crazy holiday

Snow is falling and the air is crisp. The sound of Christmas music already rings through department stores. Ready or not, the holiday season is underway. And if you have not already experienced a boost in activity, life is about to get very busy.

We can let the busyness of the holidays rule us or we can remain in control of our schedule and create a season full of memories and purposeful activities.

Here are five steps we can take to remain in control of our schedules during the holidays and avoid stress and Christmas chaos.

1. Make a list of must-do activities.

Take a look at the next nine weeks and make a list of your most important activities or traditions. What are your must-do items? Which activities must happen in November and which in December?

Grab your calendar and plug those important activities into your schedule first, making sure there is time for them before you add in other things.

2. Place select nights on “hold.”

Just because your schedule is open does not mean you are available, and it sure seems that evenings during the busy holiday weeks fill up fast. Place a few seemingly empty nights on “hold” and block them in order to keep that time available for your family.

Relaxed downtime with your family will decrease holiday stress and increase opportunities for memory-making.

Evenings always go first. Can you take advantage of time available during the mornings or afternoons? Amy Chappell, a mother of five and blogger from Eagle Mountain, Utah, has a system down. Her favorite technique is to “schedule things for the daytime to keep evenings free.” Chappell says, “I like to have days with nothing planned, that way we don’t end up exhausted and grumpy by Christmas.”

3. Eliminate the unnecessary.

What normal activities can you put on hold during November and December? Scaling back on less important things creates more time for your most important people and to-do items.

I like to slow down work projects and refrain from unnecessary networking events, even cutting back on play dates for the kids. What commitments might you be able to shy away from for a couple of months?

4. Make your most important to-do items front and center.

One popular time-management technique in the business world is called a “Six Most Important List” and dates back to the early 1900s. But this technique is not limited just to business. Each night before you go to bed, make a list of the six most important things to get done the next day (free printable available on MOMentity.com).

Even if the busyness of the holidays takes over the next day, you’ll at least know you’ve been productive.

5. Learn to say “no.”

The best way to protect your schedule is to confidently decline extra requests or obligations that stress or pressure your most important roles. It’s easier than you might think to say “no” respectfully, without guilt.

Staci Potter is a busy mother of two in Ogden, Utah. During past holiday seasons, she has had to say “no” to things that she really enjoys. But Potter said, “In the end it was so worth it because it gave me more time with my girls. At the end of the day, my family is my biggest priority.”