How To Tackle Your Holiday To-Do List

How To Tackle Your Holiday To-Do List
Claire Kowalchik
The holiday rush is on. We’re baking, buying, party-going, party-throwing, wrapping, cooking, writing cards. It’s a season that’s bustling and bristling, wonderful and whirling. Some weeks it can be a challenge just to fit in your workouts. How do you make time for everything else?
To the rescue--Amy Przeworski Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, and expert in the art of stress-free, joyful living, both professionally and personally. Here’s her advice.
Work Your Priorities
Obvious? Perhaps, but when caught in the whirlwind of activity, sometimes you need to step back and review your plan.
Make a list of tasks and then rank them by importance. Let’s say you are hosting a holiday dinner for friends or family. “It’s pretty important to cook the turkey or ham—the centerpiece of your meal—and less important to make from scratch some of the sides that you could get premade,” Prezworski points out. Whether you’re preparing a festive meal, decorating your home, or even marking your calendar with the holiday events you hope to attend, think about what you most want to accomplish and put it first.
Let go of the low-priority tasks or events. “No one will care whether your cranberry sauce came out of a can or the pan on your stovetop,” says Prezworski. “But they will notice—and care—if you are too exhausted to enjoy the occasion.”
Make You a Priority
Put yourself at the top of the list. Don’t skip a workout for a holiday shopping spree. Exercise is essential not only to your health but to your sanity. “Schedule the times that you’ll exercise and keep to it,” urges Prezworski. “Treat it as though it is an appointment that you can’t miss.” Making plans to work out with a friend usually does the trick—that’s a commitment you’re not likely to break.
And be sure to stick to your sleep schedule. “You may want to set an alarm for the time when you will stop working and go to bed,” advises Prezworski.
Divide and Conquer
Separate big goals into smaller tasks and spread them out over the upcoming weeks. Prepare foods ahead of time and freeze them. Wrap just a few gifts at a time. Write three cards one night and then two or three the next. Don’t do too much on any one day. “I do just one holiday task each day,” says Prezworski. “It’s much more manageable than if I had a list of 15 things to accomplish.”
And don’t go it alone. “It isn’t your job to do everything,” Prezworski reminds us. It’s more fun to cook or shop or wrap gifts with a friend or family member. And make it festive, adds Prezworski, “put on some music that makes you happy while you’re cooking or cleaning, and dance around the kitchen if the music moves you.”
Savor the Moments
Don’t make it a race to the finish of your holiday to-do list. “Let’s take holiday baking as an example,” says Prezworski, “You can crank out dozens of holiday cookies as though you are on an assembly while thinking about the next project on your list, or you can focus on the creation.” If you’re thinking, oh I’ve got to make five batches of cookies, I need to get moving—baking becomes a chore. If you slow down and enjoy the mixing, shaping, the scent of vanilla, the warmth of the oven---an assembly-line task is transformed back into what it’s supposed to be--an enriching tradition. 
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