone who can read can probably make the cookies … they don’t have to be perfect, they just have to taste good!  

  • The Delegates: 

This is the list of tasks that you want to delegate to someone else—whether that’s a spouse, partner, child, friend, or other family member. And remember what your time is worth to you—Task Rabbit and other freelance labor apps can be a great way to get some quick skilled help on the job fast. Happy or stressed—the cost for an hour or two of someone else’s time may be worth it if it gets the job done and you don’t freak out.  

  • The Do-Not’s: 

This may soon become your favorite part of the list! These are the tasks that YOU do not have time for, can not delegate, and can just let go of … imagine that sigh of relief as you cross something off your list that didn’t need to happen at all!

So, if you enjoy creating or handwriting out holiday cards for friends and family, be sure to put that at the top of your list.

But if the thought of entering the post office at this time of year get your heart pumping and palms sweating, delegate that task to someone else.

Pay attention to any of your 200 lies about WHO has to do WHAT … more often than not, it’s just unconscious habits or reflexes that are driving this conversation.

Here is a starter set of some of the holiday tasks that you can sort into your own do, delegate, do-not lists. Feel free to add any that aren’t here and for extra credit, send them to us at so we can update this list for next year!

  • Determine who you can delegate tasks to
  • Writing out grocery lists for specific meals
  • Doing the grocery shopping for each meal
  • Planning holiday photos for cards
  • Taking holiday photos when everyone is gathered
  • Designing holiday cards
  • Writing holiday cards
  • Addressing holiday cards
  • Mailing holiday cards
  • Getting photos with Santa for the kids and pets
  • Cleaning the home in preparation for guests or parties
  • Presents or food for school parties for your children
  • Getting out the indoor decorations
  • Reviewing/repairing the indoor decorations
  • Installing the indoor decorations
  • Removing the indoor decorations
  • Discarding any broken/unwanted indoor decorations then repacking them
  • Getting out the outside decorations
  • Reviewing/repairing the outside decorations
  • Installing the outside decorations
  • Removing the outside decorations
  • Discarding any broken/unwanted outside decorations then repacking them
  • Creating a shopping list for holiday gifts
  • Shopping for presents for each child
  • Shopping for presents for the in-laws
  • Shopping for presents for each individual other person on your list
  • Shopping or preparing any presents for teachers
  • Shopping for any holiday party game gifts
  • Shopping for any presents from kids to others
  • Shopping for presents for any pets
  • Creating a list of activities for kids while they are out of school
  • Scheduling those activities, including getting tickets or other things needed for the activities
  • Planning travel — researching dates, costs, etc.
  • Completing/executing the purchase of final travel plans
  • Packing for the travel
  • Unpacking from the travel
  • Elf on the Shelf shenanigans
  • Planning for any virtual or in-person office parties

Once you have completed YOUR lists of tasks, and determined what you’ll do and what you’ll delegate, it is time to actually hand them off to other people to get started. 

Review your list of people you can count on, such as your spouse, partner, parents, in-laws, children, siblings, etc. and identify who will get which tasks.

Then follow these simple steps to delegate the tasks … then take a deep breath. Feel some of that weight slide off your shoulders, Atlas … this year may actually BE different than holidays past.

How to Delegate

These steps work equally well at home OR at the office. We’ve adapted them for this particular set of tasks … the basics remain the same.

  1. Prepare for your convo with each person. It’s your responsibility to make sure that the task is clearly defined including what being finished actually looks like. One of the biggest reasons delegation fails is poor communication and lots of assumptions.
  2. To be sure that the tasker understands their task, ask them to repeat the actions and outcomes back to you. Continue to do this until you are both satisfied.
  3. Be clear about the time required to complete the task AND when you both agree the task will be completed by, including any consequences for not meeting the timeline.
  4. Clearly define their authority in executing the task. Can they choose a substitute on their own if what the are looking for isn’t available or do they have to check back with you first? Be explicit about everything and neither of you will be disappointed.
  5. Identify any milestones or checkpoints during the task when you’ll expect a report back and provide feedback.
  6. Debrief after the task is complete. This gives you both a chance to check in on what worked great, where any confusion or hiccups arose and how this could be even easier and more fun next time.

Follow these simple steps and your helpers will feel empowered to do their best AND you’ll get a bunch of things done without you having to do them–that’s a serious win-win.

If you need any tips on how to prioritize your to-do lists, you’ll find more info on that in a previous article. 

The Bottom Line

You can actually enjoy this time of year and not make yourself or anyone around you stressed out or overwhelmed.

To do that, you need to be realistic about what actually needs to happen for the holidays to look and feel good AND what doesn’t need to happen at all.

Also be realistic with yourself about how much time you have and how much time everyone around you has and how you can strategically manage that time without making holiday prep feel like bootcamp or an insane gauntlet.

Remember WHY the holidays can feel so expansive and warm … and where that lines up with your values.

It’s never beneficial to take on more than you can handle.

You are not a superhero, and you are not supposed to be. It is ok to delegate tasks to others and only agree to take on things you can successfully complete

Resist any of your 200 lies that says you (or anyone) is a Grinch for setting boundaries.

You aren’t forced labor in Santa’s workshop so you do not need to feel bad for taking care of yourself, particularly at this time of year.

Managing your time wisely is a form of self-care. 

Remember that it is ok to say “No.” and that saying “No.” is a complete sentence so that WHEN you say “Yes” you mean it and that saying it, let alone doing whatever you’re saying yes to, brings some joy along with it. 

Let this year be the year that you and your family create new traditions of everyone pitching in.

That way everyone gets the holiday they want and builds some self-esteem along the way as they played a significant role in making the holidays a memorable, joyous occasion. 

And if you like to listen to podcasts for inspiration and motivation while you’re working on your holiday tasks, check out our New & Noteworthy podcast, “Declutter Your Life, Reclaim Your Freedom” on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else podcasts can be found.

Declutter Your Life Podcast by Andrew Mellen. Available on iTunes!