How to keep sane during the holidays

Are you making a list and checking it twice? If you are feeling stretched and stressed, here is a holiday list to help you stay calm and collected:

1.      TIME FOR WORK: Make a list of all the work projects that you must finish by Christmas. Be realistic. Only include those things you absolutely must do and then block off time on your calendar so you can chip away at them. If you don't budget your time carefully, you may find you are frantically trying to finish everything at the last minute, when you'd rather be socializing or shopping for gifts.

2.      TIME FOR ERRANDS: If you are the boss, try to find ways to help your employees cope with the busy Christmas season. If possible, give every employee some time off so they can do holiday shopping or other personal errands during the holidays. Employees will appreciate your thoughtfulness and will be willing to make up the time after the New Year. This may also cut down the number of personal phone calls and extended lunch hours needed by employees.

3.      GIFTS FOR PEOPLE AT WORK: Make a list of the Christmas gifts you need to buy for co-workers. Consider inexpensive gifts (under $20) that are easy to shop for.

Try to keep your list short. Limit your gift giving to people with whom you work very closely or to people who have done something special for you this past year. Don't forget important internal and external customers. A short note expressing your thanks is a thoughtful alternative to a gift.

If possible, shop on your lunch hours over a period of several weeks, instead of waiting for the last minute. You'll be less frantic and you're less likely to forget someone. If you are in a new company, now is the time to ask about the office protocol as it relates to gift giving.

Books and gift certificates for record stores and restaurants make good gifts.

If you bake a special family treat for the holidays, consider making a few more for co-workers. A small box of cookies or candy is always a welcome gift for co-workers who may be too busy to make their own.

Another alternative to giving a gift is taking a co-worker out to breakfast or lunch. The holiday season is so full of social activities, you may decide to give someone an "IOU" for a lunch in January after things calm down.

In lieu of gift giving, consider asking co-workers to give gifts or contributions to the needy or to our service men and women in the Persian Gulf. (Operation Cookie, 179 Evergreen Street, NE, Palm Bay, FL 32907, is collecting packaged cookies, hard candy, stationary, games, soaps and other items to ship overseas.)

4.      PARTIES: Consider having an alcohol-free office party. The stress of the holidays can cause employees to over do it and regret it later. If alcohol is served at your Christmas party, have one or skip it altogether.

Split your time between people you work with every day and those people you rarely get a chance to talk with. Introduce yourself to people you wouldn't have an opportunity to meet on the job. Remember you are at a work function, so this is considered work. Watch what you say and who you say it to.

If your company has had some lay offs or other cut backs, plan a party that is upbeat and brings employees closer together. Also, the holidays can be an opportunity for everyone to pull together by doing things such as delivering food to the needy or planning a night of caroling at a nursing home.

5.      SAYING THANKS: Don't let the holidays pass without telling those special people "thank you" for all that they do each year. Remember the janitors, security guards, parking lot attendant and all the people you appreciate.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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