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You can almost smell those chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and Jack Frost will be nipping at your nose any day now. Yes, the holiday season is almost here. It’s supposed to be a happy, joyful time of year! But with all the seasonal events and parties, shopping, wrapping, gift-giving, cooking, planning, decorating, mailing, shipping, grooming and dressing added to your normal daily responsibilities, it’s prime time to get stressed out and run yourself ragged.

So how can you maintain your happiness and sanity—and get the most out of the seasonal festivities? It’s all a matter of time and how you manage it. Just like with budgeting for the holidays which we tackled last week, planning is the key to getting it all done and keeping a smile on your face.

Here are 5 helpful time managements tips to consider as the season of cheer quickly approaches:

1. Be realistic.

Unless you actually have Santa’s magical ability to make it around the world in one night, chances are you aren’t going to make it to every party, event, play, performance, and gathering to which you’re invited. Instead of overcommitting yourself and your family, sit down together before the madness starts, put together a list of priorities, and then schedule accordingly. Review your schedule on a daily and weekly basis during this very busy time of the year and make adjustments so you’re not spreading yourself too thin.

2. Start the season early.

Most people instinctively try to plan holiday events as close to “the day” as possible. That’s understandable…but it results in a week-long period of crammed schedules and stressed people. If you start now, you can hold events and make your visits earlier in the month. Your friends and family will likely be grateful to be able to visit with you more meaningfully and with less stress and chaos.

3. Aim a bit lower than absolute perfection.

If you’ve ever watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, you know how well Clark Griswold’s attempt to have the perfect family holiday turned out. It’s funny onscreen, but not so much in real life. Remember that meals are really about company more than food, for example, and that the annual family get-together is more about fellowship and fun than about how impressive your decorations are. With this attitude, you’ll make more memories you’ll actually want to revisit, and people will enjoy being around you.

4. Add an hour.

If you think you’ll be at the company party until 9:30, add an hour. If you think you’ll be at Grandma’s until lunchtime, add an hour. Everything always takes longer than you think it will—that’s why you’re rushing around town like a crazy person, trying to hold your last nerve together for just a little longer every day during December. Traffic is always heavier at this time of year, parking spaces are at a premium, and checkout lines are long. Figure this in to your schedule and save yourself the stress of running late. And if, by some holiday miracle you do manage to skate through your errands and events more quickly, you’ll treasure those extra minutes and hours.

5. Reserve some private time.

When you’re creating your manageable holiday schedule, don’t forget to figure in some family time and “me” time. Remember, taking care of yourself has positive ripple effects. You can’t help anyone if you’re running on empty, and no one wants to spend the holiday season with someone who’s grumpy and Grinchy all the time. Plan well so you don’t find yourself forgoing the yearly cookie-baking party with your kids and wrapping gifts at 3:00 a.m. The happier and more relaxed you are, the better equipped you’ll be to celebrate and share the holiday season with those you love.

Here’s to a wonderful holiday season!

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