Ok, let’s be honest: holidays can be the best and the worst of times, though most often they’re a mixture. While we are able to spend time with the people who give us the most meaning, fun and fulfillment, we also “get to” spend time with those who can do the opposite. Additionally, there are the activities that bring great fulfillment and some that don’t. Again, we tend to find ourselves squeezed between competing wishes and priorities. So, what to do? Here are five tips to get you through.

“A helpful question to keep asking is, 'On January 2, as I look back, what do I want to make sure happened this holiday?'”
  1. Begin With a Vision

Many times we find ourselves at the end of a holiday season with regrets because the “main things” did not receive the most or the best of our time and energy. Often, a little planning can prevent that from happening. Here’s how: Ask yourself these questions before the season begins:

  • What do I want to have happen this holiday season?
  • What are my key goals?
  • Who do I want to make sure I spend quality time with?
  • What meaningful activities do I want to make happen this year? Service? Fun? Spiritual? Restorative? 

A helpful question to keep asking is, “On January 2, as I look back, what do I want to make sure happened this holiday?”

  1. Put Prioritized Activities and People on the Calendar First

During the holidays, it’s easy to allow other people’s agendas to override the one you have planned. There are so many available activities and so many things pulling at you. So spend the upcoming time with reality in mind.

Your time is finite, and you have to budget for the most important objectives before committing to everything else. Once you have your top priorities scheduled, then figure out how to spend your discretionary time and energy and make those choices second.

“Your time is finite, and you have to budget for the most important objectives before committing to everything else.”
  1. Prepare for the Difficult Interactions and Immunize Yourself

If you know that you are going to interact with someone who is hard for you to be around, get ready. Talk it over with a friend and set a strategy.

For example, I had a client who was afraid that when her mother visited, she would rail on her about her parenting style. The woman spoke with her sister beforehand and planned out how she would respond. The sisters promised to sit next to each other at dinner so the other sister could change the subject when it came to kids. Sound weird? Maybe, but it protected the woman from panicking and kept her from dreading the upcoming holiday dinner.

  1. Leave Buffer Time

What I hear most from people is that, “It all ran together.” Make sure that you leave some margin in your time and activities.

You are not going to be able to accomplish all that you think you will. Activities and interactions will inevitably expand, so make sure to leave room for overlap. Designate some evenings, afternoons, and mornings for time to catch up when you get over stretched.

  1. Monitor Meaning

Holidays are intended to be meaningful. Your heart, soul and spirit long for a multitude of relational, traditional, and spiritual experiences this time of year. With each decision of how you’re going to spend valuable time and energy, use the “Meaning Meter.” Ask yourself, is this really the way I want to spend holiday time? Is it valuable….will this add or destroy meaning? When we use that Meter, we tend to make better choices.

My wish for you at this time of year is to find meaning with the people and through the activities that are significant to you—even when they require sacrifice and effort—they matter. Align your values and desires with how you decide to spend your time and energy this year. You will look back and be glad you did.

Happy Holidays,

Henry Cloud

Dr. Cloud is an acclaimed leadership expert and best-selling author of the Boundaries series, Integrity, and Necessary Endings. He draws on his experience in business, leadership consulting, and his practice as a clinical psychologist to impart practical and effective advice for improving leadership skills and workplace performance. At Chick-fil-A, Dr. Cloud consults with executives and managers on implementing culture and performance strategies. For additional resources or more about Dr. Cloud, click here or follow him on Instagram @thedailydrcloud.

Tagged In: 2014 Holidays Time Management