Ep. 92 – December, the Woman’s Marathon

December is easily the Woman’s “Other” Marathon.  We didn’t sign up for it got our cute bib and tracker at the race pickup…but we are in it.

The holidays are so much fun…and so much extra work.

December, the Woman's Marathon
December, the Woman’s Marathon

This time is so precious. You can easily run out of energy, zest, and enthusiasm if you’re not careful.

Enjoy your marathon, and set yourself up to WIN.

Holiday Extras Become Your Responsibility.

Lots of people want the extras.  You know, the beautifully wrapped gift, the home-baked goods, the handcrafted, personalized gift for people on their list.

That’s good.  That is not your responsibility to do it all.

Take care of yourself, girl, there are too many other depending on you.

Solution:  Get a team.  Involve others.  Ask for help.  Make a signup sheet for work. Let the older kids wrap presents with you… or don’t wrap at all!

Too Much Good Stuff.  Everywhere.

In the month when almonds…aren’t healthy almonds, that rich, decadent food can make you miserable.

Too much of anything is just too much.  So enjoy the goodies.  Just be wise.

Solution:  Drink your water. Decide your limits. Get a water tracking app.

Late Nights and Too Many Early Mornings.

Think of all the extra activities.  Choir concerts, piano recitals, and performances are found everywhere.  And the parties?  You’ve got work parties, ugly sweater parties, family parties, church group parties, kid’s parties, and the list goes on.

Oh yeah.  And real life needs to keep going on.  If you’re not watching it, sleep doesn’t seem to happen in December.

Solution: While it’s easy to say you’re going to bed on time.  Set yourself an alarm. Really.

Say no.  Even in December.

As a time management strategy, work to say no in December.  This is not the time to make a small project into something so BIG.  Simple is good.  Saying no can be even better sometimes.

Solution:  It’s time to focus on what really matters for your holiday.

Plan the Next Thing.

Your mind can trick you.  You may think that multi-tasking is helpful.  It’s not.  If you are at one activity, but completely disengaged with what is happening, you really aren’t there.

Try the 12-Minute List.  When you have those tiny pockets of time, write down all of those things you have coming up.  The shopping list, the one holiday errand to pick that gift up, the extra phone calls, write all of it down.  Then go to the party, the concert, the next thing and be all in.  You can completely give of yourself because the worries and stresses are recorded.  You’ll get to it.

As we get closer to the actual day, it’s not about writing it down, this exercise becomes my 12-Minute Tiny Tasks.  Use those same twelve minutes to do a couple of tiny tasks.  In that time, you can write a thank you card, wrap one gift, or start the next load of laundry.  This is how you make multitasking work.  You focus on the task for a quick couple of minutes then move to the next thing.

Solution: The power of the 12-minute timer can work wonders.

Make Time to Laugh.

With so much going on, the stress can quickly become too much.

Allow yourself time to laugh.  Send a gif. Really people watch while you are rushing through the store. (It’s fascinating.)

The power of laughter can dissolve frustration away.

Solution: Let yourself be in the moment.

Run your race and enjoy it.

How our Holiday Budget has Beat Stress

I knew that having money saved up in advance would help my holiday stress.  It makes sense financially.  Know what doesn’t make sense?  How much having a budget has helped eliminate holiday stress in other ways.

How our Holiday Budget has Beat the Holiday Stress
How our Holiday Budget has Beat the Holiday Stress

Christmas is in just a short week, and I’m realizing that the holiday stress is almost none.  How did a budget help with that???

That’s precisely the question I’ve had in my mind.  So, I started to write down a couple of things to find see the big picture and I was completely amazed!

Here are a few of the reasons our holiday budget has beaten stress.

The money was available before the holiday season started.

This is the big one!  We had one full calendar year to fill our Christmas savings account.  We decided over a year ago how much we could put toward Christmas each month and then set up the automated deposits when the paychecks come in. Sure, it seems like a no-brainer.  But this was some new territory for us.

At the end of October (and we plan to do this earlier next year) we went through and created a holiday budget based on how much money we had, who we were going to give gifts to, and the amount that we were going to spend. It was one full budget meeting for us, but that ensured that we were both in agreement, willing to stick to the budget, and eliminated surprises.

Side note: we both knew how much we had to spend on each other this Christmas.  But that doesn’t mean he knows what will be under the tree for him!  Having a budget will not take away from Christmas surprises!

What I’ve learned:  Most years we wouldn’t have this kind of clarity and focus on holiday spending.  We would go into the holiday game with no strategy, no price limits for spending, and no decisions made on “which Christmas decor we would buy this year” and “If we were going to buy for that weirdo at the office…”  Disaster.  We would set ourselves up for frustration from the beginning.  Having a plan has made all the difference.

The Christmas cards were done way early.

Some say they are cliche.  Some consider them old traditions, like bad fruitcake.  (Is there such a thing as good fruitcake?!?!) But I completely enjoy them.  In fact, I would say I love sending and receiving Christmas cards. But man!  Have they caused us some frustration in years past.

This year was different. Because we knew how much we were going to spend on holiday cards, we looked around at a few places to get them completed.  Once we had decided how much to spend, we had a timeline before Thanksgiving to have them done.  Here’s how it went.  Thanksgiving was on Thursday, Friday (Black Friday) has been declared the day we enjoy at home, putting up decorations, trimming the tree and playing games as a family, Saturday we got dressed, took our picture in front of the tree, took the image to the store had them created into cards, and Sunday afternoon we spent writing personal notes on them, addressing and sending them off! (Our 4 year-old LOVED sticking on the address labels and stamps.  Bonus help!)

What I’ve learned: I don’t know how many times I would be stressing about getting that picture taken in front of the tree so we could send off those stupid $%@^!! cards!  It used to take us weeks just to get the picture taken, then try to address them and write notes on the 15th of the month when I really should have been making cookies and delivering to the neighbors!  No more.  Because I told my husband that cards were an important tradition to me and that I really love receiving them from friends, he made sure that we had them done early.  And we enjoyed the process!

Our shopping was done & delivered early.

Even though we didn’t go out shopping on Black Friday, we checked online for a couple of sales and after a few clicks we were done with a couple of big items.  Total time taken away from family?  About 30 minutes.

We had our family get together via Skype early this month and our gifts arrived in plenty of time.  I didn’t feel that stress & anxiety hoping they would get there on time or that we would need to pay for rush delivery!

Because we have a little room in our budget for unplanned expenses, my daughter and I were in Toys R Us the other morning for a class gift exchange. It was a cold morning, the store was relatively quiet for the holiday season.  There was a woman checking out who was frustrated with a policy and started getting loud right next to us.  She was getting louder and louder, then her frustration with a corporate policy turned into yelling personal attacks on the employee.  She had crossed the line.

I was shocked.  I wanted to help.  We had finished our transactions at about the same time and you could see the embarrassment and hurt in the employee’s eyes.  I stopped and loudly said to him, “I’m sorry.  We aren’t all like that.  Her behavior is ridiculous.”

She wasn’t just mad about a corporate policy, she was mad, stressed out at life and took it out on an hourly employee.

What I’ve learned: I don’t want to live with that kind of intense stress again.  And I certainly don’t want people, employees, humans to be treated like that in the name “getting a good deal” or a “price matching” dilemma.  Our shopping was easily done, quickly decisions were made and we could focus on other things!

We have had more time together.  And more time to give.

Our family has had evenings this holiday season where we were just able to slow down and enjoy being together.  A couple of those nights we watched holiday movies.  Some of those nights were spent in the car driving around looking at Christmas lights. Our daughter screams, “Christmas Lights!” every time we see a house with any sort of illumination…so those car rides are fun, loud, full of energy and joy.

We’ve been able to serve the community more than other years.  We’ve participated in bigger projects, and small behind-the-scene kind of caring projects that has filled our souls.  I don’t need to go into details, part of the fun is doing things that no one knows about.  It adds to the Christmas magic!

What I’ve learned: Having our holiday money in order has given us time to look outward to see the needs of those around us.  Isn’t that what this entire season is all about?  By taking care of our needs we’ve been better prepared and willing to give more of ourselves.  We’ve been able to enjoy more “Christmas Spirit” around here.

Mom has been more present.

Make Christmas Merry. Not Perfect.
Make Christmas Merry. Not Perfect.

I can think of Christmases past where instead of enjoying the holiday game or moment, in the back of my mind I was making lists of the next 2- 10 things on my checklist that had to get done before I went to bed.  Basically, Mom was in the Christmas season, but frazzled, checked out, or borderline angry during those few weeks.

Clearly, not the kind of Mom I want to be. Especially at this time of year.

I just read a quote by Caroline Kennedy, that gave me pause.

It’s true. Chtistmas can feel like a lot of work, particularly for mothers. But when you look back on all the Christmases in your life, you’ll find you’ve created family traditions and lasting memories. Thos memories, good and bad, are really what help to keep a family together over the long haul.”

Yes.  I want Christmas traditions.  But I don’t believe Moms need to just kill themselves to make Christmas perfect.  Perfection is an illusion.  Perfection gets us into trouble. Striving for perfection takes the magic away from Christmas.

[Tweet “Striving for perfection takes the magic away from Christmas. via @itsamyrobles”]

What I’ve learned: This is the first holiday season I’ve been at peace with the daily events and activities, and not feeling that constant pull of “Do more!  Make it better! Pull off a perfect Christmas season!” in the back of my mind.  Instead of doing a specific Christmas activity each night, we’ve focused more on what would be most enjoyable and enriching.

Believe me, my family has noticed this.   And appreciated it.

How you can eliminate the stress next holiday season.

Now, we’re not super, amazing people.  We just had a plan, followed through, and it freed up a tremendous amount of space to be present, enjoy the holiday and beat that stress.  This is what I want for you!

There are a few steps for setting yourself up for holiday success, peace of mind, and more you time or family time next holiday season.

1. Open the Christmas savings account. Today.

That week between Christmas and New Year is a slow one.  Not much is going on the world, this is the perfect time to pop into a bank (or you can do it online) and set up one more savings account.  Label it Christmas.  Have that conversation with your sweetheart or accountability buddy that you don’t want that kind of holiday stress.  Again.  That with little changes you can make tremendous strides.

2. Save automatically throughout the year.

You may call it automatic savings, but when you look at how much you can accumulate in just a mere 52 weeks, it feels like auto-MAGIC.

Decide how much you will put away.  Is it $25 per paycheck?  Will you pull the money from the first check of the month or the second?  Make that decision before the new year starts.  $25 per paycheck (based on bi-monthly paychecks) at the end of one year is $600 to start shopping.  $50 per check will give you $1200 for the holiday season.

Make it simple so you will live by it. And stick to it! No borrowing for a fun summer getaway.  No finding something special for Father’s Day with this money.  This is your holiday stress-free money.  Protect it.  And know you are setting yourself up for a holiday win!

3. Make your lists before the holiday season starts.

If you’re waiting until the week of Thanksgiving to make the list, you might be too late.  Think of it like this: great teams don’t win championships without their strategy.

Make the plan.  Decide if you are going to do Christmas cards.  Decide if you want to give to all the relatives or just the kids this year. Decide if you are going to draw names within the family.  When you talk about it and decide early, you are able to make the right decisions for you.  Be sure to five yourself a buffer to make sure that any last minute class projects will be remembered!

Make this plan early into the season, like when they start putting Christmas stuff out in the stores (even before Halloween.)

4. Follow the plan.

Stick to your plan.  Avoid those crazy “Holiday Blowout” Sales.  The plan has made the decisions for you.  No guilt about “Oh, I forgot that substitute teacher who only comes twice a year but the kids REALLY love her!” Sorry, she wasn’t on the list.

5. Enjoy the holiday season.

Really. Enjoy the holiday season.  If something doesn’t go right- laugh at that situation!  If it didn’t work like you exptected it, too, that’s okay. You are giving yourself a gift of time & freedom so that can enjoy the holiday season.

So be sure to do so!