pine needles on snow

By: Elizabeth Nicholson

We’ve entered the holiday season and you might already be tired thinking about the endless task list that comes with this time of year. Here’s a little something to remember during this season. You have choices!

Here are some helpful steps to take when looking at your holiday schedule. They will work for both paper and digital planning.

C-onsider what you want.

What do you want your holidays to look like? Dream those dreams. Do you envision yourself baking cookies with your kids or grandchildren? What do those cookies look like? Iced sugar cookies? Giant chocolate chip cookies? Or maybe it’s a night of reading holiday books and drinking hot chocolate. Make that list. Write it all down. We aren’t editing the list right now, we are just dreaming.

H-one the list.

This is where we edit. Maybe we dreamed about making seven different types of cookies. Would that be realistic for THIS season in your life? Maybe we only have time to bake one type of cookie. Or maybe the baking isn’t the important part. Maybe it’s the decorating. What would it look like to purchase cookies and just have a decorating time? Think about what was really important about this item on the list.

As an example, one year, my son said he wanted a live tree for Christmas. I immediately swung into full Hallmark movie mode. I would find a local tree farm. We would plan a day as a family to cut down the tree. There would be hot chocolate and a horse drawn sleigh……But then I stopped. What was he really asking for? When I asked him, it was simply a live tree. No family field trip. No photo op. Just the smell of pine in our living room. My son didn’t even want to help pick it out. So, my husband went by himself one evening and purchased a live tree from the local Home Depot. By asking a few questions and thinking about my own expectations, we honed down the dream that I had envisioned into something very manageable and everyone was happy.

O-rchestrate your plan.

Now that you’ve considered what you want and honed down your list, it’s time to orchestrate your plan. Let’s go back to the cookie decorating idea. What are the steps? Do I need to purchase already baked cookies? Can I get these from the grocery store? I need frosting, sprinkles, sugar glitter, etc. Do I have a recipe for the frosting or am I going to use store bought? Do I need food coloring? This is where we figure out all of the details for our plan.

I-dentify where it will go on your schedule.

Often times, especially during this time of year, we think that we can add everything to our schedule without deducting anything. Let’s get serious for a minute. It is absolutely okay, and I will even say, necessary, to eliminate things from your schedule in order to create the season that we want. If you have an already full suitcase, you can’t keep putting more into it. You must take some things out and rearrange some items, before you add new things in. It is the same with your schedule. Remember, you have choices! They might be hard choices, but they are still your choices to make!

C-heck in twice a day.

This is a very important step that gets overlooked. We can dream and consider what we want, hone down our list, orchestrate our plans, and identify where things will go in our schedule, but if we never check in on that schedule, we may not remember to make those dreams happen!
I am in the habit of checking my planner/digital calendar at least twice a day to remind myself of the things I want to have happen in my life. Before I made this habit, I put two alarms on my phone. Even if I wasn’t able to check in right at that moment, it programmed my brain that I wanted to check in on my list!

E-njoy a weekly planning date where you will
S-urvey your progress.

These two tips go hand-in-hand. I schedule a planning date with myself every week. I treat it like a special time with someone I enjoy. It can look like sitting at my dining room table. Maybe I will take my planner to a restaurant or coffee shop for some one-on-one time.
It might feel like just one more thing to add to your to-do list, but I find that time spent in reflecting and planning is always profitable.

I use this time to look over my past week and month. What things are working? What things need to change? Have I been able to make the things happen that I wanted to happen from my list of what I want? Do I need to go back to step one and “Consider what I want” again?

I find that remembering that I have choices gives me great comfort. Making the choices that I need this holiday season will help me obtain a level of control in a busy season. I can focus on the things that are truly meaningful to me and, hopefully, find a way to let the rest go.

For classes taught by Elizabeth, or to contact her, please visit

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