How to avoid the snowball effect…

of the holiday mental load.

The holiday season is in full swing, and I don’t know about you, but our house is bursting with decorations, holiday crafts, candles, and way too many sweets (good thing we got the dentist visit in a few weeks ago, because if she saw their teeth now…!)

While I just love this time of year and all the joy that it brings, it can also come with an increasing mental load for already overwhelmed working parents.  This can have a snowball effect leading to heightened feelings of stress and anxiety if not managed appropriately:

For me, this week alone, on top of the house chores, regular work responsibilities, deadlines, school pickup and drop-off, meal prep, etc., a host of additional tasks came my way.  Instead of just listing them all out, I wanted to “play out” the mental load / thought process for 3 examples (there are many more, but who has time for that?):

  • Task: Figuring our childcare coverage due to ½ school day à Mental Load: spending time wrestling with “should I just let him watch TV?  Is that bad?  What else can I do that isn’t cost prohibitive? Maybe a play date?  Oh wait I won’t have a car to take him to a play date. What time are my meetings? When can I interact with him so he’s not totally playing alone for 4 hours straight?  What should I do with him during play time?”
  • Task:  Donations / gifts for teachers à  Mental Load:  Should I give individual gifts or just contribute to the pool?  Would giving individual gifts contribute to inequity?  How much should I give? What can we afford this year?  When are the donations due again?  Should we write individual cards?  What about cookies?  Wait – do they have allergies?  When will the teachers be on vacation?  Am I too late?  Am I too early?
  • Task:  Meeting work year-end sales goals à  Mental Load:  What if we don’t meet our targets?  What should I prioritize?  Everything seems important.  Isn’t everything important when you’re in a startup?  No one should do this but me.  Or maybe not?  How will we celebrate if we meet our goals?  How will I communicate if we don’t? 

Don’t get me wrong – these are all responsibilities I’ve prioritized and want to do – and the questions and thoughts serve important purposes.  The point is, each one takes time, thoughtfulness, and if we let it pile up you can see how we can slowly lose our sanity!

Does this resonate with you?  I’m guessing I’m not alone, so this year, as you look to prioritize the many responsibilities that come with career, family, and your own personal health, we thought we’d share our favorite Time Management strategies for busy working parents:

My favorite is #4 – I’ve moved from creating to-do lists to time blocking my calendar for everything!  What this does is 2 critical things:

  1. It forces me to batch together similar tasks for higher efficiency
  2. It helps me to better prioritize – when I make a written to-do list, the temptation to cross things off is so high that I inevitable end up prioritizing low-priority and “easier” tasks

What are some of your favorite time management tips?  We want to know!  Shoot us an email at [email protected].

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