Handle the Holidays Like a Time Management Guru

It takes some planning to make days off feel actually relaxing

Laura Vanderkam
Forge
Published in
4 min readNov 19, 2020

--

Photo: 10'000 Hours/Getty Images

Holiday weeks sound great, in theory — a few days off work! More time to relax! The problem, as many of us relearn each year, is that if you’re already feeling pressed for time, taking Thursday and Friday off is not a stress-free activity. Rather than preparing to unwind, you’re staring at your calendar wondering if it is possible to cram a week’s deliverables into three days instead of five.

But the thing with holidays is that they occur at scheduled, regular times. In other words, we can plan for them. Here’s how I handle holiday weeks so that the days off actually feel like days off:

Think at least a week in advance

Every Friday, I spend 20 minutes or so making a priority list for the upcoming week. I also look ahead to see if anything major is coming up. If any workweek over the next two to three weeks will be significantly shorter because of holidays, a vacation, or extensive appointments, I want to build this into my mental model of time earlier rather than later.

Take advantage of predictability

One of my major gigs is hosting two every-weekday-morning podcasts. Since the topics — time management and productivity — are not tied to any particular day’s news, I can bank episodes for the future.

Most jobs have at least some predictability to them. Get in the habit of carving out an hour or two each week to work on future tasks you know will land on your plate. If Future You faced a major time crunch, what would you be happy you’d already done? In the week before a holiday week, aim to double this work-ahead time. This doesn’t necessarily require working longer hours — just being more strategic about devoting what’s often lost time (the space between meetings, the minutes lost to inefficient task-shifting and too-frequent inbox visits) to prepping for future tasks.

--

--

Laura Vanderkam
Forge
Writer for

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management books including Off the Clock and 168 Hours. She blogs at LauraVanderkam.com.