It’s time we examine our choices about how we spend our effort, thought, time, and money during the holiday season. The norms of our culture seem to be built around capitalistic consumption and social expectations. A little awareness of how much mental and emotional energy we expend can bring a lot of harmony into the equation. Here are 5 steps to bring some flow to the flurry of activity.

1. Make a clear plan for the season.

First, write down all the things that there to do. Just getting them out of your head helps free up mental energy. Use a free holiday planning guide (internet search) or the points below to capture these.

holiday planning

  • Gift giving & gift ideas
  • Cards / communications
  • Events, parties & service
  • Traditions & rituals
  • Cooking & baking
  • For the home
  • Travel
  • Expenses & charitable giving
  • Post holiday wrap up

Simplify, prioritize, and choose the ones that give you the most energy and you’re most committed to. My criteria: if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no. If there’s still doubt ask yourself these questions. Will I regret this? Will I care about this a year from now? Are my desires as important as others’? Am I willing to disappoint others to honor my health, sanity, and satisfaction?

2. Plan some down time.

Then, regardless of what your plan is and how much time and space appear to be available, schedule time to do nothing and stick to it. Parkinson’s Law asserts that tasks and projects tend to expand to fill the amount of time available. Guard against the tendency for holiday activities to squeeze out other tasks and self-care. Maintain your health and energy by making downtime non-negotiable. Even extroverts and social butterflies need this.

3. Plan for the unexpected.

Now, give yourself grace. Know that things will pop up and compete for your energy. Have clear priorities for these unplanned events, expenses, and demands. How will you choose which ones to accept and which to decline? This being my first intentionally simplified year, my attitude is: if it’s not a hell no, then yes, it might be the last time! However, if I have been working too much, not sleeping enough, or otherwise need downtime, then no.

4. Complete the season, don’t just let it end.  

Finally, treat the season like a marathon. Once you cross that finish line, replenish what was spent, examine your performance, and cool down properly. In the case of the holiday season, do something that captures your experience. Journal to acknowledge all that you completed and experienced. Reminisce as you pack things away. Send thank you notes if they nourish you. Revisit your plan and evaluate what energized you most and drained you most.

5. Don’t skip step 4.

Our culture isn’t great about finishing things. We rush right into the new year and try to create everything anew without a closing. Consider that all rituals have a closing and this season is really a long series of rituals in need of proper closing.

New Year creating can wait. The natural world is still hibernating, resting, and having long dark nights. Give yourself permission to be restored and lie dormant a little while. Allow all that you experienced and created to integrate and inform the soil in which your dreams are seeded. They’ll emerge soon, more clearly and easily, when we’re fueled by rest.

Share your plans below. For more specific examples from me, see my post Opting Out of the Holiday Hustle.