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Taking things off your plate to cut down on holiday stress
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Spread too thin?

With the holidays approaching, many people experience the stress of feeling "spread too thin" - having too many things to do in the little time that is available. The syrupy Christmas tunes playing in stores can add further frenzy by reminding us of obligations we hadn't even considered. That is definitely not what "the season" should be all about. Here are some thoughts about taking a few things off your plate:

1. Is it your idea?

The first step is to determine the sources of your to-do list. If you sat down and thought about the difference between the holiday traditions you truly enjoy and those you follow because "that's what everyone does" - would you have the same number of tasks? No one "has to" decorate, cook, buy extravagant gifts, or send greeting cards and yet we all feel compelled to spend time and money on exactly those activities. If you are honest with yourself, how many holiday activities do you truthfully associate with the much-touted "joy"?

Items to take off your plate: Holiday-related activities that are a joyless obligation.

2. What would you like to remember?

The second step has to do with the memories you want to create. If you were to look back on this year's holiday season a decade from now, would you want to remember the stress of preparing a perfect meal or laughing with people you love? Will you remember what you served or the conversations you had? In an insightful blog post on budgeting both time and attention for the holidays, Courtney Carver suggests asking two questions - "Can I afford it?" and "Is this how I want to spend my money/time?"

Items to take off your plate: Perfection (anything), and activities that will actually keep you from enjoying time with others.

3. Work-life balance

End-of-year tasks at work and in business can add further stress to the mix. Depending on the size of your business, you can probably catch up on reporting and taxes in the new year, but it makes sense to write all open invoices now so they don't get lost in the shuffle. Set firm ground rules for last-minute customer orders to make sure you're not working when everyone else is having fun. Also mark your days off for the holidays now (in every calendar!) to avoid scheduling problems.

Items to take off your plate: Overspending and then working long hours to earn extra income, worrying about business matters on days off.

The holidays were never meant to be a contest. This year, practice a little "laissez-faire" and don't sweat the small stuff. Everyone will be fine, guaranteed.

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