Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Stay productive (AND SANE) through the holidays!

A few years ago I had a book deadline that followed on the heels of the holidays. Since I pride myself on always beating deadlines by at least a few weeks, I panicked when I realized this deadline would fall squarely in the middle of the holidays.

I’m ashamed to admit that when I overheard my family discussing our Thanksgiving plans I barreled out of my office, put my hands on my hips and yelled, “I don’t have time for Thanksgiving this year! First you spend a day shopping, then you spend a day cleaning, on Wednesday you start cooking, and then you waste a whole day eating!”

I regret not having a camera to record the startled and horrified expressions that greeted my moment of insanity. And I’d like to say that outburst has been long forgotten, but my darling family reminds me of those words when we need a good laugh.

The problem is that I had lost perspective on what was most important in my life. A book contract is wonderful, but spending a special day with loved ones is more valuable. Since then I’ve been careful to guard my attitude as well as my goals for the holidays.

Set reasonable expectations and writing goals for the holidays. Time seems to evaporate more quickly during the holidays, and there are more things on our to-do list. If you must write through the holidays—take a deep breath—you can do it! The old tried-and-true method of getting up earlier for some writing time may be all you’ll need to do.

We have an expression in our family, shine your eyes. Take a clear, sober look at what lies before you. There are only 24 hours in a day, and you may have to scale back a bit on your output. It’s not the end of the world. You can up your word count for the weeks leading up to and following the holidays so that you can give yourself a bit more time to savor the season.

Every little bit helps. Incorporate time in your schedule to write, even if it’s only fifteen minutes. I like to keep a forward momentum, so I try to write daily—even if it’s only a few hundred words. One of my favorite tricks is to set a timer for fifteen minutes with the goal to write 250 words. If I have thirty minutes to write, I can easily pump out 500 to 600 words and feel a sense of accomplishment for the day.

Be the master of your schedule rather than the slave of your tasks.
Prioritize what needs to be accomplished. Make a list of what you’d like to accomplish for the day or the week, and then highlight the items that are more critical. Be realistic. Sure, we’d all like to make an assortment of freshly baked goodies wrapped in homemade gift boxes—but let’s not delude ourselves. It’s truly the thought that counts during the holidays, and our friends and family will love us if we don’t turn into a holiday diva working in a frenzy to create the perfect gift.

Schedule time to write, but also schedule time for fun. Remember Thanksgiving and Christmas comes but once a year. Set aside time to make memories with those important to you. Make sure to leave some time fluid in your day or week. You never know what’s going to come up, and you’ll need a little margin in your schedule.

Delegate when you can. You don’t have to be the Little Red Hen, doing all the work by yourself. Ask family to pitch in. You don’t have to make all the meals, do all the housework, and wrap all the gifts. And it’s perfectly okay to take out dinner to give yourself extra time for writing or shopping. You can’t do it all, so don’t try.

Most importantly—enjoy the season!

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