Time Management for the Holidays

My mother always had Christmas trees all over the house. She decorated everything that was possible to decorate. If my brother or I had stayed still, she would have decorated us, too. She worked outside the home and was always adding to her education, but she managed to do it all. How in the world did she do it?

My holiday dread begins in October. Work consumes so much of my time that I can barely think about cooking Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, much less shopping for gifts for anyone.

The thought of taking time off at the holidays makes me crazy. If we have two days off for Thanksgiving and two days off for Christmas, what happens to the work we’d normally do on those days and that still needs to be done?

This is where we need to go back to the basics of time management and we need to find ways to relieve the stress associated with the holidays. The Time Management Grid, designed by Stephen Covey in 1994 and introduced in his book, First Things First, divides tasks into four categories: important/urgent, important/not urgent, urgent/ not important, and not important/not urgent.

Urgent/Important Tasks

This list is for those important deadlines that must be done today, right now. We’ve all had those last minute projects assigned by our bosses that must be done now, and take precedent over everything else.

We’ve even found ourselves in a situation when we’ve forgotten to go to the grocery store and it is time for dinner. We’re basically putting out fires because we forgot to plan. Work to manage your time and you should avoid these kinds of stress-inducing emergencies.

Important/Not Urgent Tasks

This is where we need to spend more of our time, planning what we need to do and prioritizing our time. Do you really need to attend that Christmas party on Wednesday night, when you really do need to finish a report for Friday? Can you afford to take on one more volunteer project?

Spending time in planning and development can keep us out of the high-pressure urgent and important category. It might include a yoga class or taking time for daily exercise. You have some flexibility in the time, as they don’t need to be done right now, but they are very important for your health and well-being. This includes nurturing the relationships in your life.

Urgent/Not Important Tasks

These are the distractions that can keep you from doing what needs to be done. These tasks include meetings that you committed to without thinking first about whether you really needed to attend.

Not Urgent/Not Important Tasks

Social media falls in this category, although we very well may be categorizing it as urgent. How many times each day do you check Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and/or email? This is where the game of Candy Crush or whatever your distraction of choice goes. This is how we unwind, without thinking.

This holiday season is a good time to look at how you spend your time. Revisit the time management grid and look at how your workday is scheduled.

We live in a world that is much different from my mom’s. Our work environment no longer shuts off at 5:00 in the afternoon, as we are remote and we are connected in so many ways.  Many of us don’t separate our work time and our personal time, and we forget to take care of ourselves.

This holiday season, try to plan ahead for those days off, anticipate what needs to be done, and weed out what is not important. Schedule some time for yourself and for your family, and enjoy the holidays.

About the Author: Dr. Suzanne Minarcine is a faculty director for the School of Business at American Public University. She currently teaches strategic management and entrepreneurship courses.


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