I spend my time like I spend my money: on purpose.
This is especially true over the holidays. Because I’m on the road so much during the year, I am very intentional with how I spent my time over the Christmas break. My priority is the people living under my roof, not any of the distractions that come with the commercialism of the season.
The same is true for you. It’s the people in your life that matter most, especially this time of year. Here are a few ways you can make the most of the one thing you can never give back once you’ve spent it: your time.
1. Make a List
Before you do anything else, decide how you want to spend your time. When you look back at this holiday season, what do you want to remember doing? Watching your favorite Christmas movies? Making your favorite cookies? Maybe you even want to start a new tradition! Write down your activity wish list, then block out time on your calendar to do those things. If you don’t plan ahead, they will get replaced with stuff that doesn’t matter.
2. Say No
You cannot possibly attend every party, participate in every gift exchange, or volunteer at every nonprofit. Use your priority list to keep you focused on what you value, and say no to the rest.
Guarding your time also means saying no to guilt. Family members and friends may lay on the guilt trip if you decline invitations to meals, get-togethers, or other holiday functions. Don’t give in. Your time is valuable and it is limited, so say no to the “you should” hamster wheel.
3. Turn Off the Screens
During the holidays, I don’t even turn on my phone on unless it’s necessary. Those digital devices will suck the time out your day quicker than you can say “Candy Crush.” I understand the need to check email. Business goes on even when you’re off. But don’t let that quick trip online turn into a two-hour rabbit trail.
4. Be Strategic with Shopping Time
Take advantage of stores’ holiday hours rather than going at the peak hours—that costs time battling crowds, parking lots, and people in line. Instead, go before work or late in the evening. Or skip the stores altogether and shop online. No cranky drivers, stressed-out clerks, or toddlers in need of a nap.
5. Volunteer Together
You want to spend time with your kids, but you also want to give to people in need. I get that. Combine the two and take your kids with you as you help an organization you support. Not only will you create fond memories of doing something that matters, but you’ll also teach your children the importance of giving their time and talents.
6. Be Present
Nothing frustrates me quite like talking with someone whose body language and nonverbal communication tell me their mind and attention are somewhere else. Wherever you are—whether it’s playing games or cooking a meal—be all there. Multi-tasking is just another word for distracted.
In 10 years, your loved ones won’t remember what you bought them. They won’t look back on how clean your house was or how good the food was. But they will think of the games you played, the stories you told, and the experiences you shared.
Those memories are worth every second you spend on them.