Do you feel like Clark W. Griswold in Christmas Vacation trying to make a perfect holiday and stumbling through mishaps? We all seem to face the challenge of juggling our time effectively during the hectic holiday season with having to carry on our normal activities plus shop, wrap, cook, clean, bake, decorate, travel, etc. However, Joanie Winberg, CEO and Founder of the National Association of Divorce for Women and Children (www.NADWC.org) has several holiday solutions for you. Enjoy this holiday season with these tips and suggestions to manage your time and feel more relaxed, happy and joyous:

  • Practice good self-care: Eat right and get enough rest. Do something special for yourself every day, even if you only have 10 minutes to spare. Do what makes you feel relaxed; take a walk, listen to your favorite music, have a massage, stretch. Periodically stretch and take a few deep breaths.
  • Plan Ahead: Create a workable schedule to get everything important done. Ask yourself: Does this really need to be done today? Would anyone be affected if I didn’t do it? If the answer is ‘yes’ to either question, then it is a priority. Take care of priority items first, and then do other less important things. During the holidays, time demands seem to multiply. Make some time for yourself to plan how to best use your time. Take a vacation or personal day midweek and avoid weekend crowds at the malls. Buy holiday stamps in November, and avoid long lines at the post office. Cook a large meal on a weekend and reheat leftovers for quick dinners on nights when you’re shopping.
  • Shop Smart: Instead of running endless errands and wondering what to buy, keep a gift datasheet in your wallet. Make 7 columns on a piece of lined paper to keep track of. 1) who you need to shop for, 2) what size they wear, 3) what colors they prefer, 4) what hobbies and interests they have, 5) favorite stores, 6) items bought, 7) price. As you purchase gifts, fill in columns 5 and 6. This gives you a feeling of accomplishment, and saves you time, money and aggravation.
  • Use 12 months: One way to beat the holiday hustle and bustle is to shop all year long. You can take advantage of end-of-season sales, use a gift datasheet, and store the gifts for the holidays ahead.
  • Do a little every day: Keep cards to be sent, stamps, your address book, and an alphabetical list of everyone you will send holiday cards to. Maybe while watching holiday specials on TV, write a few envelopes or apply stamps during commercial breaks. Scan what is still unfilled on your gift datasheet and peruse store mailers. This way, you can have all your cards ready and everything purchased by early December.
  • Simplify gift wrapping: You can choose all papers, bags, bows and ribbons in one color family. If paper gets torn, a bow gets squashed or curly ribbon gets wrecked, it’s quick and easy to replace. When traveling with gifts to party, place a bag of extra bows and ribbons in the car to spruce up packages just before you arrive.
  • Forget perfection: Don’t stress yourself trying to achieve idyllic images. Unless you’re an accomplished pastry chef, don’t try to make the ‘perfect pumpkin pie’. Choose food items from caterers and restaurants and save yourself time and a lot of disappointment.
  • Delegate: Don’t try to do it all. Who do you know who is a better shopper, baker, wrapper, etc.? Ask these people to help you with tasks, explaining that you’re not as experienced in doing it and that you value their input. You’ll make them feel important. Then, help the people you’re delegating to. Offer to share your strengths with others, helping to diminish their holiday stress. If you’re a good baker, trade making goodies with a friend who has nice handwriting who’ll address your cards. Take turns watching each other’s kids so you can shop in peace.
  • Clarify your intentions: Hoping or wishing for something does not have the same power as “intending” does. Intending means you fully expect your desired outcome to happen. When you decide what you want to experience and plan how to make it happen, you can make your vision a reality. You can then concentrate on the HOW instead of the IF. Set clear intentions for this holiday season, such as ‘I’ll have everything finished by Dec.18 so I can relax and enjoy the next two weeks.’
  • Laugh. Keep a few jokes with you. Watch comedies, go to comedy shows or simply listen to other people laughing. Laughter is contagious and can help you reduce blood pressure, release an enzyme that will protects your stomach from forming ulcers, relax muscle tension, release natural pain relievers, and boost your immune system.
  • Learn to say ‘no’: It really is OK to say ‘no’ to things you don’t have time for or don’t have an interest in participating. If you saying yes because you’re worried about what someone might say, you’ll feel resentful and out of control. Be true to yourself. Say ‘maybe’ when you really want to take time to think about a request. After you have thought about it, then make your decision. Don’t say ‘maybe’ to avoid saying ‘no’. Say ‘yes’ to those requests which you are excited about and ‘no’ to those you aren’t.
  • Relax and Have Fun: You deserve to relax and have fun every day – and the holiday season is no exception. Spend a little of each day doing what makes you feel relaxed. Bask in the knowledge that you have set up a plan to accomplish all you had to do for the holidays, and it is already done. You aren’t pressured. You can choose what to do with your time.
  • Winberg suggests that with good self-care and time management, you won’t be stressed driving from place to place searching for last-minute gifts, wasting time standing in long lines, or feeling so overextended that you could snap. You’ll have the important things done ahead of time, be relaxed and fully able to enjoy the holidays!

    Joanie is the Founder of the Fresh Start after Divorce community, author of Rising to the Top, A Guide to Self Development and hosts her own radio show called The Happy Wednesday Broadcast. She is also the Founder of the Happy Wednesday Foundation, whose mission statement is to provide a healthy lifestyle for all children, women and families through educational programs and affordable housing.