The holiday season is upon us, and we working women find ourselves in what I call the Seasonal “time management conflict” between family and work. Through in a few relatives and friends who dare to have birthdays in the holiday season and our time management plans are turned into nightmares. We find ourselves wishing for “unholidays and unbirthdays” such as those in Alice in Wonderland. So how do we get through this season and enjoy it rather being overly stressed and completely exhausted?
The first thing we have to do is face the reality. Unfortunately regardless of our jobs, our careers or our time, women are, in most cases, expected to be the driving force behind enjoyable holidays. We are not only expected to be driving force with family and friends but often in the office. All this puts extra stress on us during the holiday season. To get through this time of year the most important thing to do is first manage other people’s expectation and will not be responsible for everything. Manage the expectations of your family, your friends, and your colleagues. Set the parameters for expectations before the holiday season gets into full swing because once it does it will be too late.
Once you have managed others expectations than manage your own. Decide what you can really do and what you cannot do. Use the time management skills you use everyday of the year. Do not panic just because the holiday season is more demanding.
When you have managed the expectations of others and your own then there are a few simple steps you can take to make the holiday season balanced and enjoyable.
- Make a road map of what your deliveries for work are during the holiday season. The season usually begins the middle of November and ends after New Years. What are the important projects, decisions, accomplishments that need to be made? It is important to make sure that your work does not suffer because of extra external demands during this time of year. Others, especially men would love to point out how difficult it is for women to manage during the times where there are extra external demands. Do not allow this to happen.
If you are in a job where you are providing a service such as a cashier, working in a store or the many other service oriented positions, then stay focused. Make sure that when you are at work your work as your complete attention. Be punctual, and do not be distracted.
Not focusing on your work, when at work, only gives strength to those who believe women cannot balance families and careers.
Be Organized in your private Life. Think of the holidays as a project with a beginning and an end. Make a roadmap of what you need to do. The outline you’re the milestones in your project. Milestones such as shopping, cooking, wrapping, maybe someone’s birthday or whatever you feel needs to be done in order to move you along. Set deadlines for your milestones. Put them in a timeline. If you miss one, then try to catch it. If you do not attaché timelines to your milestones then you will be doing everything at the last minute.
- Delegate. Do not take all the responsibility on yourself. If you are hosting dinner then ask others to bring dishes. If your children are old enough delegate some of the shopping or cooking to them. Delegate the wrapping of gifts. Have older children take care of the wrapping for the younger ones when appropriate. In the office, make sure that everyone shares the responsibility if you are celebrating together. Just make sure you do not leave everything to yourself.
- Keep to the Basics. Keep parties and dinners simple. It is the Holiday season and it is about spending time with family and friends not outdoing each other. Simple menu choices with easy dishes go over a lot better and are a lot easier than trying to produce a five-star meal. Do not over decorate, it can be very time consuming if you are on a tight schedule. Enjoy the season for what it is not for what it appears to be.
- Keep travel simple. This is sometimes hard if you are living or traveling to places that tend to get cold during the holiday season. Jackets, sweaters and winter clothes take up a lot of room so try to pack less using items that can be interchanged. If you are traveling to where it is cold, washable turtlenecks in different colors can accent a sweater or almost anything. Less is better.
- Shop Online. Almost everything is available online today especially toys and other gift items. Shopping online saves time and allows you to focus on other things. Many online stores will even gift wrap for you, another timesaver If you need to go to a shopping mall, then go early in the morning. Stores tend to get overly crowed later in the day. Many online stores will even gift wrap for you, another timesaver.
- Put the family or friends in a Hotel. If you are tight on space, or even if you want your space, suggest to visitors that they take a hotel. You would be surprised how many people are relieved when you suggest this. Many people want their own space, and sometimes they believe suggesting a hotel themselves would be insulting you. I always put my family up a small family hotel near my apartment. Having others underfoot when you are trying to balance the holidays and work can be very stressful.
- Do small things in advance. Cooking, wrapping gifts, making decorations are all little things you can do one at a time when you have time. Cook something and freeze it. Wrap a few gifts when you have time. Multitask with the small things. If you do little things from time to time you will not be faced with a big list of things to do all at the last minute.
- Just say no. During the holiday’s invitations are abundant. Everyone is having a party, a celebration or going out for a small “holiday drink”. You cannot be everywhere. Pick what is important to you and politely decline the rest. Makeup by sending the invite an e-mail or small note wishing them all the best during the very busy holiday season.
This year instead of dreading the holiday season, take control. You will find if you manage the season just as you would manage your work, it will be much more enjoyable and will go by very quickly.
I wish all my readers a stressless “unholiday” season. Alice