It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday season is filled with excitement—happiness, time spent with loved ones, great food, and many special treats and traditions. 

But if you’re anything like most of us, it’s also a season that leads to a sense of panic. Even as we’re enjoying the festivities, curled up beside the fire with a good book, or wrapping presents with beautiful ribbons and bows—there’s the ever-present thought that’s never too far from our mind: “How am I going to fit everything in?”

If you feel that the Christmas season is getting busier in recent years, you’re not alone. With school commitments, social engagements, work parties, Christmas cards, shopping, presents, travel plans, and more—not to mention, your usual work obligations as well—responsibilities seem to peak at a certain point in life. There’s quite simply a lot to do—and only so many days until it all needs to happen.

The holiday season is meant to be a wonderful time of year—for reflection, joy, and time spent together—but so often we get caught up in the busyness of the season and simply don’t have time to stop and simply enjoy it. We spend so much time stressing and trying to ensure that every little detail is covered—that we lose focus of the things that matter most. Instead of enjoying a season of joy, some of us equate it to a season of stress.

Most of us could use a calmer Christmas season. With this in mind, here’s a look at three strategies that will help you to conquer the chaos with a plan that will put you in control this season.

1. Get an Early Start

Sure, some people may say it’s too early for Christmas, but it’s never too early to start planning.

While you don’t have to put up your tree today, you can start making your lists and setting plans early on. It’s also a good idea to try to do everything that can be done ahead of time, sooner rather than later. This will save you from having to try to fit tasks in last minute, when things are busy enough. So consider getting those Christmas cards ordered and mailed early, and start thinking about those Holiday get-togethers that you’ll be hosting. Planning early on and using a helpful tool like our Entertaining Checklist allows you to think about your guests, the menu, what you need to make, do, and purchase—allowing you to get an early start. Speaking of meals, you’ll also want to get ahold of our Holiday Menu Planner to make planning out those holiday meals a straightforward, stress-free process. Having an action plan early on in the season allows you to take steps early, dividing up the workload, and preventing stress and panic when the hectic holiday season hits.

2. Think Through All of Your Responsibilities

Okay, this next exercise isn’t meant to overwhelm you! It’s simply about making a master list of everything that you’d like to happen this year. In the busyness of the season, it’s difficult to see the forest through the trees—so try to take a wide-angle view of your season and take stock of everything that needs to happen—or that you’d like to happen this year. Start by jotting down things as they come to mind: holiday cards, ordering gifts, parties you’d like to host, events you’d like to attend, travel plans that need to be finalized, and more. At this stage, it’s just about getting it all out on paper so that you can see, at a glance, everything that needs to be done!

3. Commit to a List

Next, it’s time to start makin’ a list and checkin’ it twice! At this stage, it’s a good idea to start breaking up your high-level tasks into smaller, doable steps and jotting down deadlines in your planner. So for Christmas cards, let’s say that the latest that you’d like to mail your cards is December 10th. And let’s say that you’d like to get photos taken to include in your card, and that you need to order the cards, get stamps, find all of the addresses, write the cards, and mail them. You now have six steps that you need to finish before you can check cards off your list. You can then assign dates to these tasks, jotting them down in your schedule—working backwards from the December 10th deadline. Our Holiday Prep + Plans printable is the perfect way to keep track of those tasks that you need to do. With this printable, you work backwards from Christmas Day, identifying tasks for each week, such as 5 weeks prior, 4 weeks prior, and so on.

While everyone’s to-do list will look different, other important tasks that you may want to think about include gift deadlines, volunteering, and making travel plans. While you’re at it, why not jot down some fun activities that you’d like to fit in this season? You can create your own Holiday Bucket List, then try to work those fun days into your schedule. For gifts, you can get an early start by writing down what everyone wants in your Holiday Gift Ideas list.

Finally, last but certainly not least, don’t forget to buffer and leave some white space in your planner this year. While it’s tempting to pack out your daily planner to the brim, it’s also important to remember that a bit of breathing room is an important way to conquer the chaos.

Once you’ve gotten your head start on holiday planning, it’s time to pour yourself a cup of hot tea or a celebratory glass of wine—and allow yourself to truly enjoy the beauty of the season. You’ve got everything under control and this time of year deserves to be savored!

What are your best tips for taming the chaos of the season? Let us know below!