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10 Tips for More Meaningful Holidays

No matter how many lists you make, cards you send, gifts you buy, or packages you wrap, there will be things you intended to do this holiday season that won't get done. If you do manage to get everything done, but you're too tired to enjoy the season, everyone suffers.

Consider these tips to minimize your stress and maximize the meaning this holiday season:

1. Tamper with tradition. Dragging yourself through "we've always done it" rituals when they've lost their meaning, and you've lost your energy, does not contribute to holiday joy.

2. Begin the season by making a list - but don't stop there. Pick out the most important item, the second, and on down the list. Remember, a creative mind always has more ideas than the body can accomplish!

3. Use your calendar - not just for appointments with other people, but with yourself as well. If you plan to send cards, estimate how much time it will take to write and address them, and block out that time on your calendar.

4. Ask your family what's important. Prepared foods instead of home-cooked means more time for sharing new sports equipment and relaxing with friends.

5. Avoid perfectionism in gift-giving. It's the thought that counts. Choose one or two gifts that can be used for several people. A relaxed parent or hostess is a greater gift than anything money can buy.

6. Focus your energy. If your family isn't as excited as you are about decorating the whole house, invest your efforts on what means the most to you.

7. If the holidays bring pain because of death, divorce, or family far away, be gentle with yourself. Recognize that grief is a healthy and that next year will be better, even if you can't believe it today. Concentrate on making other people's holiday more joyful.

8. Take time out from total togetherness. Let your child call a friend and take a nap. Give your siblings the car keys and a map. The idea is for everyone to enjoy the occasion.

9. Be clear about expectations. If you never tell your family what you want them to do, it's unfair to expect them to know.

10. Look over your list, leave off what you can live without, and enjoy the real reason for the season.

Barbara Hemphill is the author of Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger at Work and Taming the Paper Tiger at Home and co-author of Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. The mission of Hemphill Productivity Institute is to help individuals and organizations create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. We do this by organizing space, information, and time. We can be reached at 800-427-0237 or at

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