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


by David Blackburn, PhD

Dec 13, 2023

As the holidays approach, many of you may be feeling the pressure to do more. You may spend extra money on presents, food, parties and things not normally included in your budget. Families try hard to get together, aiming for a happy time, but that means they're busier than usual.

On top of that, there are expectations for everything to be perfect: "This will be the best Christmas ever!" or "I hope Uncle George’s family shows up; it's been ages since we saw them.” And that pressure is compounded by pictures on social media of your friends’ grand holiday parties and your neighbors’ impeccably decorated trees.

This pressure can make many people feel that they need to create the perfect holiday experience for themselves and their loved ones, which often leads to unrealistic expectations and a lot of unnecessary pressure. As a result, people may find themselves struggling to manage their time effectively and may end up feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

The holidays, however, don’t have to be stressful or miserable. Here are some of my most helpful tips and strategies for making the holidays merry and bright.

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 five steps for more effective time management:
  • Establish priorities. Instead of trying to do everything, focus on the things that are most important to you and your family. Make a list of the activities and events that you want to participate in and prioritize them based on their importance and your available 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.
  • Allot enough time. People tend to misjudge how much time activities will really take to accomplish and end up scheduling more than they can do in a day. Even if you have a good idea of how long a task usually takes, you may need to adjust. For instance, a trip to the grocery store may take generally about an hour, but it might take longer this time of year due to holiday crowds. To make sure I’m not overscheduling myself, I find it helpful to plot out my tasks in a day planner.
  • Develop the skill of decision-making. (See below).
  • Delegate tasks to others. If you tend to try to control everything in the belief that only you can do it, 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.
  • Set aside time for yourself. It is also important to take care of yourself during the holidays. Make sure that you are getting enough sleep, eating well and taking time to relax and recharge. Remember that the holidays are about spending time with loved ones and creating memories, not about creating the perfect holiday experience.


Good decision-making skills are especially important during the holidays. With so many obligations, you can easily become overwhelmed. Whether it's deciding which events to attend, how much to spend on gifts or how to handle family conflicts, good decision-making skills can help you navigate the holidays with ease. Here are some steps to follow to make 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 you need to take action.
  • Gather resources. Get 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 can’t anticipate all of the consequences of any decision. 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. Now that you’ve successfully completed all the steps required for healthy decision-making, it’s time to take action and put your decision to work. This step solidifies the confidence you have in your ability to make decisions and carry them forward.

Your holidays need not be miserable. Embracing the spirit of thankfulness and reflection allows for a deeper appreciation of the connections we cherish. Time management becomes an invaluable skill, guiding us to prioritize moments that truly matter and gently steering us away from the frenzy of overcommitment. And good decision-making skills help you navigate the season with a clearer sense of direction.

It’s in these moments of intentional action that the true magic of the holidays emerges—not in flawless arrangements, but in the genuine connections and cherished memories that we cultivate.

Happy holidays!

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About the Author

David Blackburn, PhD, specializes in adult mental health, cognitive behavior psychotherapy and physical medicine and 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.

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