We are continuing our journey to a Stress Free Holiday Season.  You deserve to enjoy each and every day of your life – especially the days at the end of the year that tend to be super hectic.  We tend to try to finish up some professional year-end goals and at the same time really crave some quality time with family and friends.

It is possible to do both – and keep up with your regular “day-to-day” activities.

This post is the 4th in the series.  The first three focused on creating awareness around what you want the end of the year to look like – and what the end of the year typically looks like.

Week #1 – Mentally create the holiday of your dreams.

Week #2 – List all the activities you currently participate in during the holidays.

Week #3 – Categorize these activities – how much do you enjoy doing them?

Now, I’m going to shift focus from your “head” to your “hands”.  How can you become more efficient?

One of the causes of stress around the holidays is that we really don’t realize all the steps involved in each of the activities we do, so we don’t plan enough time to get everything accomplished without feeling rushed.  One way to counteract this is to get clear with everything that is on your plate.

Your task this week – break it down:

  • Look at each of the activities you LOVE to do . . .and break them down into the absolute smallest task.
  • Then look at your “OK” activities and break them down into the smallest task.
  • Finally, look at your “YUCK” activities and break them down into each smallest task.  (Hint, hint – if this is an activity your really don’t like . . . now would be a GREAT time to delete it from your list.  Why invest time breaking it down into small steps if you don’t enjoy doing it?)

For example, many people send Christmas cards during the holiday season.  If we broke this activity down into its smallest tasks it could look like this:

Communicating – Cards  

  • Buying/Making Cards
  • Booking Photography Appt.
  • Coordinating Outfits
  • Checking Addresses
  • Addressing Cards
  • Writing Letter
  • Signing Cards
  • Buying Stamps
  • Stamping Cards
  • Mailing Cards

Or possibly you host a holiday party each year for your employees, clients, and strategic partners.  Some of the smaller tasks for this activity could include . . .

Socializing –

  • planning menu
  • grocery shopping
  • baking
  • cooking
  • deciding on a guest list
  • inviting guests
  • cleaning before the party
  • cleaning after party

systemsavvy consulting checklist2Do this for every activity you have on your list.  (This may be an excellent time to delete some of the activities in the “YUCK” category!)

Once you have broken each activity down into the smallest possible action steps, determine how long each step will take, assign a start date and a completion date to the task.

Using our Christmas Cards example –

Communicating – Cards  

  • Booking Photography Appt.                   20 minutes                       October  1                 October  1
  • Checking Addresses                               1 hour                             December 1             December 10
  • Addressing Cards                                   3 hours                           December 1              December 12

NOTE:  Estimating is a skill.  As you work through this process – know that sometimes you will over- or under-estimate how long a task will take.  A good rule when estimating time is to use the Rule of 3 or the Rule of 1.5.

  •  If the activity is something you have never done before, multiply your estimated time by 3.  If you think you can create your own graphic for your holiday card in an hour, and you’ve never tried to create graphics before, schedule 3 hours.
  • Similarly, use the Rule of 1.5 for activities you have done before – it’s always good to add a little buffer.  For example, if it usually takes 20 minutes to go to the Post Office to pick up stamps, allot 30 minutes for longer lines, traffic, etc.

Success Story:

After completing this exercise, one of my clients realized that in order to continue to create handmade gifts for all her friends and relatives and not feel stressed about cramming it all in, she should start in mid-August.  She really loves being crafty and creative, however, as she tries each year to finish the last 20 gifts a few weeks before Christmas, she started to resent the process.  By starting earlier she can enjoy creating a one-of-a-kind gift.

In fact, this was one of her activities in the “OK” section – that upon further examination she realized she loved the activity, she just hated the stress of rushing to complete them in a short time frame!

IMPORTANT:  The purpose of this exercise is to create clarity around all the activities you do – so you can plan effectively.  The purpose is not to stress you out even more!!!!  Depending on when you are reading this post, you may already feel “behind.”  This is OK! Keep this list handy and continue to add to it over the next few weeks – and use it to create a more stress-free holiday for next year.

Your turn:  How many tasks are on your list?  Have you decided to delete any activities?  Please, share your “ah-ha” moments with us!

Would you like some support accomplishing your goals?  

With a little coaching, you can easily achieve the perfect balance between your business and personal lives.  You can develop a framework and a system that allows you to put first things first -and live a life of purpose, accomplishment, and fun.  You can turn ideas into action!

[Image credit: Keerati from FreeDigitalPhotos.net]