How to Unwind for Holidays

Sometimes I have a hard time with holidays. Clifton StrengthsFinder is a type of personality test. Of the 34 talent themes, my top 3 explain why holidays and I don’t always get along.


Discipline. I like to impose structure on myself. I like routine and order. Holidays mess up my routine.

Achiever. I feel best when I am achieving something tangible. On holidays I should relax and enjoy time with family and not plow through my to-do list.

Focus. I like to have a plan and purpose for spending my day. Holidays are often unstructured and unpredictable, especially when extended family gets together.

However, my natural inclinations don't excuse me from taking time to rest my mind and build relationships with friends and family.

We all need time to unwind. We all need to build non-work relationships.

So how do we unwind for the holidays?

1. Wrap up loose ends before the holiday 

Use the day or days leading up to a holiday to wrap up loose ends on projects. Get to a good stopping point and make it easy for yourself to pick up where you left off. Make good notes so you’re not worried during the holiday about forgetting something.

Clean your desk off and email inbox out. Spend your time knocking out lots of little things that have been hanging over your head. Don’t jump into a major task that you would have to leave in the middle of.

2. Clear your to-do list

I use Remember the Milk to manage my to-dos. It reduces stress because I only look at to-dos I have scheduled for today. I don’t get overwhelmed with everything I need to do.

I usually put some of my to-dos on a holiday "just in case" I have extra time. I think getting ahead on a few things during the holiday will make upcoming work days less stressful.

However, this prevents me from enjoying my holiday. If I spend time getting things done, I missed my chance to relax and spend time with family. My reduced workload in the coming days is negligible. If I don’t get those things done, I feel like I didn’t have the discipline to focus and achieve what I planned to do.

I need to put off all my to-do’s off to future dates and not expect to accomplish anything during the holiday except relax and enjoy unstructured time with family. I should have the discipline to focus on my family and not achieve anything.

3. Make plans ahead of time

This may sound like the opposite of unwinding, but as my grandpa always said, “a change is as good as a rest.”

Enjoying a holiday doesn’t necessarily mean sitting around all day and doing nothing. I means spending quality time with friends and family.

Sometimes my family spends much of a holiday asking each other what we want to do, and because we can’t decide we end up not doing anything.

Take some time to make plans before the holiday, and be intentionally about making it memorable for your friends and family.

Make the most of holidays!

Holidays’ lack of structure and productivity can be tough for me. The desire to work hard is a good thing, but we all need time to unwind and build relationships. I’m still figuring out how to unwind on holidays, but it helps to wrap up loose ends, clear my to-do list, and make plans ahead of time.

Question: How do you unwind for the holidays?