Getting the Most out of the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

But for some, it’s also the most STRESSFUL time of the year!

Name tag that says Hello there - my name is stressed out!








Let me be clear. I love Christmas.

When Christmas morning finally comes, it’s an amazing, all-senses-in experience.

There’s the feel of the smooth, cool wrapping paper, the energy and excitement in the air as people wait to open their gifts, the smell of the tree and that delicious turkey cooking merrily away in the oven.

There’s the warmth and comfort of being surrounded by your friends and family while you’re sipping on rich creamy eggnog. Or, even better, mulled wine. 

One of my favourite parts of the holidays is seeing the outdoor decorations the ambitious folk in my neighbourhood put up each year. It’s so fun to see all of the different types of lights! One of our neighbors even has a Christmas dinosaur!????

The absolute best part of Christmas though is picking out the perfect gifts for my husband and daughter and putting them under the tree where they’ll get poked and prodded and shook for a week before they can finally open them. (Of course, I also love seeing the gifts with my name on it! ????)

As a busy entrepreneur, I’m always juggling a never-ending to-do list for my business, and spending time with my family and friends.

But during the holidays it’s 10x worse. What with the endless shopping, and prepping, and visiting there is to do, I can pretty much say good-bye to my normal self-care routine. (Don’t worry though. I self-medicate with fruitcake).

I know I am not alone. So, how will you get through it?

Fear not! I’ve got 4 quick tips for you on how to survive the holidays.

1. How to Graciously Accept a Horrible Gift

Have you ever gotten a gift that is… awful? I sure have!

Gift giving is a true art form. So is accepting a terrible gift.

Here are a few tips on how to accept a less-than-stellar gift:

Know Your Audience – You would not react the same way to a parent’s terrible gift as you would to a work colleague’s Secret Santa gift. Match your reaction to the effort put into the gift and your relationship with the gift-gifter.

Fake It ‘till You Make It – You have very little time to decide if you’re going to react bluntly or react the way you’re ‘supposed to’. If you choose the latter, choose quickly and commit to it! Unless you get lucky, the person giving the gift is going to pick up on that negative expression on your face before the required ‘smile and nod’ appears.

Just Say Thank You – Are you tongue-tied? Basic manners go a long way! Sometimes, the best way to get out of an awkward situation is to simply give an enthusiastic smile and say “Thanks very much for this” and move on.

Pro Tip: Remember, it’s the thought that counts. Truly.

BONUS: Check out this video where the master himself guides you through a hilarious masterclass on how to accept a terrible gift, instead of just saying “Oh… thank you…” and then never speaking of it again. #gutted

The video is funny, but the principles behind it are legit when some common sense is applied. Staring at Benedict Cumberbatch for 6 minutes doesn’t hurt either ???? .

2. Gifts for the Ungift-able

Finding a gift for some people can be a nightmare. Just the other day my assistant Grace was talking about how hard it is to shop for her hubby because the guy doesn’t want anything!

It’s awesome that he’s happy with what he has, but it doesn’t make this time of year any easier.

I’ve gathered a few resources that will give you an unending number of ideas for those people in your life:

Good Housekeeping

Uncommon Goods



Yes, it’s too late to have it shipped out. But, you can write down your ideas and look for a similar gift at a store that’s local. Easy-peasy!

Pro Tip: Jot down some of the ideas you find when going through the above links (or add them to a private Google Doc) and shop online for similar items next year. All of the shopping and giving, none of the crowd-fighting!

3. Managing Your Calendar

Here’s a big one!

If you’re anything like me, your social calendar is packed to the gills this time of year. Here’s how I juggle it all:

Use Your Calendar and Check it Daily – I can’t stress this enough. As an entrepreneur, there are many responsibilities I have on a daily basis, either working on or in my business. This is by no means an uncommon problem.

When you accept an invitation to an event, add it to your calendar immediately or have a member of your team do it for you. Checking your calendar regularly prevents awkward situations like forgetting an event entirely, or double-booking yourself.

Give Yourself Permission to Say No – Saying no is hard. I get it. However, it is an imperative skill to have as an entrepreneur. Before accepting an invitation, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I want to go?
  • Do I need to go?
  • Have I already committed to another event?
  • And, if necessary, what are the pros and cons of attending/not attending?

While not exhaustive, these few questions will help guide you in the right direction. Don’t forget to mark it in your calendar if you say yes! If you say no, decline graciously and thank the person for inviting you.

Pro Tip: You do not need to give extensive detail about why you are saying no. A simple “I’m sorry I can’t come. Thank you for thinking of me!” should be enough for most people.

4. Schedule Some Downtime

At Any Old Task, our office is closed over the Christmas and New Year holidays. If possible, you should do the same! The world will not end if you take some time off, and your family will thank you.

You might be thinking “Yeah right! How will that happen!”. Here’s how we make it happen:

  • Review your Calendar or Project Management Tool.
  • Decide on the days you’d like to have off.
  • Check for any imperative deadlines and due dates over these days. If possible, move the deadline up to before your desired time off.
  • Delegate tasks to your team as needed, or find someone to help you.
  • Move non-essential tasks to after you return, or complete them before you leave.
  • Schedule your time off.
  • Inform your clients about a month before if they will be affected by your time off. Let them know when you’ll be off, if you’ll be available at all and how to reach you if you are.

Pro Tip: A nice touch is to mention how you’ll minimize the impact on them. Ask them if they have any concerns or questions you can address and work around them.

  • Enjoy, and resist the urge to check your inbox constantly.

    Bonus Pro Tip: If you’ve told your clients you’ll be unavailable (which you really should be if at all possible), turn off all work-related notifications on your phone/computer.

Use this time for your family and self-care. The work will be waiting for you when you get back from your well-deserved break. You just have to decide on this and do it.

Wrapping Up (Pun Intended)

The holidays can be a super intense time of the year. Projects wrap up, contracts might be ending, and the work might pile on more than ever! But, if you apply the tips I gave you, you will find the season less stressful.

Did I miss anything? Got some survival tips of your own? Share them with me by leaving a comment. 2019, here we come!

P.S. Here’s a picture of the team that we took in our ugly Christmas sweaters at our holiday party on December  14th. From our team to yours, we hope you had an amazing year!

Meet your host

Sandra Booker, Founder of Changemaker Inc. (home to Sidekick COO and The VA Studio) and creator of Scale Society and The Advisory Board, is a mentor, Fractional COO  and growth strategist. She specializes in helping overworked, overwhelmed, multi-hatted entrepreneurs become the CEOs of sustainably scalable, and powerfully profitable businesses. 

After helping local businesses thrive, and receiving accolades in her community (like the 40 Under 40 award) Sandra turned her attention to the world of online service providers, and her clients include familiar names like Chanti Zak, Tarzan Kay, and Laura Belgray.

In her (efficiently used) spare time, she teaches others how to build and grow their own 6-figure virtual assistant practices and is on a mission to create a million jobs by helping her clients and students scale their businesses.

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