4 Steps for getting the most out of your family time this season

Getting the most out of your family time this season

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Joy Bennett

Joy is the founder of Joy Bennett Consulting, a strategic marketing agency in Cincinnati, OH, a wife and a mother of four. 

Work is what we do. Our family is who we do it for.

We’re entering one of the busiest seasons of the year for families. In addition to the usual work parties, religious services, and family gatherings, our children have their own schedule of holiday events and performances. Throw in shopping, gift wrapping, traveling, and hosting, and it’s no wonder we find ourselves tense, exhausted, and far from the Christmas spirit.

That is no way to experience the happiest season of all! It’s easy to perceive yourself as helpless in the face of the holiday onslaught, but it doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve learned a few tricks in the last few years to restored my ability to enjoy the season and my family time more fully. After all, I got into business for myself in part so I can schedule work around life!

1. Schedule Family Time

Put all the kids’ events on your calendar, then add the family gatherings and any religious services you will attend. Don’t forget to build in travel time and prep time! It took me years to grasp just how much time it takes to get everyone out the door with proper clothes and shoes on.

If you are traveling for the holidays, block off at least one day before and after for packing, unpacking, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and resting. You will be so thankful for the extra day at home before you have to return to the daily grind.

Holidays are a great time to schedule portrait sessions with the extended family. Make sure to contact a photographer early to reserve your shoot, let everyone know what you’ve planned, and make any recommendations on outfits well ahead of time if you want to coordinate colors or styles.

2. Say no.

You don’t have to do everything, accept every invitation, participate in every tradition, or visit everyone. I make it a habit to ask myself and my family “What do we want to do this year?” Whether it’s making 15 varieties of cookies and candy, going caroling, carving ornate pumpkins, making different holiday crafts every day, decorating the inside and outside of the house, or cooking traditional foods, choose what you and your family actually enjoy and say no to the rest. Only put things on your to-do list that you are excited about. The holidays are too short to spend your valuable time on activities that don’t enhance the season for you.

3. Take control of your calendar.

Blocking family and fun time on your calendar allows you to see at a glance just how much time is left for work. It may seem backwards to plan fun first, then work, but this is why we are in business for ourselves. We get to choose when, how, and how long we work, and what better time to take advantage of that autonomy than during the holidays?

Taking control of your calendar isn’t something you can do at the last minute. Set aside an hour or two to do this early in November, when you still have time to set your clients’ expectations.

4. Build in margin for the unexpected.

People get sick. The sky leaks snow and ice closes roads. Flights are canceled. Vehicles break down, and so do appliances. If your calendar is packed, you have no time to flex and adapt to the changes that always come. Allow some of your days (or at least hours) to stay unscheduled so that if you need to take a rain check, you can. Your blood pressure will thank you for it.

Work is what we do. Our family is who we do it for. Make the time this holiday season to enjoy the people in your life. The work can wait.