Managing To-Do's

A strategy to help you enjoy your holidays more

November 21, 2022

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On the Thursday of my wedding weekend, I was stressed about getting work done in time to unplug and about wedding logistics (e.g., my rehearsal dinner venue backed out on the Monday of my wedding week… good times).

My mom said to me,

“How do you want to feel when it’s all over? And then figure out what needs to happen to get there.”

The question helped me reorient. I wanted to feel like I’d really been present, caught up with friends and family, and spent quality time with my soon-to-be husband – soaking in our decision and the excitement.

This clarity helped me get things at work into a “good enough” spot and let them go. And it helped me throughout the weekend let go of silly things (e.g., the flowers weren’t what I ordered – but who really cared??) and really be present for conversations with friends and time with my now-husband.

I’ve come back to that question so many times since. How do I want to feel in a year – and what has to happen for me to get there? How do I want to feel at the end of a long day solo-parenting my kids, and use that feeling to guide my reactions to my feisty four-year-old’s behavior (well, 70% of the time).

As we enter a hopefully-fun-but-sometimes-tricky time with family, I’ll throw that question out to you now – how do you want to feel when you go home after your Thanksgiving dinner/trip? And what can you do to help you get there?

  • Do you want to completely unplug from work when you’re with family? If so, get clear on what really needs to happen before Thanksgiving and what can wait until after it – and schedule time for when you’ll get the have-to-happen things to a “good enough” place to put them to bed. If you have to stay somewhat checked into work while you’re with family, can you schedule when you’ll check email twice a day and work for two hours one morning so that you can totally unplug the rest of the time?
  • Do you want to take the high road with a tricky relative and be calm and proud of how you handled yourself when things go sideways? If so, do you want to role-play in your head what that relative might say and practice how you’d like to react to it? Do you need to get more sleep so your patience reserves are topped up? If so, calendar time(s) to role-play in your head and when to get in bed the next few nights to get solid sleep (and yes – I’m serious! Whatever you want to do to help out Future You get to spend and experience Thanksgiving as you want – why not use a tool to help you actually get there? I know it’s weird – but it works!).
  • And a twist – Do you want Thanksgiving preparation to feel less stressful in the future? If this year’s planning/shopping/prep ends up being too stressful for you, use your calendar to remind Future You to do things differently in the future. Calendar time next year for when you want to start your planning (earlier than this year). Calendar reminders of who to invite – and not invite – around when you’d like to have those discussions. Calendar time to order your meal from Whole Foods or coordinate a potluck dinner to take the pressure of cooking a whole meal off your plate. Whatever it is, help Future You have more enjoyable Thanksgivings by reminding her to do/not do certain things down the road. And if you really want to up the bang for that buck, repeat those reminders annually.

Whatever it is, think about how you want to feel driving away – and then think about what you can do now and throughout your time away to get there. And use your calendar to help Future You out.

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