How to Create a "Holiday Happiness" Plan
Updated: Nov 25, 2018
We get it. The holidays may be "the most wonderful time of the year," but they can also be a pain, too, at times.
It can be difficult to manage your everyday obligations, tasks and responsibilities, while adding tons of new holiday to-do's to your list. Top that off with unrealistic (or unnecessary!) expectations to be cheery throughout it all, and you can definitely find yourself in a not-very-festive funk.
Let's not do that this year, shall we? We're big believers that you can do anything with a plan, so we've put together some things to think about, so you can create your own ultimate guide for holiday happiness.
As with any plan or system to get organized, the BEST one is simply the one that works best for you! Follow along with our suggestions, tweak them to fit your lifestyle, and see if a little bit of thinking-it-through (the Start. step!) can help you create a plan (the Sort. step) that feels more bless-y and less stress-y (enjoying it all is the Style. step).
1. Be aware of the main CATEGORIES of tasks that will require your attention this holiday season. For us, the main list of CATEGORIES might go something like this:
Putting up Holiday Decor
Buying Gifts (& maintaining a budget) and/or Making Gifts
Gift Prep (cards & wrapping)
Creating a Wish List of your own (so others can buy for you!)
Attending Holiday Events & Parties
Hosting Holiday Events & Parties
Finding Clothes to Wear at Said Holiday Events & Parties (Holiday Outfits)
Holiday Activities & Outings (traditions and seasonal events)
Holiday Giving (charitable activities and donations)
Your Health: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual
Your Loved Ones' Health: (same - let's call this "Family Health")
General Day-to-Day Tasks: taking care of your regular responsibilities (all the stuff you already do at work and at home)
It's kind of exhausting just to see the list, right? You may have many more. That's OK. Keep in mind, you've done this before, and it's gone great, and everything works out in the end.
BUT. The fresh opportunity, as the holidays begin again, is to be aware of some of the challenges you're going to face this season and think of crafty ways to outsmart them a little. And to evict those thoughts that "you're not doing enough, or doing it well" out of your head, where they may currently be living rent-free.
2. Start to identify what you want (what you really, really want). Your Holiday Happiness plan is simple: more of what you want, and less of what you don't.
Let's face it: there's only so much time, money and energy to go around in the next several weeks. You want to allocate your resources – time, money and energy – so they match your priorities (what you really, really want) as closely as possible.
Accept that you'll have to make some choices this year, to really get the most out of your season, and don't let your choices be made for you, by deadlines or pressure or pushy people. (Aggressive drivers do not get the right to dampen your mood – decide that now.)
How do we do that? That's the Sort. step!
The goal is to develop a plan where your resources – time, money and energy – align with the priorities you really want to experience this holiday season.
To put this idea into action and to get us closer to a solid plan:
1. Write down all of the task CATEGORIES from the above list that are relevant to your holiday routine. Jotting them down on regular 'ol paper is fine – no fancy planners needed. Go ahead and put a star by the CATEGORIES you know you like to do the most. Do you love giving gifts, but don't love trying to tell people what to get you in return? Note that. Do you like hosting parties, but don't like going to other people's parties? Keep that in mind, and we'll come back to it later.
2. Go deeper. All of the task CATEGORIES have SUB-TASKS that fall out of them. Create specific lists of what those things are, as best as you can determine right now.
For instance, if your main task CATEGORY is "Attend Holiday Parties," write down all the parties you are expected to attend this year, as your SUB-TASKS under it. (This helps you see what you're working with.) Don't be afraid to get it all down. The list may look scary and ugly, with competing priorities. That's OK. That's how random tasks flying at you will behave until you tame them, with a plan that you feel good about.
This includes writing down all of the people you will buy gifts for this year. As you can see, this isn't a super-quick exercise. Put all the time in it that you need, to get the best results.
3. Prioritize the SUB-TASKS. First, put a star by the ones that are must-do's – because you love to do them so much, or if they seem a bit "mandatory" (you have to get grandma a gift). Some SUB-TASKS, even if they aren't our favorite things to do, we'll just do, with grace. It's much easier (and less controversial) to edit the easy ones, first.
4. From there – yes, we're going deeper! – Circle the Top 3-5 items in each SUB-TASK column that you want to give special attention to this year. Maybe you want to give an extra special gift to your recently-divorced friend (something more meaningful and, yes, time-consuming - under "Buying Gifts"). Maybe you want to definitely take the kids on a Christmas lights tour (under "Holiday Activities"), as a new tradition.
By noting the things you want to focus on most, you're more likely to give those things your best time, money and energy this holiday season.
Take a moment: When you look at your starred items and Top 3-5 SUB-TASKS for each CATEGORY, how do you feel? If you only did those things, would you feel like you had a fulfilling holiday season?
Congratulations! The must-do's, mandatories, and your Top 3-5's are now your bonafide Holiday Priorities.
Now, let's make sure you have the right amount of time, money and energy to give them the love they deserve.
5. Start editing out the SUB-TASKS (and full CATEGORIES, if you want!) that are lower on your list of priorities. Start with the ones that are the easiest "No, thank you's" and work your way up from there. This is where you make decisions, apply your boundaries, dust off your "It's OK to say no!" internal pep talk. When you cross out the things that are not priorities for you, you're able to preserve your time, money and energy for the things you actually want to do this season.
Remember: It's not what you're saying "No" to – it's what you're saying "Yes" to, by being able to say "No."
You have the right to create a holiday season (and a life, really) that aligns with your highest priorities.
The good news is that no one has to see your list, or know your true priorities, laid bare in black and white. That's not for them – it's for you (and your family, if applicable).
Feel free to take another swipe through your list, adding more to your priorities (if you feel like you can!) or simplifying them further. Yes, you can always refine it later, but you'll want to stick to your guns in order to get what you say you really, really want out of the holiday season.
Enjoy the results of your progress!
1. Keep this list handy throughout the holiday season to refer back to, maybe once a week. Get the things that have dates attached to them onto a calendar. (Try to put dates to most of them ASAP, actually.) As the season progresses, and you get new requests, your calendar will show you if you have the resources to say "Yes!" with enthusiasm, or if a kind-and-solid "Aww, we'd love to, but we're already spoken for" will suffice.
Your calendar is your friend and, again, no one has to see it but you!
2. Celebrate your small wins, and note the things that are working for you as the holidays unfold. Continue to tweak the things that don't. Practice saying "No, thank you!" in the mirror, if it helps. Remember: It's all a work in progress, and none of it has to be perfect.
With your Holiday Happiness plan in action, you may notice that everyone around you benefits when you're present, enjoying the wonderful season you've helped create. That's when you might realize that (spoiler alert!) YOU are the real gift you give to those around you – at the holidays and everyday!