Three Ways to Do Less this Holiday Season

do less this holiday

Today’s big idea is that one way to make the holidays less taxing is to simply do less. Easier said than done, I know, particularly at a time where there are just so many components–gathering, gift-giving, cooking for a crowd, traveling, decorating, giving back, etc., etc, etc. Buuuuuuut, it IS possible to ‘do less’ and cut back on how much you do, without that meaning that you completely sit the holidays out.

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I’ve got a tool for you that will help you figure out what parts of the holiday you want to prioritize and which you might dial back on. It’s a priority-making matrix that I learned as a tool to help you figure out how to maximize your impact and reduce your stress at work, but it’s really cool to use it on your life stuff too. 

To make your own priority-making matrix, you need a piece of paper and a pen or pencil

Once you’ve got your supplies, you draw a big square in the  middle of your paper, then draw one line vertically down the center of the square and another horizontally across the middle, so you’ve basically got a big square with four equal quadrants. Then you number each of these quadrants, starting in the upper left hand corner and continuing in a clockwise direction. So the top left quadrant is  1, then 2 is the top right box, 3 is the bottom right, and 4 is the bottom left. Got it? 

At the top of your big square, write “enjoy” over the left hand column, and “don’t enjoy” over the right hand column. And then to the left of your square, write “important” next to the top row and “not important” next to the bottom row. I’m guessing you can already start to see how this matrix can help you categorize the many pieces of the holiday season. 

So let’s start in the upper left quadrant

This is where you write down the parts of the holiday that you both enjoy and that are important to you. For me, I love having a tree and it just feels important to bring more nature and more light into our house at this time of year, so this goes in this “enjoy” and “important” quadrant. 

Now let’s move to the upper right quadrant

This is where you put things that are important but you don’t enjoy. For me, this is holiday cards. I do think it’s important to stay in touch with folks, and that includes writing at least a tiny little handwritten note on our holiday cards. But, it’s not something I particularly enjoy. Even though it’s important, it’s still tedious to handwrite 100 little notes, you know? 

Continuing clockwise, let’s go to the bottom right hand corner

This is where you write things that you don’t enjoy AND that aren’t important to you. There are no right or wrong answers here. For me, this would be going to the Nutcracker or even to hear a choir. I just get really itchy and twitchy in a lot of performance situations. I think they are both great art forms, they’re just not MY thing. And that’s OK, because a cool thing about this matrix is that it gives these things you just don’t dig a home.

And then the last square is for the things you enjoy that aren’t that important

For me that includes watching holiday movies and listening to holiday music. I mean, these are fun things, but I’m not going to be sad if I don’t see enough movies or listen to enough holiday music. 

OK, let’s talk about what to do with the information you’ve organized in this handy-dandy priority-making matrix. 

For quadrant 1, these things are where you want to place your focus

You like them, they matter to you–these things deserve your energy. I’ll talk more about this particular quadrant in tomorrow’s episode, so keep listening or come back tomorrow. 

Your challenge with the things in Quadrant 2

Which houses the things you don’t enjoy that are important, is to find a way to make them more enjoyable. I can listen to holiday music or watch a movie while I write the cards, and that’s going to help me get them done. 

Quadrant 3 is the things you don’t like and they aren’t important

For these things, you have three options to do less: Minimize, delegate, or ignore. Minimize means, can you trim this down? If you were thinking of going to spend a weekend with friends or family but you really don’t have that much fun with them and you’re not even sure it’s worth it, could you blame Covid and propose a Zoom instead? Delegate is pretty self-explanatory.

When my daughter got invited to go to the Nutcracker with friends, I was honest with the other moms and said that ballet just makes me so itchy and twitchy and would they mind taking my daughter without me? We figured out that we could all go to brunch (where I will buy them a drink) beforehand, and now I’ll get those two hours to do something that I either enjoy, or is important, or both. And ignore means, basically, don’t do. So, guess what you do with these things? Don’t do them! If at all possible, just excuse yourself. Buh-bye. 

And finally, quadrant 4–

The things you enjoy but they aren’t that important. For these things, you basically get to decide how much of them to do, or even whether to do them at all. Maybe you sacrifice watching holiday movies so that you can get more sleep, and you’ll know that even though you like seeing Elf every year, you’re not really missing out if you need to find more space in your schedule. 

Daily Tiny Assignment

Your tiny assignment is to draw out your priority making matrix and fill out your quadrants, and then use that information to help you figure out what you need to be sure to make time for, and where you can do less. 

Take care, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow (when we’re diving into more of the things in quadrant –the stuff you love AND that’s important to you). 


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