How to have a hassle-free holiday season

Take time for yourself — just 20 minutes a day will do — to recharge, refresh and rejoin the holiday spirit.

Take time for yourself — just 20 minutes a day will do — to recharge, refresh and rejoin the holiday spirit.

by Kathy Gates — 

Did you know that some people actually relish the hustle and the bustle, the crowded parking lots and the singing Santas that come with the holiday season?

If you are not one of them, you can still have a hassle-free holiday. Try these simple steps to put you in the mood for a happy, healthy, stress-free holiday season.

Make a detailed plan

  1. Buy a notebook to use as your Holiday Planning Guide. (You might store it with your wrapping, so you can remember what you gave to whom last year, correct addresses, etc.)
  2. Prepare a separate page for individual lists of things you need to do (travel plans, gifts, cards, special dinners, special clothing, decorations — whatever applies to your holiday style). Under each heading, write the specifics — people and gift ideas, dinner menus and ingredients, travel itinerary. If several of these things go together, I tend to put them all on one page. For example, “Dec. 2 party at Judy’s” would include the outfit I want to buy, the food I am preparing and the gift I am taking.
  3. On each page, put the approximate amount of time you think it will take to accomplish each of your lists — shopping for gifts, writing cards, wrapping, setting up the tree, cleaning the house for guests, etc. Then double this amount and schedule it.

Avoid distractions (or at least prepare for them)

  1. Watch out for clutter at this time of year. With the extra decorations, ordinary clutter can be a real distraction. Get those extra magazines, books and stuff into some boxes and shove it under the bed or put it in the garage for the holidays. After the holidays, you just might decide you like the cleaner feeling and decide to have a garage sale.
  2. Forego window shopping in lieu of more targeted shopping. Do some initial looking and planning from catalogues and the Internet, so you can use your time in the stores as productively as possible.
  3. Be aware of personal habits that tend to distract you, and have a plan to head them off. What usually slows you down — lack of money? Lack of time? Lack of energy? Actively look for ways to avert these. If there is no extra money at the beginning of November, it is not likely to materialize the day before Christmas.

Do not procrastinate — first things first

  1. Put your energy where it counts. If you need to ship gifts, buy those first. If you have one party on Nov. 22 and another on Dec. 5, be sure to put your energy into Nov. 22 first.
  2. Schedule specific times to shop, clean, pack, etc. Stick to the plan. If you are a natural procrastinator, this is the challenging part. Write it down in big letters, post it on the door, on the refrigerator or in the car. Set yourself up to shop, clean and pack at certain times, and keep the reminders in front of you at all times.
  3. Do a little each day. Write down three things (example: buy Christmas cards, pick up a certain spice or food item, order Bob’s gift) that you would like to take care of each day between now and Christmas and do them before lunch each day.

Have fun

  1. Take time for yourself — just 20 minutes a day will do — to recharge, refresh and rejoin the holiday spirit.
  2. Listen to happy, silly holiday songs, not the sadder ones.
  3. Make it a priority to schedule what you consider the fun part of the holiday, whether that is throwing a party, a quiet night with your special someone or going out to look at holiday lights. This time comes only once a year — enjoy it.

Now you have a plan that will put you ahead of the holiday game and you will come out the other side stress-free, happier and healthier.


Kathy Gates is a professional life coach in Scottsdale, Ariz. who helps people deal with the stress of everyday living in a more organized and efficient manner. She is the author of several e-books and e-courses. 480-998-5843.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 6, December 2005/January 2006.

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