Effective Time Usage During the Holidays For Stress Relief

Effective time usage during the holidays might decide how you celebrate. Burnt out? Frustrated? Joyful? Lonely? Angry? Or, a combination of these?

Christmas and Hanukkah are two major holidays that seem to cause people to spend significant time and money before they begin to celebrate. I and others write and talk about how to control spending to avoid entering January deeper in debt than before the holidays. But we don’t write or talk much about the effective time usage during the holidays.  Without effective time usage, folks will not be able to experience these holidays in a relaxed, joyful manner.

I think these ten, simple tips will help you manage your effectiveness in available time and achieve your goals during the holidays:

Ten Effective Time Usage Tips

  1. Accept nobody can manage time
  2. Accept you can’t do everything
  3. Set your goals and a time budget for the holidays
  4. Develop daily plans to achieve your goals
  5. Do a brain dump daily
  6. Learn to work for time or for task
  7. Identify time drainers
  8. Don’t multi-task
  9. Learn to control your technology
  10. Respect other people’s time

1. Accept nobody can manage time

This is a fact. God has given each of us 24 hours daily; that’s it. That’s why we can’t manage time, we must manage our priorities in available, fixed time. Therefore, change your vocabulary and expunge references to time management. When you change, immediately you take ownership of what you do daily. And you can’t blame time for things you don’t do, by saying, “I don’t have time.”

2. Accept you can’t do everything

You can’t do everything you want to do, and others want you to do. Sadly, you can’t. So, daily you must choose not only what you will do, but what you won’t do. You must understand and focus on your priorities. Still, the key is to manage disappointments and other effects flowing from the items you decide to selectively neglect. And so,  you must reschedule them to a fixed time, cancel, delegate, or otherwise deal with them. As well, you need to ensure you contact people who might be disappointed as you take these actions. Most of all, you must learn to say “no.”

3. Set goals for the holidays

Each family will have its own goals to visit relatives, friends, and to entertain, among others.  These activities require time. That’s why, in addition to preparing a monetary budget, I suggest you prepare a time budget.  Essentially, what you plan to do during the holidays. But, first, record your time usage for a few days to get a sense of how you have been spending time. After you develop an understanding of your pattern, and based on your goals for the holidays, prepare your time budget. It could include some of  these items:

Effective Time Usage
Effective Time Usage

The budget is the guide. You do it to get a sense of how committed you might be so you and your spouse might choose to change specific plans before the holidays. Indeed, you might add certain items after reviewing the budget. To be effective, weekly, you must update your time budget with actuals, and revise it as needed. It’s not static, but dynamic.

4. Develop daily plans

Spend 10 minutes each morning with an organizer. Look at your schedule for that day and the week ahead, and develop a specific plan for that day. If you see items in the next week that you might not be able to do, plan to selectively neglect them and contact the people involved to avoid disappointing them at the last minute.

Ensure you leave a margin between meetings and chores. It’s unrealistic to plan every minute. Most of all, be sure you plan for interruptions.

5. Do a brain dump daily

Record in a notebook, or in a notes app on your smart phone, everything you want to do, and need to do. This is not a to do list, but a list of the things floating around in your head that cause you stress when you don’t do them.

I call my list on my smart phone a “ToDo Sometime” file. I list everything I think I should do, or other people would like me to do. Daily, when I plan my schedule, I review that list, and any item I plan to do that day, I remove from ToDo Sometime list and add to my daily agenda, in a specific time slot. Whenever you think of something new, add it to your list. The idea is to remove things to do from your head to eliminate the guilt feeling. When you maintain this list, you will know how to priorities items during your daily 10-minute planning sessions.

6. Learn to work for time or for task

Working for time means you set a specific start and end time to do a task. You should never call a meeting and not set a start time, end time, and an agenda. As well, don’t go on the internet unless you set an end time; use a timer. The internet is seductive and will take you down “rabbit trails” to read non essential, often funny, stuff. Beware of rabbit trails always.

Working for task means you start a job or activity and decide to spend as much time as it needs to complete it. I do this when I am writing a blog. That’s why normally I write one blog monthly. Sadly, we do not distinguish these different approaches. So, we run late from appointment to appointment, we start projects we can complete, and then we use the silly excuse: we have no time. Instead, we should say we planned our priorities poorly.

7. Identify time drainers

When you track your time daily with a time budget, you will see time drainers: Video games, interruptions, surfing the internet, reading silly “forwards,” and YouTube videos from friends and family. Identify activities that take time away from your priorities, and plug those leaks. They will drain your energy as you scamper to do priorities!

8. Don’t multi task

Research shows consistently that when you divide your attention among different tasks, you do each sub optimally.

9. Learn to control your technology

You must tame your smart phone and all your gadgets. Set specific times when you turn them off. Normally, on weekends I don’t read or respond to emails, messages, FaceTime, Skype, except with family. On many smart phones, you can turn on “do not disturb” except for  favourites or for others you identify. Surely, turn on  do not disturb when you go to bed.

Meanwhile, you might find it helpful to answer these questions: Do you control your smart phone? Or does it control you? Can you ignore it when it beeps or rings?

10. Respect other people’s time

Are you late often? Do you claim you are busy and run from one meeting to another with the excuse you don’t have time? Stop! Think about the people who sacrificed to be on time when you are late! Learn to respect other people’s time; they made sacrifices to be early.

If you are running a meeting, start on time, and end on time. Don’t disrespect people by waiting for late comers before starting your meetings. That approach sends a two strong messages. First, you will discard the sacrifice of those who were on time; their time isn’t valuable to you. Second, it is acceptable to be late, and you will accommodate late comers over those present.


Effective time usage during the holidays will be the difference between you having a great time with your family, and your being frazzled and cranky most times. Indeed, effective time usage is one way to minimize stress in your life. I pray you find the above ten tips helpful as you ponder the significance of the holidays.

Finally, let’s be sensitive to those around us whom we can bless with a visit, a meal, a hug, and any other way we sense might be helpful. Many of these folks don’t have to consider effective time usage because they will be alone.

© 2016 Michel A Bell

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Michel A. Bell

Michel A. Bell is a former senior business executive, author of seven books — including his first children's book published in 2022 — speaker, and adjunct professor of business administration at Briercrest College and Seminary. Michel is a Fellow of the Chartered Certified Accountants (UK), holds a Masters of Science in management degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Doctor of Business Administration honoris causa from Briercrest College and Seminary. He is founder and president of Managing God's Money™ and Stewarding God's Resources.

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