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Maintaining Sanity, Focus and Productivity During the Holidays

Emma Walton Hamilton / Blog  / Maintaining Sanity, Focus and Productivity During the Holidays
Maintaining Sanity, Focus and Productivity During the Holidays

Maintaining Sanity, Focus and Productivity During the Holidays

Maintaining Sanity, Focus and Productivity During the HolidaysWriting is hard enough. On any given day I wrestle with hundreds of distractions – some real, like my children’s needs or my other professional commitments, some self-imposed, like checking email or needing snacks. But when the holidays roll around, maintaining any level of productivity is a challenge of epic proportions.  Between the shopping, wrapping and sending (both personal and corporate), card-making and sending (again, personal and professional), household decorating, cooking, attending holiday events at school, work, and with friends, and the very real and important desire to spend as much time as possible with my family, there’s barely a moment left for writing.

But I can’t afford to stop altogether – that would mean both a loss in income and a loss of ‘muscle.’ Writing is a discipline, like working out, and in order to do it well I have to stay in shape. So I need to be extra creative at this time of year to juggle the extra load and still stay somewhat sane.

Here are some of the ways I maintain focus and momentum with my writing during the holiday season:

  • Organize and consolidate the gift-giving. – I try every year to come up with a unique and personal gift that will work for most of the people on my list. Last year it was a custom cookbook with all our favorite family recipes. In previous years, we’ve made bulb-planting kits, jeweled book ‘thongs’ (i.e. strappy bookmarks), and made countless yummies with recipes attached. We’ve purchased dozens of copies of one favorite book, or found unusual gifts that are also charitable contributions. This not only limits the amount of time I spend shopping (I still get individualized gifts for my immediate family and a few special friends), but it also makes the holiday budget much more manageable.
  • Enlist the family’s support and assistance. – I send out over 500 holiday cards, when you factor in both personal and the corporate ones. To simplify this, I print our holiday message inside, thus greatly minimizing how many I need to hand-write in. (Again, I do put personal messages in a few, but not all.) I also print mailing labels, as opposed to hand addressing (I know – but I’m lucky to be getting out holiday cards at all, let alone hand addressing them!) Then I recruit the kids and my husband and anyone else who’s around and game to help for stuffing, labeling, sealing, stamping, mailing etc. I also lean heavily on my family for help decorating the house, tree, etc.
  • Stay flexible about my writing time, and space. – While I greatly prefer to write in my home office, in the morning or early afternoon, with the door closed and a cup of tea at my side, the reality is that I have learned to write at the kitchen table with chaos going on all around me. I have also learned to write at odd hours, and in other places. For instance, I am writing this post in a waiting room while my daughter is at an appointment…
  • Keep lists. – I save my holiday gift and card lists on my computer, so I can call them up each year and adjust them accordingly, rather than having to create them again from scratch. I also record the holiday bonuses we give to mail carriers, garbage collectors and other service providers, so I am consistent and don’t forget anyone.
  • Remember my priorities. In the end, I know I will not look back and wish I had spent more time working, but I may well look back and wish I had spent more time with my family. December is actually my favorite time of year in our little town, as everything is so beautiful, and everyone is in high spirits… and I love our family’s annual holiday traditions.  Whenever I feel myself getting stressed about my own agenda being short-changed, I make a point to check in with my true north – my family and loved ones come first. And they deserve to have my full attention, not a stressed-out, irritable or distracted version of me – at the holidays, and all year long.

How do you maintain your sanity, focus and productivity during the holidays?

Emma Walton Hamilton
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