you have 17 business days until christmas. let's turn down the stress on those days.

Happy December, creative-leader-mama.  December?  Oh my.

Perhaps, like me, you actually have things you need to accomplish for your nonprofit or small business between now and the Christmas holiday.

Perhaps, like me, your magical thinking brain whispered sweet nothings in your ear before Thanksgiving (you know, waaaay back when we were still in November) about how there is actually a decent chunk of time here.

Perhaps, like me, you are realizing that this was magical thinking, indeed.


We have the amount of time we have.  There's really nothing to be done about that.


I'm doing an experiment.  Even though this is a serious fundraising month and we have two matching challenge gifts on the table, and even though our arts nonprofit is important to me, and even though I'm the leader of this thing, and even though I am only part-time:  I am going to see if I can have a low-stress December at work.

Oh, minimalism.  Simplicity has brought me many rewards, but a low-stress December at work?  Is this really possible?  Gulp.

Wanna join me in this madcap plan?

Let's do it.  (You can just read this, or you can join in.  Reading it will take maybe 3 minutes, but I don't know how much you'll gain from it.  Joining in will take about 15 minutes, but I'm thinking that 15 minutes will save you more than 15 minutes of stress this month.)

Step 1:  Block off your last two working days before you leave for holiday vacation.  I'm not scheduling anything, and I'm not planning any work for those two days--because I know last-minute stuff will come up.  There will be plenty of work to do.  I just went on Google Calendar, and blocked off those days with an event called "Schedule Nothing.  I Mean It."

Step 2:  Identify the single most important thing you want to do between now and when you leave for the holidays.  It can be a big thing.  It can be a category.  Mine is fundraising, and it's going to take me most of the hours I have left for work this year.

Step 3:  Identify three also-very-important other things you want to do between now and when you leave for the holidays.  Just three.  This was hard for me.  I wanted four.  You can't have four.  Just three.  Mine are website updates, paying bills, and thanking people.  I wanted to have "prepping for an executive committee meeting," too, but I had to let it go.  I will be un-prepped.

Step 4:  Block off a huge portion of your time between now and the holidays for your most important thing.  I just blocked off 80% of every single work day on my calendar with an event called "Fundraising."  And it knocked my magical thinking socks off.  But not in the way I expected.

I did not think, "Wow.  I don't have a lot of time to get that other less-important stuff done."  I thought, "Oh shit.  Even if I use 80% of my time toward this most-important thing, I don't know if I can get it all done."

That tells me two things: (a) I need to adjust my expectations, and (b) If this really is the most important thing, those three also-very-important-but-less-important-than-the-most-important-thing things mostly need to get delegated or done in a much less amazing way than I had planned. 

Step 5:  Let go of most of your three important-but-not-most-important things.  Delegate or downgrade.  Ah, crap.  Delegating is a constant learning process for me.  But I'm doing it.  I'm delegating most of the website updating and about half of the thanking people.  It's uncomfortable for me.  Warranted or not, I worry that it won't get done or that it won't get done the way I would do it.  (Oof.)  But this is team.  Not a one-woman show.  

Sometimes you are actually running a one-woman show, though, and delegating isn't an option.  That means downgrading.  I'm downgrading some parts of my most-important-thing, too.  It's the only way to get the necessary work done in the amount of time I have--and sometimes done pretty well is better than dazzlingly perfect but not actually done.

Alrighty.  I'm excited.  This isn't about getting more done.  This is about getting the highest and best things done and not completely losing my mind on December 23.

I have a fundraising challenge to match, a beautiful new website to post to, and an organization to keep running.  But I also have a grinning child to hug, apple cider to drink, and twinkly lights to hang.  And now I've got a plan to focus on the most important thing in my leadership life so that I can be present for the most important (and fun!) things in my mama life.

Tell me in the comments if you're in.  It'll help me to know if I have any company in taking up the admittedly big challenge of being a low-stress leader during December.

And a quick note:  I know that many of you don't celebrate Christmas, but so much non-retail business still pretty much stops between Christmas Eve and the New Year in the United States that I'm guessing the pile-o'-stuff-to-be-done before then is real for you, too.  Is that right?