December comes around, and suddenly, it feels like I am riding a rollercoaster. The family visits, parties, traveling, shopping, school concerts, and extra coaching hours add to an already crazy-busy schedule! Sound familiar?
Sprinkle a bit more overwhelm if your family, like mine, manages ADHD. When you add the inconsistency of schedules and extra “to-do” items without enough time to get everything done, it could be a recipe for disaster! Or… it could be an opportunity to try a new tool! I can hear you say, “easier said than done, Ana! You want me to try something new NOW?”
Yes, I do. Join me in a “Mindful Planning” experiment, and I'll help you manage the Holidays (and after!) with less stress and more joy. Even if you're skeptical, I challenge you to try this for two weeks and see how you feel! You might find that you want to tweak it and adopt it for the New Year!
First, there are some general guidelines to keep in mind while planning that fall under the ‘take care of yourself and listen to your body' category:
- Consciously enjoy small pleasures. Smell the wood burning? See the lights? Stop occasionally to take it all in! Taking 2 minutes to marvel may transform an entire day!
- Slow down. Do impromptu check-ins with yourself. Take slow, deep breaths.
- Get good sleep. Try to keep regular hours, and keep a notebook next to your bed to ‘brain dump' – empty your brain to get the zzzz you need.
- Eat well. Set a daily intention to make the best food choice at this moment.
Ready to tackle the Steps to Mindful Planning?
1. Ask Yourself: What do I most enjoy about the Holidays?
Be completely honest. There's no right or wrong answer. Does the answer bring a smile to your face? Is your breathing slower (or maybe, a bit more excited)? Then it is a keeper!
Activity: Look at the week. Whether it's your planner, calendar, or smartphone, let go of any judgment, anxiety, or fear. Take a deep breath, and welcome the coming week. Think about what you enjoy about the holidays, and get ready to make it part of your week!
2. Ask Yourself: What 4 things would I like to accomplish this week?
Would achieving them bring a sense of relief and satisfaction? Note if they are stand-alone tasks or if they have to be ‘chunked down' into smaller steps. If so, break them down as much as possible.
Activity: Calendarize. Schedule time in your planner to tackle as many specific tasks from your top four priorities as you can.
3. Ask Yourself: What can I realistically tackle tomorrow? Aside from the 4 things you want to achieve this week, what's essential?
Activity: Simplify, simplify, simplify. This is the perfect place for those ‘shoulds' to appear, but don't get over-zealous. Identify what is vital for the day, and resist the temptation to fill every hour. “Realistic” is the key. Make sure to allow extra time to transition from task to task (driving or just wrapping things up).
4. Ask Yourself: What refreshes me? What qualifies as “me time” for you? Do you like to take a walk, listen to music, or drink a cup of tea?
Activity: Make a plan to take care of yourself. Design some simple ‘me times' throughout your day and mark them in your calendar. It's an appointment with yourself!
5. Ask Yourself: Who keeps me feeling connected? Who makes you feel grounded?
Activity: Make Time to Connect. Schedule a call, skype, time on Facebook, or, even better, meet for a walk! Friends keep us going. Make sure you have an outlet to ‘vent' and recharge!
6. Ask Yourself: What Did I Miss? Take the time to “review your work.”
Activity: Tweak and Make Changes. Take a final look and do a mental run through the day. How does it feel? Do you want to add any other items? (Be careful not to undo what you did in the simplify step.) Can you delete or do something a different way? Do you need to chunk things down into more manageable time bits? Need to ask for help or delegate?
You are ready for tomorrow! Keep your planner with you and be mindful of the clock (you might use alarms to remind you that it is time to transition). Finished a task? Check it off your list – finito! Now, you're poised for a more peaceful season. There are just one or two more items to keep you on track.
7. Ask Yourself: How do I want to handle it when new things come up? Did you get a new invitation, or is someone volunteering you to work at the school play?
Activity: Be protective of your time. Don't be afraid to say no. Count to 10, or take time to think about how you will feel about adding a new task to your list. If it fulfills your enjoyment, as identified in #1, you might decide to make time for it. If it's pure obligation and you're not really keen on it, go through the steps above and make a mindful decision!
When the day is done, sit calmly with your planner and look at your day. First, focus on what you accomplished. Celebrate every achievement, big and small! Then, identify what items were not tackled. There are bound to be some, so smile and try not to judge yourself too harshly. Finally…
8. Ask yourself: Is this vital? Is it something you can do tomorrow, or a modified version of it?
Activity: Go over your mindful planning and start again.
Most important: never lose sight of step #1... what you most enjoy about the Holidays. Let it be your guiding light throughout the season. THAT's a decision you'll never regret!