It’s both an exciting time of the year with holidays approaching and a stressful time of the year with all you are trying to accomplish. Add on some crazy weather issues and that further complicates things. So, how can you better manage everything and keep your sanity?
Reality Check. First, recognize that you won’t get it all done exactly as you imagined, and let yourself say “that’s okay.” We often have extremely high expectations for what we think we can accomplish during this time of the year. Perhaps we need to make our goals a little more realistic. That doesn’t mean you have to drop your enthusiasm; just do a reality check. See how much time is left and what is actually manageable. Readjust your goals to be more realistic.
Change others’ expectations. In addition to altering your own expectations, talk to your colleagues or supervisors to see if you can make some changes in their expectations for what can be accomplished at the end of the year. Chances are they are feeling just as stressed. Do you really need all those meetings at this time? Can the timelines for some projects be extended? Even if you are only able to change a few things, this can have a powerful impact on reducing your stress and maybe even theirs.
Chunk it into bits. One of the biggest stressors we face is the size of what we have to accomplish – whether it is finishing up work projects, getting all of our presents ready in advance, or cleaning our entire house for holiday company. Sometimes just viewing these massive lists we have created can be overwhelming.
If possible, break those large projects into smaller ones. Sometimes we only have 30 minutes here or there and we think we can’t get our big project done then. Which is true – we can’t. But, if we can break it into parts, we might get some of the smaller parts done during those shorter time periods. That can still help us feel a sense of accomplishment, and that we are not being overwhelmed.
Don’t forget your own self-care. We have the tendency to put all of our projects and others ahead of us during the end of the year mad rush to get it all done. Don’t do this. Make sure you still find time to exercise, get plenty of sleep, and engage in some activities for your own sanity (e.g., mindfulness, meditation, prayer, etc.). You need to keep up your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well being during this time, probably more than at any other time of the year. Try to do something fun each day – this gives you added joy.
Take advantage of forced slow times. Maybe you are stuck in traffic on the highway or circling a parking lot to find a spot at the shopping mall or waiting in a long line at a store, or on hold on the phone. These are forced slow downs imposed on you. Instead of giving in to the temptation to get angry and frustrated, use these opportunities to do other things.
Each year, we know these things are going to occur, and yet we always seem surprised and frustrated by their existence (as if they just popped up). Be prepared. Bring other things to do while waiting in line or on the phone or as you are circling the parking lot. Maybe listening to relaxing music is just the thing that can keep your blood pressure from rising even higher.
Volunteer. It may seem counterintuitive to volunteer when we have so much on our own plates. But, this is the season to volunteer and help those less fortunate than us. While we may be very busy, sometimes just taking a little time to give back to others helps us to put things into perspective and remember how much we do have. It also helps us to remember the “reason for the season.”
The end of the year comes with celebrating various holidays and welcoming in a brand new year. It should be a time of joy and yet; it often comes with the stress of having too much to do and not enough time to get it all done. Following some of these tips might just help you get your energy back and enjoy this holiday time and ringing in the New Year!
I am the Helen and William O’Toole Dean of the Villanova School of Business (VSB), and serve as the chief executive, academic and fiscal officer. VSB has more than 150 faculty and staff and 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in VSB’s top-ranked programs. I am a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist with more than 25 years of experience consulting with private- and public-sector organizations. I wrote a weekly career coach column and answered reader questions in a monthly online chat for The Washington Post. I have served as an executive coach for several decades and developed the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Programs for UMD’s Executive M.B.A. program and the Executive M.B.A. at the University of Tennessee. I earned my Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology from the University of Akron, Ohio and my B.A. in psychology from Loyola University in Maryland.