What to do when you have far too much to do

So we are two weeks from Christmas. Is anybody else out there starting to breathe more shallowly? Two weeks is  336 hours. In black and white, that looks like plenty of time to prepare, but in reality it it is more like the blink of an eye. And when I blink, all I see are the dishes in my kitchen sink, the long list of people I have to buy gifts for (how ever does Santa do this? Oh, yeah, he has elves!), and looming deadlines for work. How could such a wonderful celebration (the MOST wonderful time of the year, if Andy Williams is to be believed) turn into a pressure-filled, hair-pulling season that makes December 25 look less like a birthday and more like a giant wave threatening to engulf you and toss you onto the beach like yesterday's Deer Park water bottle? IMG_5387

I love Christmas! I really do. But the trappings can leave us feeling...well, trapped!  In the past 24 hours, I have talked to two friends who are completely overwhelmed. One has too much going on at work---exhausting her before she even walks in the door. And the other has too much to do in her personal life---family concerns and commitments are draining her time and emotions, so that she has little left over to meet holiday demands. And, yes, demands they are, indeed. We all feel them breathing down our little necks:  the shopping to get done, the cards to send, the parties to attend, the halls to deck, and more. These, on top of our usual day-to-day obligations, can make everything seem less than merry and bright.

It's the holiday case of "too much to do, too little time." So here are four timely tips for all of us on what to do when there is far too much to do.

  1. Breathe. Seriously. Dolphins regularly come up for air (whales do, too, but they're not as cute). So, come up for air! To make this happen, you must think of it in terms of survival, as if your life depended on it. Pretend that your house (or your office) caught on fire. You would evacuate even if you had a lot of work to do. So, just pick up and leave everything, even if only for 5-15 minutes. Get outside, listen to music, or (for you young moms) even shower!
  2. Cross things off the list. Gasp. Is this sacrilege? No! Not everything on your to-do list is "do or die." What can you forgo completely? Consider what you can legitimately drop without crushing a three year-old's heart. You simply must get your niece a present. But do you have to send out snail mail greetings this year? Is it imperative for every single nutcracker to come out of storage? Or can a few wooden soldiers stand watch in the dining room, representing the rest?
  3. Scale down. If you truly can't cross something off the list, what can you do to make your "imperative Christmas activity" manageable? Can you make the dinner a potluck meal, instead of cooking it all yourself?  What if you just stopped by the party later than planned, so you can relax at home for an hour or two first? Can you see that special friend the week after Christmas? Reduce your load. Santa does the same thing as he makes his trip around the world. Look for ways to make your sleigh lighter!
  4. Live with the chaos. Do what you enjoy and let the chips (and jalapeño dip) fall where they may. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Leave the dishes in the sink and go to the party. Keep the date you made weeks ago, and just wrap the presents later, if at all (sometimes a little red bow will suffice). Dim the lights (it makes the mess harder to see). Or just decorate around it.


Two weeks. 336 hours...I think. That's what my google search told me, but I honestly don't have time to work out the math on my own. So the next time you start to feel pressed for time, stressed, crinkled, and crunched, remember the gist of the four tips: Don't do it all. It'll be okay. All will be well. December 25th will roll around just the same. Celebrate the Reason for the season and stay sane while doing so. Do what you love and let the rest go.