At some point, do you find yourself just trying to survive the holidays?  That was my plan for many years until my “survival scheme” left me sick and in bed for the first week of January.

I was always very excited about a few special events, then my calendar would start to fill with work obligations, school programs and distant relatives passing through town.  I’d rationalize, its only a couple weeks.  But if you’re like most of me, you feel the start of the holiday season somewhere around mid November.  So by the time we ring in the New Year, that’s more than six weeks of so-called survival.

I’m sure I should have prioritized better, but each event crept in, one at a time, and I hadn’t yet learned to say no.

So what is my fool-proof plan for thriving during the holidays?

1. Know your limit.  Mine is a max of 4 events in a week.  You may feel fine with more, but remember it’s about thriving, not just surviving.  This is part of being discerning and selective with your time and energy.

2.  Subtract 1.  Limit-1=events booked.  It’s that simple.  When you are accepting invitations or hosting parties ask yourself is that event is worthy of one of your precious time slots.  Don’t just fill up your time because there isn’t anything else on your calendar at the moment.

3. Just say no–or better yet, ‘No thank-you’  I’ve had to practice the art of “saying no”.  No, is a complete sentence.  You are not required to explain yourself.  A simple response is always best.  “Thank you for thinking of us, but we won’t be able to make it to your cookie decorating party this year.  I hope you have a wonderful time.”

4. Guard your down time.  Evenings without events are your recovery and recharging time.  Working late is not down time, it should be considered one of your “event” evenings.  It doesn’t sound so appealing in that light!  Instead, enjoy being at home, eat a bit lighter and healthier, go for a walk after dinner, take a hot bath, get to bed a bit early or just putter around choosing that special outfit or a great hostess gift for your next event.

5. Stay flexible.    Does that sound a bit contradictory?  It’s actually not.  This is where the “subtract 1” comes in.  If you unexpectedly have to work a late night or better yet, get tickets to an amazing performance you can accommodate that without going over your limit. Because you have the other pieces in place, you will be much better at sorting out what’s really worth your time and energy.

Having a plan and sticking to it does more than just keep your schedule in check.  It can give you a real sense of control during what is a stressful time for many.  Having a plan and learning to stick to it is also the foundation of personal integrity–and that’s an absolute necessity for thriving.