Planning Ahead: Combining Work and Fun During the Holidays

Person working on laptop at table surrounded by greenery. She's wearing a sweater, drinking from a mug, and there's snowfall outside.
The holiday season is a fun time of year, filled with celebrations and gatherings. However, many professionals find it can also be a time of stress and anxiety when managing  work and deadlines that don’t go away just because we’re festive. Balancing work and holiday commitments is challenging, but with proper planning and organization you can enjoy the holidays while ensuring your work is not neglected. These strategies can help you manage your work life while still enjoying your celebrations.

Start early

Does the holiday season seem to sneak up on you every year? We get it: you’re in summer mode and then BAM! all of a sudden it’s cold, leaves are on the ground, and November is looming. The key to managing your holiday schedules is to start early. Decide on what date you will start taking a closer look at your holiday commitments and mark it on your calendar(s). On that date, start prioritizing your projects and deadlines to identify those that are most critical. Doing so will help allocate your time and resources accordingly. Also mark a date at least a week earlier than your prioritizing date for a time audit.

Audit your time

Before you can prioritize activities and time, you need to understand how you currently use your time. Humans are not great at estimating time – some tasks take much longer than we expect, others don’t take nearly as long as we think. To gain insight into how you spend your time, track it for a week. Don’t get hung up on every little detail, but group time according to types of activity – work projects, errands, family time, friend time, etc. At the end of the week, review your data. Can you automate tasks or otherwise speed them up? Are there time hogs? (Social media and email, I’m looking at you!)

Person wearing blue button-up shirt using a pencil to write on a pad of paper on a black table.Prioritize

Make a list of everything you want to get done during the holidays, at work and in your personal life: deadlines, get-togethers, family activities. Don’t think too much about priorities at this point, just get it all out of your head. After noting the must-do work assignments, turn to your personal activities, and mark them in order of importance to you.

Set realistic expectations

This is where you decide what you will do this season and what you won’t. Chances are that some ideas on your list just won’t fit into your schedule. This is not the time to decide you are superhuman and can turn out high quality work in half the time while spending more quality time with your family and friends. Set realistic expectations with those at work and those at home. Honesty about your availability and deadline expectations will help reduce last-minute stress and misunderstandings.

Silver laptop is open on a white desk, and there is an open paper calendar, a phone and watch on the table.Create a schedule and stick to it

Creating a holiday work schedule will help you maintain some balance. Include specific time blocks for work and for holiday-related activities, then share this schedule with whomever needs to know it. It’s doubtful you can tell clients and colleagues that you simply won’t be answering emails or texts during the holidays, but setting some limits for yourself is always a good thing. Limit social media before bedtime, decide when you will stop checking email – personal or work – and make sure everyone knows these boundaries. Once you’ve set your schedule, stick to it. While at work, focus on work. Then take care of your personal lists at home. Avoid bringing work home with you. If you work from home, stop at the appointed time, leave your desk, and stop checking work email or sending work texts.

Take advantage of technology

Modern technology can be a lifesaver when managing schedules this time of year. Use all the tools you can: project management, calendar apps, and communication platforms help you stay organized and connected with your team. Such tools help track project progress and efficient collaboration no matter where you are. One of the best uses of technology during the busy season is online shopping. It can save you time and money, as well as frustration. You are more likely to find what you want in stock and even get a better deal by shopping online. Some people consider in-person holiday shopping part of their holiday ritual, so if you love it, don’t drop it. If you’re like me, however, online shopping is a wonderful thing.

Prepare for the unexpected

We all know that no matter how well we plan, something unexpected often comes up. It’s important to create contingency plans to identify potential risks and have an alternate plan to address them. Such plans will help you maintain control over your projects and ensure disruptions are minimal. Doing this each year will also help you plan better next year.

A woman and man sitting next to each other on a couch, drinking a hot drink and looking at a laptop.Unplug and recharge

While we must manage work during the holidays, we also must have downtime to enjoy the typical festivities of the season and to relax with family and friends. Getting enough rest will help you return to work with renewed energy. Start by limiting how much time you spend on work. While your employer expects a certain amount, major overtime is not healthy in any season, but especially when you are trying to do more in other parts of your life.

Don’t forget self-care

Try to schedule some time each day just for you – read, chill out at the coffee shop, meditate, or simply relax at home. While I’ve seen suggestions for an hour, realistically an hour may be a lot every day for some people. Setting aside just 15 minutes every day and actually sticking to it is better than planning an hour every day but not using it. Consistency is key.  Remember that exercise is an important part of self-care, though it’s one of the first activities we tend to sacrifice when we get busy. If you can’t get to the gym, use the stairs more, take more short walks, maybe do a few sit-ups and push-ups every morning – whatever will get your heart rate up a little and get you moving. It will help maintain your energy levels during the busy season.

Woman wearing festive red sweater and red Santa hat. She is reading a paperback and eating a cookie.Review and reflect

As with any plan, it’s important to review how well it worked. As the season ends, reflect on what went well and where you can make improvements for next year. Your plans are sure to work better if you do this every year.

Final Thoughts

Balancing your work with holiday time requires thoughtful planning and a commitment to maintaining your personal life. The steps outlined above can help you successfully manage your work responsibilities while enjoying the season. These tips can also help you create a balance well after the holidays have ended. Limiting social media before bedtime, establishing boundaries regarding work communications, and taking care of yourself are all habits we should incorporate into our daily lives, no matter the time of year. Here’s wishing you a balanced and happy holiday season!


Do you need help meeting your project deadlines over the holidays? Contact us to learn more about how our writers, designers, and consultants can make your holidays more jolly!



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Smith, M.A. “Holiday Overload: Steps for Balancing Work and Life.” TopResume. 1/3/20. Accessed 11/3/23. 

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