Do December Differently: 5 Ways to Plan ahead for a Peaceful Holiday Season

  • As we approach the final stretch of 2023, you may find yourself navigating a whirlwind of responsibilities. From the Northern Hemisphere’s academic year kick-off to preparing for Diwali, Thanksgiving, end-of-year sports and social celebrations, Hanukkah, Christmas, and looming work deadlines, December can easily become a chaotic and overwhelming time. In some parts of the world, this period is known as the Silly Season, where your social commitments explode while your to-do list simultaneously ramps up, and your stress levels along with it. 

But what if we told you that you could do December differently this year? Imagine a calm and smooth finish to 2023, where you feel in control and able to fully enjoy the holiday season. It’s possible, and we’re here to guide you through it. Mia Northrop, coauthor of Life Admin Hacks, cohost of the Life Admin Life Hacks podcast and creator of The Art of Adulting online course, shares five essential ways to get your life admin organised now so that you can set yourself up for success as the year gets more frantic. 

Prioritise Your Tasks with Intent

One of the keys to conquering the end-of-year chaos is setting clear priorities and boundaries. Take a moment to reflect on what truly matters to you at this stage of the year. How do you want to feel when the year closes out? What do you need more of and less of?  Is it making memorable moments with your family or friends? Is it achieving a certain goal at work? Is it supporting your kids through a school transition? Perhaps it’s about earmarking time for personal projects that you committed to earlier in the year.

Identify your priorities and focus your energy on them. This might mean letting go of, delegating or postponing less important activities. Remember, it’s okay to say no to additional commitments if they don’t align with your priorities. This intentional approach will help you stay grounded and avoid the overwhelm that often accompanies December.

Streamline Your Holiday Planning

Holiday planning can be a source of joy or stress, depending on how you approach it. These events are a recipe for stress if you:

  • Try to do it all yourself
  • Don’t give yourself enough time
  • are unclear about your budget
  • aren’t sure what you’re aiming for.  

Start with the end in mind and set your expectations about what your holiday events are going to look like for you. If you have a partner or family, talk about what you want the event to be and come up with a shared vision. Part of that conversation is discussing who will contribute what, to make it happen.  If you’re already starting to think about what the plan is for the event, then start talking about it now. It might be months away, but now is the time to act before you get busier and your headspace shrinks. Action is the antidote to anxiety, and your future self will thank you.

Decide upfront on how much you’re comfortable spending. This gives you some boundaries to inform other choices you’ll need to make. 

Depending on whether you’re hosting, visiting or travelling to be with others, your plan could include tasks like coordinating guests or travel arrangements, gift shopping and wrapping, meal preparation, and decorating your home. Leverage the convenience and power of your smartphone to build a to-do list, add in dates, and share it among those responsible. Use notes and list apps on your phone for gift wishlists, menus, shopping lists and RSVPs too. Drop your mental load by getting these ideas and tasks out of your head, into a device, and sharing with others.

By having a clear roadmap with a long lead time, you’ll have more bandwidth to enjoy the holiday season without feeling frazzled.

Dial up your time management

There are periods of the year when being spontaneous and more flexible with your time is easy and your preferred way of showing up in the world. If you’re juggling paid work, family and other responsibilities, the final moments of the year are unlikely to be one of them.

Paying attention to how your time is spent is beneficial in the lead-up to this busy season. Implement time-saving and productivity strategies, such as:

  • batch processing similar tasks (e.g. meal planning dinner for 2 weeks)
  • timeboxing tasks to be done within a predetermined time slot in your week
  • using the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes work/5 minutes rest) to stay focused. 

If you don’t already, consider giving yourself a specific knock-off time from paid work every day or intense days of the week, to ensure you have dedicated time for your personal life.

Create a weekly schedule that includes designated blocks of time for the inevitable life admin and housework that keep things humming on the home front – such as grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, dog walking, drop-offs and pickups – as well as the appointments, rehearsals, training and meetings that fill out your days and nights. This will give you a truer picture of your commitments, and flag when you might be stretched. 

Declutter and Simplify Your Space

Outer order, inner calm. A disorganised, cluttered living space can contribute to stress and overwhelm. They make us feel stifled, buried and trapped by our possessions. Take some time to declutter and simplify your home environment. Donate or discard items you no longer need, rarely use or don’t like, and find a designated place for everything you do find useful or precious.

A tidy and organised living space will not only make you feel more relaxed but also make it easier to manage your daily tasks efficiently. Plus, it sets a welcoming stage for holiday gatherings with friends and family and makes room for the influx of gifts that might be coming your way.

Invest in Self-Care

As we slide towards the hustle and bustle of December, it’s the right time to tune into how we support our well-being. Tap into what MENDS and reflect on which lever you can pull to feel your best:

  • Meditation, mindfulness and meaning
  • Exercise
  • Nature
  • Diet
  • Sleep and social connection.

Before you get stressed, think about the coping strategies you might adopt, such as asking others for help or soothing and entertaining yourself with hobbies, or doing absolutely nothing – give yourself some ‘nothing to do, nowhere to be’ moments.

As we enter the last few months of 2023, remember that you have the power to do December differently. By setting clear priorities, streamlining your holiday planning, mastering time management, decluttering your space, and investing in self-care, you can finish out the year with a spacious mindset. 

Rather than feeling depleted this December, let’s celebrate the joy of the season and the memories of the year, feeling lighter and abundant.

To help you streamline your life and reduce your mental load, check out these resources:

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