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The holidays. So much to do and so little time. On top of the usual work and family to-do’s, you have a long list of “extras” to fit into your already busy days. How do you make it all come together in a way that makes your holidays merry rather than overwhelming, stress-filled or even scary?

The answer is the same as it is for successfully running your business and managing everyday challenges throughout the year. Assess, do a gut-check on your mindset, and have a plan. How you approach the holiday season determines how it will go. While there are many things outside of your control, there’s a lot you CAN control. And that’s where I encourage you to put your energy and focus. Here are some of the strategies I use.

Take control of your schedule and have a plan

Start by putting all your family and work obligations into a monthly calendar that gives you the ability to schedule out blocks of time, so you have a clear visual of how “full” each day is. This gives you the opportunity to make adjustments that lighten the days that are already too full or add other activities where you have available time. I use Outlook, which gives me the option to view and use my calendar a variety of ways, but paper calendars can work great for this too.

Once you have everything in the calendar, do a little soul searching. Be honest with yourself about your limitations. Think about the kind of holiday season you want to have and what matters most to you and your family. Then, consciously CHOOSE what you will and won’t do. Give yourself permission to say “no” to invitations that will overload you and your schedule. Take some time to consider each one before responding. Only accept the ones that realistically fit into your schedule without causing unnecessary stress.

Another great tool for planning is lists. Make lists of everything you need to buy, make, and do. You can use a notebook or a binder. Just make sure you keep it all together in one place, so you can find what you need when you need it. If it’s in your head, add it to a list so you don’t forget. I even keep track of the batteries needed for gifts I buy. If you’re doing a binder, HolidayGrandPlan.com is a great resource for free, printable pages.

Set a budget for gifts and holiday expenses, then stick to it

Nothing can add stress to the holidays quite like overspending or not having a budget and a plan. So, give some thought to a budget and stick to it.shopping cart full of gifts for the holidays

Think about all the people you plan to buy gifts for, all the eating out you’ll do while shopping after work for gifts, and those big meals you’ll be preparing for family and friends. Include it all, plan ahead and set a budget. When it comes to gifts, impulsive purchases are often the budget-busters. Take the time to think about each person on your list and what would be meaningful to them. A gift is a way to show you thought of them. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, especially if you take the time to think it through ahead of time. The added bonus is that if you think ahead about what you’ll be buying, it makes your shopping more efficient too!

Don’t forget the basics

Above all, during this busy season, don’t forget the basics. Eating well, getting enough sleep, keeping up your exercise routine, and taking time to unwind and recharge will all help you be at your best. You might even consider adding some supplements to be sure your body is getting what it needs and boost your immune system.

A little bit of planning can go a long way. Don’t let chaos and stress steal the joy of the holidays for you. Know what your vision is for the holidays and make it happen. The wonderful memories you make over the next few weeks are worth the effort!