We all love the holiday season, but more and more, I hear people bracing for the flurry of activities that arrive along with the holiday cheer.
There’s no reason to live for December 26th when you can finally exhale, get back to the gym, and have a moment of normalcy. This season, we want to help you hack the holidays - to help you rethink the hustle and bustle, redesign how you engage with the flurry of activity, and reclaim the joy of the season.
The holidays can be packed to the brim with extras: activities (all the shopping), demands (the annual office Secret Santa) outings (so many parties and concerts), and calories. Hacking the holidays means thinking about the festivities differently. It's about stepping back, gaining perspective on what is truly important and what gives joy… and then planning ways to spend more time experiencing those moments, with less stress.
Get Out Ahead
After the turkey has been put away, take time to put your feet up. Grab a notepad and your calendar. Do an inventory of the next four weeks. What events are you committed to? What is necessary (attire, gifts, childcare,etc.) for each event? Knowing what is coming is vital to hacking.
- Revisit your list. Are all these events you truly want to attend? Which can you eliminate?
- Where can you simplify your commitments by chunking similar activities? Examples: One great holiday outfit for two parties. Buy a case of red wine for gifts. Lock in a babysitter.
Make Your List, Check It Twice, Gonna Find Out How To Optimize
Create a list of expectations for the holidays. What do you expect of yourself? What are others depending on you to provide? What are your expectations for others? Take time to notice where your lists differ and then proactively re-calibrate. Discuss your lists with your family – and when two parties are in conflict, consider the feelings of each party on a scale of one to ten. If you feel your office festivities are a ten (really important) but your spouse thinks they’re more a five on the scale, whoever feels more strongly “wins.” If you both feel really strongly, you have the option of going to parties separately.
- Rethink your list. What can you eliminate? What needs doing and what feels like you should do it? Where can you cluster like activities?
Know Your Why
I love sending holiday cards. Specifically, I like to send homemade holiday cards that include a personalized note. This is a family tradition that is very important to me, and yes - when you are sending upwards of 250+ cards, it can be very time-consuming. After five years of marriage, I have come to appreciate that this task is important to ME, but not as important to my husband. So, I own this task. I stay connected to why I want to do it and I pace myself. I see the process as a meditation, an opportunity to send love to our friends and family.
- Find the emotional connection for everything on your list. What is the “why” that will make doing this easier? (Yes, not disappointing your mother can be a legitimate why!)
Set Yourself Up For Success With Automation And Simplification
With your lists in hand, explore how you can simplify the month ahead with planning. Where can you identify one solution that can solve many challenges? (For example, buying one case of wine and a stack of holiday bags could save you serious time contemplating the perfect gift, sitting in traffic to shop, and waiting in the checkout line.
A close family friend likes to do homemade gifts. Each year, they identify a personalized, useful gift that is congruent with their values. Thanksgiving weekend, they make and package these gifts. One year, they made spiced pecans in a festive jar, another year it was bees’ wax for polishing wood, and another year, it was a delicious jelly.
Another friend has five dishes that she traditionally serves her family during the holidays. Rather than cook all five dishes, she partners with four other women. Each makes one recipe, but quintuples the volume, saving time, money, and cleanup.
- What can you do now to proactively plan for the month ahead?
- Where can you double the recipe today in order to solve a problem tomorrow?
Let Your Fingers Shop
As an Amazon Prime frequent flyer, I am a big believer in anticipating and solving challenges before they become an issue. Check your stash of wrapping paper, tape, bows and boxes and order accordingly. Know who is on your list, and what you’d like to gift them so you can search for products with the best reviews, prices, and delivery policies.
Three years ago, we realized that our godson and two nephews are the same age. We spend a little extra time researching great gifts for boys at their age and then we buy three. We have also taken to shipping directly to relatives we won’t see, saving ourselves a trip to the post office.
By planning ahead, we’re able to optimize our time and our resources. We make sure that we are within our budget. Most importantly, we ensure we’re getting thoughtful gifts for our loved ones, not just whatever is at the store so we can be done with it.
- Do an inventory of what supplies you need for wrapping, decorating, and creating a gift.
- Double Bonus: Determine what you can buy on Black Friday or Cyber Monday from the comfort of your home.
Eat Salad For Breakfast
We all know the nutritional recommendations for fruits and vegetables. And, we most likely have been to holiday parties where the melted Brie with caramelized onions beckons us. Combine holiday appetizers, with holiday drinks, with holiday sweets - and we can have a dietary disaster.
The cereal industry has done a brilliant job of dominating breakfast, but you can utilize the morning meal to better effect by making it the healthiest, and securing a positive start to your day. If you can’t stomach a salad in the morning, try doubling the quantity of broccoli in your eggs.
- Rethink your assumptions about what constitutes breakfast food. Get your veggies in early and often. Double down on hydration. Throughout the day, increase your water consumption to feel better.
Hacking the holidays is all about making sure the holiday season feels festive and bright for you and your loved ones. It’s about stepping back for a moment, and consciously prioritizing and then streamlining all of your upcoming extras. It’s about using the tools you have at your disposal to eliminate, automate, and simplify your life in order to set yourself up for success this holiday season!