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It happens every year: the last-minute shopping, wrapping up work projects at inhuman speeds to complete them before the break, traveling and gathering and cooking and cleaning – possibly all at the same time. It’s no wonder so many of us tense up when we think about another holiday season! How can we balance the juggling act of life and work with so many added tasks on our plate? What happened to the magic of the season, and how we can survive it unscathed?

Here are a few tips I’ve put together to handle stressful situations from the boardroom to the home front. Keep calm and stay productive by incorporating these sanity-savers into your holidays this year:

1. Define Success and Work Backwards

Pretend you could wave a magic wand. When you go back to work after the holidays – after the family visits, parties, and a few too many cookies – how would you like to see things at work and at home? Work backwards from there. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the activity only to realize it’s the second week of January, your house is a mess, and the work you promised your boss still isn’t done. If you have a clear picture of what success looks like, work backward and create daily and weekly goals to ensure you are staying on track. This allows you to make slight adjustments rather than be overwhelmed or have to figure it all out at once.

2. Stop Multi-Tasking

When we’re under stress and have a lot to manage, it’s easy to think that multi-tasking will help us be more productive. Unfortunately, that can’t be farther from the truth. In reality, you are not able to give your full attention to any of things you are working on, and you’ll end up making careless errors and taking longer to complete them than if you had just done one thing at a time.

3. Define Your High-Payoff Activities

What are the top 5 activities, both at home and at work, that will generate the biggest payoff for the time invested? Do those first. Shopping, errands, phone calls, travel arrangements, and all of the other miscellaneous holiday minutia will fill in the time in between. Resist the urge to put those high-payoff activities off because you’ll get caught up in a flurry of activity without accomplishing the really important things.

4. Strive for progress, not perfection

While you don’t want a Griswold turkey dinner, watching as everyone tries to gnaw on the turkey, or the decorations that will shut down an energy grid, we get stuck on the idea that everything has to be perfect. Looking back through the years, it’s probably the crazy zany things that you remember fondly.  Don’t worry if everything is perfect, even at work. Do what you can and give yourself permission to let go. Remember the reason for the season and cherish your loved ones.

Take these one at a time, and be proud of yourself when you succeed at achieving clarity amidst chaos.

You’ll benefit from the sanity check, and so will the people in your life. The more peaceful you feel, the easier it will be for those around you to step into their happy place, too. Focus on what’s most important first, and the rest will fall into place. Give yourself the gift of an un-crazy holiday season this year. It’s a gift that the whole family will appreciate.

From our family to yours, Happy Holidays!

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