The month of December tends to be one of the busiest for a lot of people. Hanukah starts tonight. The Christmas holiday is coming up in a few weeks. A new year is starting shortly after that. People are busy trying to slip extra things into already-full schedules.
When you're hit with a lot to do, how can you figure out what's most important? There's a process I go through to help me figure out how I can make the most productive use of my time, and it involves three questions I ask myself to examine what is most important.
First off, there may be things you must do over which you have no control─and no choice. For instance, if you have assignments at work with deadlines to meet, you may not have a lot of choice in when you do them. Others may be depend upon you to do some task that will affect the rest of the project. If you let them down, like a string of falling dominoes, your failure to complete your portion will impact everybody else.
Question #1 then becomes "What vital actions are you committed to take?" List those, and add their deadlines. Any planning you do to manage your time needs to consider these first.
By the way, those "vital actions" may not just be job-related. They might have to do with attending your daughter's dance recital, or the school's Christmas performance. They might even include the "vital action" of attending your office party. Think about and weigh the things on your "vital" list to see if any can be moved to a lower priority. If not, start filling in your calendar, leaving enough time to complete all the pieces that "vital action" will require. Maybe it will mean showing up on time somewhere, or maybe it means you will have to put in weeks of work to complete your portion of a project on time.
Question #2 is "What is most important?" Once you look past your "vital action" list, there are likely to be other important tasks waiting for you. As you examine what is most important pay most attention to what your values are. Many of us don't realistically have enough time to do everything that may fall into our laps this time of year. What is most important? This requires you to look at your values. In order to be true to yourself and congruent with your values, what do you need to do? Once you have the answer to this, look at the items on your "To Do List" and figure how how you're going to accomplish what's most important. Then, as you consider each item, rank order it, with 1 being the most important and higher numbers being less important.
For me, the answer to Question #2 has to do with reaching out to people. For me, this means clients, colleagues, family, neighbors, and friends. How can I reach out to the people who are important to me? For some, it will mean messaging them online or emailing them. If it's a client, I'll make sure I have time available for an in-person or phone session. For others it will mean sending holiday card with a personal note. I'll make some phone calls to connect. I'll go out to lunch when I can manage that. Maybe I'll schedule time after the holidays to get together. What's important to me is to make a connection. I want them to know I'm thinking about them. It isn't that I don't think about them the rest of the year, but for me, I want to reach out more this time of year. Because that's important to me and my values, I need to figure out how to make it a priority.
Question # 3 has to do with delegating responsibilities. Can you delegate some or all of what is on your "To Do List?" If your house needs cleaning before the holiday company arrives, consider hiring someone to do it for you. Consider doing some of your holiday shopping online, or allocate time to spend in your favorite stores to get it done all at once, rather than having to go back time and time again. Can you order groceries and pick them up? Can you ask that things be delivered instead of having to trek across town to get them? Can you think logistically what needs to be done so that you can make sure you're approaching it efficiently?
After I've addressed these three questions, I usually have a bunch of things in a separate list. They tend to be less important─like watching my favorite Christmas movie─but I'd like to do them if I can. When time frees up for some of those things, they tend to feel like a gift. Frankly, I'm often surprised that what I felt was so overwhelming turns out to be not as big of a deal as I thought it was going to be. When I'm clear about what needs to be done and tackle it, I often free up some additional time for those things in the "less important" pile. Just because they aren't as important, doesn't mean they don't provide a lot of satisfaction and joy when you do them.
The idea is to take the pressure off. The three questions help you figure out what is most necessary and how you might be able to make things easier for yourself. Once you do, you've freed up additional time to do some of those fun things that bring a lot of enjoyment.
The idea is to use your time is such a way that you'll be able to have a "stress-less" holiday season.
My hope for you is that these three questions will make a difference in your stress level during the upcoming weeks. You can also utilize them throughout the new year. Do what you need to in order to make your holiday enjoyable. Life's too short to be pressured, especially over things that don't matter that much.
If you know anyone who struggles with these kinds of issues, please feel free to pass this along to them. If you want some encouragement, send me an email (Linda@InnerResourceCenter.com), and I'll reach out to you to see how I might be able to help. Most of all, enjoy your life!
Best Wishes for Joy and Success,