Time management and decision-making tips for a stress-free holiday season


by David Blackburn

Nov 21, 2016

With the holidays upon us, many individuals experience increased amounts of strain and turmoil in their lives due to an increase in pressure to perform. Money is spent on gifts, food, parties, and other items not included in the typical household budget. Time commitments are stretched thin when families try to get together under the guise of “a happy and joyous occasion.” Additional pressures come in the form of expectations for the holidays: “This will be the best Christmas ever,” or, “I hope Uncle George’s family is there; we haven’t seen them in years.”

It is interesting the holidays often bring out the best and worst in people, families, and friends. For the most part, relatives who haven’t seen each other since last year, once again get together and try to make sense of it all. Some pretend to be excited, full of joy, while hiding the sadness they are truly feeling.

Loss often accompanies the holidays with the reminder that Aunt Janice is not here to celebrate Thanksgiving. Christmas also has its tragedies when individuals have trouble facing what has occurred in the past and what is happening in the present.

Holidays enable us to be thankful for what we have and to share the spirit of thankfulness with others.

The holidays, however, are not always miserable. They can be a time of renewal of acquaintances, friends, and relatives. It can be a time of reflection of the past year while looking forward to a new year. Holidays enable us to be thankful for what we have and to share the spirit of thankfulness with others.

Here are some helpful tips and strategies for dealing with the holidays.

Time management

Time is defined by how we use it. If you feel like you are constantly rushing, don’t have enough time, missing deadlines, have many unproductive hours, lack sufficient time for rest or personal relationships, feel fatigued, and feel overwhelmed by demands of the holidays, it is likely you have difficulty managing your time. This is often crucial during the holiday season. It may also be time to slow down. Here are four steps to effective time management:

  • Establish priorities. This will allow you to base your decisions on what is important and what is not, instead of wasting your time. This is a key step to help you through the shopping, the parties, handling the kids out of school, and taking care of work commitments.
  • Create time by realistic scheduling. People tend to misjudge how much time different activities will really take to accomplish. I find it helpful to write down the tasks in a day planner.
  • Develop the skill of decision-making (See below).
  • Delegate tasks to others. If you tend to control everything (many try to), with the belief that only you can do it and no one else can, reconsider. Enlist family members to assist you during the holiday season. Many children delight in accepting a chance to help when they are given some responsibility. Besides, it helps you to share with others while at the same time accomplishing what needs to be done.


Life is about choices. Decision-making is a skill that can help you make choices that are necessary and healthy for you. It is an active process that requires you to take responsibility for yourself, your life, and your own happiness. Here are some steps to follow in making healthier decisions:

  • Isolate the problem. Sometimes things are not what they seem. Be careful to avoid making a decision based on the surface level and out of pure emotion. Examine the underlying issues that may be the source of the problem. You might also give yourself time to look at different angles or perspectives.
  • Decide to take action. Once you have identified and isolated the problem, the next step is to decide whether or not you need to take action.
  • Gather resources. Ideally it is best to gather as much information as possible about the situation. This may mean consulting with a professional or an expert to assist. Use common sense when gathering information. Simply accumulating data may be a way of avoiding the decision, which is another form of procrastination.
  • Make a plan. In other words, “make a decision.” You have done the analysis and looked at it from all different angles. Now it is time to decide how you will carry out your plan. This, of course, helps when making resolutions for the coming New Year.
  • Visualize your plan of action. Obviously you cannot anticipate all of the consequences of any decision you make, because decision-making involves some risk. However, you can do a test run on your plan by visualizing the potential outcome of your decision. Use your gut feeling or intuition. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore it, try to understand the source of your discomfort with the decision.
  • Take action. You have successfully completed all the steps required for healthy decision-making. Now it is time to take action, and put your decision to work. This step solidifies the confidence you now have in your ability to make decisions and carry them forward.

Happy holidays! Next, read these tips for finding your happy place during holiday stress.

About the Author

David Blackburn, PhD, specializes in Adult Mental Health, Cognitive Behavior Psychotherapy, and Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Baylor Scott & White Mental Health Clinic – Temple. The clinic provides an array of care for your family from individual therapy to couples, family or group therapy. Get to know Dr. Blackburn today.

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