Be sure to watch the 3 minute video below this post to learn 3 simple tools to help you manage your time and feel less stressed.
Here is the definition of “Holiday”, by our trustworthy Wikipedia:
A holiday is a day set aside by custom or by law on which normal activities, especially business or work including school, are suspended or reduced. Generally, holidays are intended to allow individuals to celebrate or commemorate an event or tradition of cultural or religious significance.
What really catches my eye is a time to set aside or reduce normal activities, which is intended to give more time to reflect and celebrate what is important to people. For many of us, instead of reducing our normal activities, we end up piling on additional activities around the holidays. This ends up causing stress, which does not cultivate hospitable conditions to reflect and celebrate.
Let me give an example of my client Ann, a single mom who came in the week before Thanksgiving feeling more stressed and overwhelmed than usual. Ann owned her own business and so had planned to work up until the day before Thanksgiving. I had her explain what she had planned for the next day, and this is what she outlined:
- Get up and go to the gym
- Eat breakfast and shower
- Do some paper work and phone calls she could do from home for her business
- Clean the house
- Take her teenage daughter to a friend’s house
- Drive to Oakland to pick up her older son who was flying in that day for the holiday
- Pick up the turkey and last-minute groceries on her way home.
- Pick up her daughter at the friend’s house
- Start making pies when she got home.
Ann wasn’t reducing her normal obligations, she was simply piling on more. Expecting ourselves to accomplish more with the same amount of time and energy is like expecting our car to go an extra 100 miles on the same tank of gas. Our time and energy, like a tank of gas, are limited resources that need to be managed correctly to stay in good supply. To help Ann manage her time and energy that day, I had her use three time-management tools that I use with my clients: Accommodate, Delegate, and Eliminate.
Ann started out by accommodating. Her first thought was to eliminate her workout, but I advised against it. Self-care is often the first thing people want to cut out, and it is the very thing that reduces stress and helps increase energy levels. Instead she decided to cut the amount of work she wanted to get done with her business in half. Next she delegated. She told her daughter that if she wanted a ride to her friend’s house she needed help around the house, so delegated cleaning the bathrooms to her. And finally, she eliminated, instead of home backed pies, she would get store bought ones.
It’s not always easy to use these tools. Eliminating a task or activity we’re attached to can be painful. Delegating tasks that may not get done as well as we want—her daughter would not clean the bathrooms the way Ann would like— can be disappointing. And accommodating, or compromising, around tasks can feel like a loss. But look at the alternative. Taking on more than we can handle makes us stressed and resentful, inhospitable conditions in which to reflect and celebrate what’s important to us.
Managing time and energy helps people to cultivate what they personally value most, in Ann’s case it was flexibility, connection, presence and fun. Those are qualities she wanted to have not only during the holidays, but every day of the year!