Resilience Tip - Time Management During the Holidays

Resilience is the ability to cope well with difficulties and to bounce back from setbacks. While some people are naturally more resilient than others, resiliency can also be intentionally developed.

Time-management During the Holidays   So much to do, and often with less time to do it. How to fit everything in - without feeling overwhelmed, and while enjoying the holidays? One tool is the "Effective To-Do List"; not the To-Do list that gathers dust, nor the one that grows by the day.  

For an effective To-Do list, start by writing down the "To-Do's". An important concept in creating this list is "chunking". For large and/or complicated activities, break them down into manageable chunks. Many people are encouraged and re-motivated when able to cross off a To-Do item. It feels much better to be able to cross off six parts of an activity throughout the day than to work all day and cross off one item. It is also easier in terms of scheduling goals and breaks during the day, another important way to keep our motivation and productivity high. For example: "I'll take a break after I cross three things off my list, and during the break I will (some short, enjoyable activity)."  

Next, prioritize the items on the To-Do list. One helpful system for this is to label the activities as "Must", "Should", and "Could": activities that we "must" do today (or for whatever period of time your "To-Do" list is for, an important thing to specify), what we "should" do in that same period, and things we "could" do in that same period. A related list that I find very helpful to keep on the side is the "Not Doing Now List". This is where I list things that I truly am considering doing one day, and I know that the timing is not right for the near future. So I file them away on this "Not Doing Now" list so as not to forget them and not to waste brain energy remembering them. And they are on this particular list so that they do not clutter my current To-Do list, and so there are no guilt feelings about not doing them now - doing them in the future is a conscious and reasonable decision.  

Once you have prioritized your To-Do list, take another look at the list. Are there items on the "Must" section that you feel competent in? These activities, while high priority, are relatively easy for you to do, or require effort but an effort that you feel confident in your ability to do and succeed in. If our To-Do list is filled with things we hate, or things that we avoid because we know they are actions that do not involve our strengths, this creates a very draining To-Do list that we may avoid altogether. So work to spread throughout your day activities in which you feel competent. (If your To-Do list is filled with things you hate and/or do not feel competent in, and you see no way to change this; this is a bigger issue and one that is important to address.)  

Take one more look at the list. A final critical question is to look at the list and consider if the list, particularly the list of "Must" items, is doable in the amount of time allotted (e.g., a To-Do list for that day, or for the week, or for before the trip). If you take a look and realize there is no way to complete all the items in the timeframe being considered, that is only a set-up for disappointment and frustration, which will merely decrease your ability to complete even part of the list. If the list is clearly not doable, reconsider your prioritization, and consider who else may be able to take over some of the activities, and consider ways of doing activities faster (for example: taking the work report to a store to be copied and complied, rather than doing it yourself; or buying some of the food ready-made).  

Having an effective To-Do list will both help you manage what is manageable, and realize what is unmanageable - a resilient response to this busy period. And with a resilient response, you will be more able to enjoy holidays and vacations during this time.

Shana Tova to all,  

Carolyn S. Tal, PhD

Psychologist and Consultant

Working with individuals and partners in developing resilience and related issues.