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Beating Holiday Stress: Planning + Time Management

The holidays can be a stressful time of the year for so many people! I get it, the non-stop plans, gift buying, scheduling, time with extended family and everything else that comes with the holiday season... It's a lot.

In an effort to make this year a little less stressful, I'm doing a series dedicated to "Beating Holiday Stress". We'll discuss time management, budgeting and even dealing with those less-than-friendly family members. If there is something in particular you want to read about, shoot me a message and I'll do my best to incorporate it!

Today's Discussion = Planning and Time Management

I figured this would be a good place to start because it's likely that your calendars are already beginning to fill up with holiday obligations. Talking about this now will hopefully help you manage your time through this ever-so busy season.

First off, I highly recommend investing in a large calendar or appointment book, if you don't already have one. Whatever it is, make sure you have something that will keep all of your parties, shopping time, wrapping time and other holiday obligations straight. From there, I've found the following steps to success incredibly helpful during this time of the year...

Steps to Success:

  1. Get a planner or calendar.

  2. Brainstorm a list of everything that needs to get done (holiday parties, shopping, decorating, cooking making, etc.). I've included a sample below.

  3. Prioritize the list and give your to-do's target deadlines.

  4. Note how long each item has taken you in the past and how long you anticipate it to take this year, then add buffer.

  5. Start putting everything into your planner or calendar.

Tips for Success:

  1. Start your gift list EARLY. Every year I manage my gift list on an excel spreadsheet, which I start in August or September. The extra time allows me to use it like a live document that I add to as I get inspiration. Another plus to starting early is I can take better advantage of the Black Friday deals for the gifts I have planned by Thanksgiving.

  2. Build on your Experience. Reflect back on holiday seasons of years past when you are building your to-do lists and estimating how much time things will take you. Chances are, you've learned a great deal from past experiences.

  3. Buffer your time. I typically buffer time whenever I can. For any given item, I may give myself an extra 5-10% of the amount of time I estimate it to take. For example, something I anticipate to take me 2 hours, I give myself 2 hours and 15 minutes.

  4. Task Batch. Batch similar tasks together. For example, if you know you have to make a bunch of cookies, make them at once if you're short on time. You'll save time in cleaning and likely during the actually prep process also.

  5. Use your Planning Tools. I live by my Outlook Calendar. Scheduling out blocks of time for things like workouts, shopping and getting my nails done helps me to maximize my time and make the most of it. I guarantee you, you will find more pockets of time if you schedule things out and actually write them down in a planner.

Sample of a Brainstormed To-Do List:

  1. Create a gift list

  2. Decorate the house

  3. Order Christmas Cards

  4. Plan Thanksgiving Dinner menu

  5. Thanksgiving dinner shopping

  6. Company Holiday Party

  7. Create a Black Friday shopping list

  8. Black Friday shopping

  9. Buy wrapping supplies

  10. Make cookies

  11. Address and send out Christmas cards

  12. Wrap gifts

  13. Plan out stocking stuffers

  14. Put in your PTO (time-off) request for work

  15. Set your out of office email response

Something else you want to learn more about to help beat the holiday stress? Shoot me an email at

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