Have holidays past left you feeling drained and disappointed – in spite of your best intentions for a Norman Rockwell-esque celebration with your family? You’re not alone. In fact, you’re part of the (unfortunate) norm. Not to worry. Here are some simple steps that your family can take to get back the holiday you’ve always wanted and make your “merry” more meaningful this year.

There are three major areas where most families get themselves into trouble around the holidays: finances, time management, and dealing with family and kids. Yesterday, we tackled finances with four tips to keep your holiday spending in check. Today, it’s all about managing your time.

Part Two: Time Management

5. 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, make out a list of priorities, and then schedule accordingly. Do this on a daily basis as well as on a weekly and monthly one.

6. 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 in the first half of December…and you’ll probably be able to deck the halls with your friends’ and family’s thanks!

7. 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.

8. 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 for a month. Save yourself the stress…and if, by some holiday miracle you do stick to your original schedule, you’ll treasure that extra time.

9. Reserve some private time. When you’re designing your doable holiday schedule, don’t forget to leave enough free space for family time and for “you” time. If you’re not careful, you might find yourself forgoing the yearly cookie-baking party with your kids and wrapping gifts at 3:00 a.m.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for the final tips in Part Three: Family/Kids!

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