by Sunny Simon

My friend Wendy called this morning in a breathless tizzy. She is hosting a holiday dinner for 17 and asked if I could talk her off the ledge. Surprised, I reminded her that she loves entertaining and never lets pre-party jitters get the better of her. Wendy admitted she usually relishes every detail of preparation, but during this season, when her calendar is jam packed with events and her to-do list overflowing, she was ready to toss in the towel and serve her guests take-out.

So goes the story for many of us. The tendency to over commit then panic wondering how to get it all done is a common dilemma. There are several remedies to the holiday frenzy, beginning with learning to decline some invites to every cookie-exchange, gift swap, open house and cocktail party that comes along.

I know, declining an invite means missing out on all the fun. The alternative strategy is ‘tis the season to be organized. That’s right. The only way to manage the daily demands of taking care of business and still have time to enjoy holiday fun and festivities is by focusing and planning.

I’m no efficiency guru so I turned to a productivity coach for help. Effectiveness expert, Maura Thomas, advises time management is dead. Thomas says the skill we should be honing is attention management. You can benefit from watching her TEDx Talk, entitled, “Control Your Attention, Control Your Life!” in which she makes a very simple, but profound statement. “How you spend your time, is only relevant to the extent of how you also devote your attention.” Now, let me put it in my words. Stop believing you can multi-task!

Managing your calendar activities is accomplished by focusing on a singular task. That’s where the magic lies. Getting back to Wendy’s situation, she admitted spending time in her kitchen fussing over the food preparation while zipping back and forth to her office wrapping packages and putting finishing touches on a report due on her manager’s desk later that day. Note, the time wasted was not only in the to and fro, whenever she diverted her attention to another task, she had to refocus.

This holiday season practice attention management. Devote your precious time to one task and resist the temptation to start another activity until the first is completed. Improving your ability to manage your attention helps diminish your stress level and frees up time to enjoy the season.  Sunny Simon is the owner of Raise the Bar High Life and Career Coaching and the author of the blog