How to Manage Time During the Holidays

How to Manage Time More Effectively During the Holidays

Benjamin Franklin said it well: “Procrastination is verily the thief of time.” Failure to achieve everything that you know you can do in a set amount of time can be disheartening, can make you feel less than you really are. But there are ways and means of besting procrastination. Not every suggestion here may suit your taste and temperament, so try them out buffet style; if one doesn’t do it for you, move on to the next:

How to Manage Time During the Holidays

Can It Be Outsourced?

how to manage time during the holidays

Sometimes a task that needs to be done can be delegated or outsourced to someone else. Nobody can micromanage every little thing, so take a long hard look at the task at hand to see if you can give it to a partner, colleague or even a friend or family member to do for you.

See if you can barter something else for it — babysitting, dog walking, attending a dull seminar for someone, etc. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. It’s a sign you know how to prioritize your time. If it’s something that only you can do, then the following tips will come in handy.

Focus on the Benefits Once It’s Done

Try to visualize how good it will feel to get it done.

Think of how doing this task will solve a problem or move a project along, or just get that nagging feeling off your back. Just do it. When it’s done, tell yourself two things: First, that you feel better now that’s it done, and second, that it wasn’t all that difficult after all. Most people look forward to positive consequences — this is how you harness that characteristic.

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What Happens if It Doesn’t Get Done?

What are the consequences if you don’t get it done on time? Who will it hurt or irritate? This is known as ‘negative motivation’. Some people are able to harness their worry and nagging doubts in order to get their work done fast and efficiently.

If you don’t like how a looming task is making you feel, then get started on it NOW. In most cases you’ll start to feel better immediately. You don’t have time to worry about something when you’re actually doing it.

Don’t Try to Swallow It All at Once

It’s possible to eat a whole elephant by yourself, but not in one piece! It’s the same with any assignment. Cut it into manageable pieces, and don’t leave them too big — otherwise you still might choke on them

Don’t worry about doing it all in order, either. There’s no reason you have to start with the ‘trunk’ if taking care of the ‘tail’ eases you into the task sooner. As each piece of the project gets done, the whole of the thing becomes smaller and less challenging. Soon, there’s nothing left but elephant lips!

Build Momentum with The Two-Minute Rule

One method to get started on daunting tasks is the “Two-Minute Rule.” If something takes less than two minutes, do it immediately. Even if a task takes longer, commit to just two minutes and start it.

Often, the hardest part is beginning, and once you’re in motion, you’re likely to continue. This tactic breaks inertia, creating momentum which can carry you through a project.

The holidays present a rush of activities; by applying this rule, you can tackle small tasks immediately and initiate larger tasks, making them feel more manageable.

Promise Yourself a Treat Afterwards

how to manage time during the holidays

Pick a small reward for when it’s all over and done with. A personal moment to listen to some music, taking a quick walk, or buying a boutique cupcake and keeping it in sight as you toil away — knowing how good it will taste when you’ve finished your task.

If it’s a big, involved task, you can use a timer so that every 45 minutes or so you take a break to nibble on the cupcake or stretch your legs, or whatever it is that you’ve promised yourself as a reward. And then don’t cheat; work tirelessly that whole 45 minutes.

You can do it, because you know it has to come to an end and you can enjoy a little something when the timer goes off.

Focus Isn’t Hocus Pocus

It can feel overwhelming when you have too much on your plate at one time. It will drain your energy and motivation. This is especially vexing when there are constant reminders of other tasks ahead of you as you plod on.

So clear the decks, physically and mentally, of all the other stuff that needs doing. Focus on the ONE THING you are doing right now.

The other stuff will keep. Or, as financier J. Pierpont Morgan was fond of saying: “No problem can be solved until it is reduced to some simple form. The changing of a vague difficulty into a specific, concrete form is a very essential element in thinking.”

Keep Track of Your Accomplishments

Isn’t it funny how you can spend eight hours getting things done well, and then at the end of the day still feel as if nothing was accomplished? You need to keep a list of everything you accomplished each day — then, when it’s over, you can look at the list and be astonished and heartened all over again at how much you really did get done — despite all the distractions and upsets that the normal day brings.

Take a Chance

Juggling multiple tasks can sometimes make work feel monotonous or overwhelming. However, introducing an element of surprise can reinvigorate your routine and add a touch of excitement to your day. One playful and effective method is the “Note Card Shuffle.” Here’s how it works:

Bulleted List:

  • Write Tasks on Note Cards: Begin by jotting down every task you have for the day on separate note cards.
  • Shuffle Them: Once all tasks are written, flip the cards over and give them a good shuffle.
  • Pick the Top Card: Without peeking, commit to completing the task on the top card. Dive in, no matter what it is.
  • Move On to the Next: Once you’ve finished the task on the first card, select the next one and continue the process.
  • Adapt as Needed: While this method introduces an element of fun, it might not be suitable for every situation. Use your discretion and adapt if necessary, ensuring critical tasks are addressed when needed.

Visual Aids

how to manage time during the holidays

Use visual aids like charts, graphs, or even simple post-it notes to visualize your tasks. This can be particularly useful for complex projects where you need to see the big picture and how individual tasks fit together.

For example, if you’re planning a big holiday meal, having a visual breakdown of preparation times, oven schedules, and serving order can be invaluable.

Who is Your Alter Ego?

What would Superman or Wonder Woman do if faced with your current task? They’d get it done in record time, no doubt, while smashing villains left and right.

So pick a super hero to emulate and really get into their mind as you tackle that PowerPoint presentation or report that was supposed to be done yesterday. Hum the theme of your super hero as you triumph over that villain of all villains — procrastination!

Use the 80/20 Rule to Your Advantage

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, suggests that 80% of outcomes come from 20% of causes. Apply this to holiday tasks: focus on the 20% of activities that provide 80% of the desired results. Instead of spreading yourself thin trying to handle everything, identify key tasks that will make the most significant impact.

This way, you can invest your time and energy where it will yield the most reward, ensuring your holiday preparations are both efficient and meaningful.

Know When to Fold

First drafts and first attempts are never going to be perfect. So don’t get frustrated when your initial attempt turns up a little lacking in something or other. You’ve made a heroic start on the project, for which you should congratulate yourself.

Continue on with the next draft and/or attempt, and keep going until you’ve got what you want. And if you find yourself never reaching that point, then, in the words of the The Gambler, “Know when to fold em”.

You’ve got to be able to realize when something may not be perfect, but is good enough to do the job and satisfy the boss.

Decide to Decide

how to manage time during the holidays

You may be faced with a multitude of roads to take to achieve your project. So you become paralyzed with the What Ifs — ‘what if I do it this way but the other way would have worked better?’ And you don’t get started at all.

Decide to decide on one way of doing it — then do it. If it turns out not to be the correct way, so what? Now you know of at least one way of not doing it — which will come in handy with future projects. Don’t beat yourself up for wasting time; just chalk it up to experience and decide on a new route.

Or decide to shelve it and come back to it when you’re rested and relaxed.

Embrace the Power of No

During the holiday season, requests and invitations will flood in. Remember that every time you say “yes” to one thing, you’re inadvertently saying “no” to another, potentially more important, task or event.

Recognize your limits. Politely decline offers or requests that don’t align with your primary objectives or those that might spread you too thin.

By being selective in your commitments, you maintain control over your time, ensuring you can fully engage in and enjoy your chosen activities.

Prioritize Your Tasks

With the plethora of activities during the holidays, it’s important to prioritize your tasks. Make a list of everything that needs to be done and rank them in order of importance and urgency. Focus on high-priority tasks and consider postponing or delegating less critical ones. This approach ensures that you attend to the most important matters first, reducing stress and increasing efficiency.

Set Realistic Goals

The holidays can be overwhelming with personal and professional responsibilities. Setting realistic and achievable goals for each day can help keep things in perspective. Break down larger projects into smaller, manageable tasks, and set achievable targets for each day or week. This way, you won’t feel overwhelmed and can track your progress effectively.

Utilize Technology for Reminders and Scheduling

Leverage technology to keep track of your tasks and appointments. Use digital calendars, reminder apps, or scheduling tools to plan your days. Set reminders for important deadlines, meetings, or personal commitments. This will help you stay on top of your schedule and avoid last-minute rushes or forgotten tasks.

Create a Holiday Routine

The holiday season often disrupts regular routines, which can affect productivity. Try to establish a holiday-specific routine that accommodates your festive activities while still allotting time for work and personal tasks. A structured routine can help you maintain a balance and ensure that you don’t neglect important aspects of your life during the holiday rush.

Time Out

All work and no play makes Jack, and Jill, a burned out slacker. Make sure to schedule time for yourself, for your friends and family, for your hobbies and pleasures. Successful people have said it so often that it’s almost a cliche: “When I can’t find a solution to a problem, I go skiing (or camping or jogging or whatever), and while I was enjoying myself the answer came to me unbidden!”

And if the inspiration doesn’t come in the middle of a game of Scrabble, then so be it — at least you’ll be rested up and ready to tackle that same beast of a task the next day.

Stay Flexible

how to manage time during the holidays

The holidays are a dynamic time with often unpredictable elements. While it’s essential to have a plan, it’s just as crucial to remain adaptable. If something isn’t going as planned, stay calm, reassess, and adjust accordingly. Flexibility can save you a lot of stress and time in the long run.

Remember, the holidays are a time to celebrate and be with loved ones. While being productive is essential, it’s just as crucial to enjoy the moment and the company of those around you.

Batch Similar Tasks Together

Grouping like tasks can improve efficiency. For instance, if you’re sending out holiday cards, write all the messages first, then address the envelopes, and finally put on stamps.

This method, known as batching, reduces the mental load of switching between different kinds of tasks.

By dedicating blocks of time to similar activities, you create a workflow rhythm, which can lead to increased productivity and a smoother task completion process during the bustling holiday season.

And Always Keep in Mind:

Planning isn’t doing.

The research has probably already been done, so just start in on it. Time yourself with a device, not with your ‘inner voice’ — which is pretty lazy and unreliable. If at first you don’t succeed, find somebody who has and adapt their ideas to your project.

How to Manage Time During the Holidays Summary

Time Management TipsDescription / Explanation
Outsource TasksDelegate tasks when possible. Trade or barter if suitable. Asking for help is prioritizing, not showing weakness.
Visualize BenefitsThink about the positive outcomes of completing tasks to motivate yourself.
Consider Negative ConsequencesUse potential negative outcomes as a motivator to avoid procrastination.
Break Tasks into ChunksSplit large tasks into smaller, manageable pieces. Starting with any part can lead to overall progress.
Two-Minute RuleIf a task takes <2 mins, do it immediately. This rule can help initiate bigger tasks by committing to just starting them.
Reward YourselfSet up small rewards after task completion. For longer tasks, set periodic breaks with rewards.
Maintain FocusStay concentrated on one task at a time. Remove other distractions to improve efficiency.
Track AccomplishmentsMaintain a list of daily achievements to reflect and feel accomplished.
Introduce SurprisesThe "Note Card Shuffle" is a fun method to make tasks unpredictable and engaging.
Use Visual AidsCharts, graphs, and post-its can help visualize complex tasks or projects.
Emulate a SuperheroChannel the energy and determination of a superhero to tackle challenging tasks.
Apply the 80/20 RuleFocus on the 20% of tasks that yield 80% of the results, maximizing efficiency.
Recognize ImperfectionUnderstand that first attempts may not be perfect. Keep refining until satisfied.
Decide to DecideOvercome paralysis by analysis. Make decisions and learn from outcomes.
Learn to Say NoPrioritize tasks by declining offers or invitations that don't align with primary goals.
Schedule DowntimeAllocate time for relaxation and leisure. Breaks can often bring unexpected solutions to challenges.
Stay AdaptableKeep plans flexible. The holidays are unpredictable; adaptability can reduce stress.
Batch Similar TasksGroup related tasks to increase efficiency. E.g., for holiday cards: write, address, then stamp in sequence.


Holidays Time Photo via Shutterstock

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Amanda DiSilvestro Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for Viral Content Buzz, a system designed to help you promote other content and get your content promoted on major social channels like Twitter and Facebook. You can also find her writing for the nationally recognized SEO firm, Higher Visibility.

2 Reactions
  1. Never stop marketing. In fact, the holidays is the perfect time to double your efforts.

  2. Talking about procrastination, I’ve been struggling with mine for the last 10 years and read countless books and self help methods. Here is what I’m having best results with. First of all, procrastination bulldozer method has worked wonders for me. I highly recommend you apply it. Secondly, whenever you have a task that takes less than 5 minutes to do, do it right away. No delays. I’m really starting to take control of my life now.

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