The minute the election ads ended, the holiday ads began. Thank goodness turkeys and Santa do not make robo-calls…or maybe I speak too soon.
For many people, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has become a build up of pressure, expectations and obligations--all to the detriment of the real meaning of the holidays and the joy of the season. Whether we celebrate Christmas or not, we can get swept up in the frenzy and come out the other side exhausted and resentful.
It’s not that the holidays have become meaningless or empty, it’s that they are too full. Instead of prioritizing what is important, we try to do it all (and in many cases do it all ourselves). Let’s look at the holidays from a project management approach.
If the holidays were a project, what steps would you take in planning it?
- Determine your goals: at the end of all your efforts, what do you want to have in place? What do you want for your holidays? What are your top three priorities?
- Steps needed to achieve these goals: If one of your priorities is, say, family fun, what does “family fun” look like? Check with the SMEs (your family). You may discover that some things you slave over are not really important to your target audience.
- Who should be involved: In the workplace, we understand that involvement builds buy-in. Involve family members in holiday decision-making. Do the activities you engage in reflect the traditions of all members of your family? Again, check with your SMEs. What does your significant other remember and want to celebrate from his/her family traditions? What have the kids outgrown?
- Delegate: We all know in business that the “right person” to delegate to might be 1) the person who wants to do the task, 2) the person who is best at the task, or 3) the person whose development dictates that now is the time to learn the task. Maybe 10-year-old Sam doesn’t wrap gifts the way you would, but he/she LOVES to wrap. Delegate, train and coach. Next year there can be less supervision.
- What are the budget/deadlines/consequences: If there is a budget, let everyone know upfront to avoid misunderstanding and budget over-runs. Same for deadlines. If cookies must be made by Dec 19 or they are not going to happen stick to this. If a deadline comes and someone has fallen down on the job, so be it…they knew the consequences of no action.
In 1991, Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli wrote a wonderful book called Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide To Putting Love And Joy Back in the Season. Their book gives guidance on how to make this time of year more meaningful. Their goal is not to add more to the “shoulds” of the season, but rather to help us choose how we want to celebrate as opposed to the path forged by the media and retail. There are exercises, thought provoking questions, and terrific suggestions on how to be more aware and discerning this holiday season.
It’s important to talk with your family before the holidays get in full swing. Below is an exercise adapted from Unplug the Christmas Machine you can discuss with your family while the Thanksgiving dinner is digesting. The answers they give may help you plan your December holidays.
Gather everyone together. Ask the following questions of folks with whom you spend the holidays. Have each person write down his or her individual answers. Help kids who don’t write.
- If we could throw out all our current holiday traditions and activities and start fresh, what would you want to keep? What traditions are most meaningful to you?
- What would you like to do differently?
- How would you finish this sentence:
"It wouldn’t be the holidays without _________________________"
Review answers as a group. Be aware of what is not there as well as what is.After talking to your SMEs, you may decide to make a small change in this year’s festivities.
Develop a list of core activities and traditions. Divide up the tasks to making this wish list come true. Remember, changing traditions is hard. Some things may have to wait until next year.
Have a blessed and wonderful holiday season!