Why we don't get anything done on the holidays.

01/10/2017 06:15 am ET

We have all said it at some point... 

"Oh, not now, I will do that during the holidays."

But when the holidays came, did it get done?

If you are like me, then over Christmas and New Year, or any other extended time off, there is always a list of things that you want to get done, and but inevitably nothing gets done.

I get that. It happens to me too. 

By the end of every break, my house ends up looking like a cross between a college dorm room on Saturday morning and the aftermath from a kid's birthday party. There are toys and dishes everywhere, there are huge weeds growing in the backyard (so tall my dog disappears) and we all run out of clean clothes to wear. Normally, I can stay on top of the mess and clutter, (well mostly but that is a different story altogether) so why is it that with all this extra time available over the holidays nothing ends up getting done? 

I know families who jump out of bed in the morning and tackle projects with energy and enthusiasm. They also do DIY projects over the weekend and actually finish them. Or they go out on family days together and do things like hiking or bike riding. But my family isn't one of them. The get up and go gene is not one that our family has inherited. (We struggle to finish a pizza, no way would we finish painting the house). So I see these accomplishments and escapades on Facebook and cringe a little with jealousy. What is it about people who can get things done on holidays? What are we missing?

Well, I have a few ideas about that. Read on.

1. We just want to catch up on sleep:

We work hard during the year, whether at a 9-5 job, as a student or as a stay-at-home parent. We work hard and deserve the rest. The holidays are an opportunity to turn off the alarm clock and relax. Since there is nowhere that you have to be then there is no reason to get up in the morning. Those of us with small children might get up early simply because they do, but if you are like me the TV or the Tablet goes on fairly quickly and I go back to bed. We finally get all this 'free' time, but we discover that we don't have the energy to take advantage of it.

Solution: Try to get enough sleep and adequate rest during the normal week so there is less to catch up on during the holidays.

2. We dump stuff on our future self:

When something comes up that we don't have time to do straight away, or just we don't want to do it now -- like dishes or paying bills -- we put it off till later. We escape the pain and inconvenience of doing it now, but it doesn't go away, it just gets deferred untill later. We keep saying, "I'll do it during the holidays" and we add it to the big to-do list that our future self has to complete. And then on Day one of holidays we wake up with a huge to-do list loaded up by our past self, and future self doesn't want to do it either, so we watch Netflix, and nothing gets done.

Solution: If we can resist "do it later" thinking and instead do things straight away we will have less backlog to catch up on during our holidays.

3. Our routines go out the window:

Another thing that happens is that routines go out the window. Bedtimes no longer need to be enforced as there is no need to get up so early in the morning. Without the regular triggers of work or school to prompt things to happen, our routines get messed up and things don't get done automatically like they usually do. The truth is that the holidays aren't free time. We like to think that it is unscheduled, uncommitted time but there are still the everyday activities of life that need to be dealt with like cooking, cleaning, showering, sleeping, etc. If we don't keep up with these tasks over the holidays then there is a big backlog to catch up with when life gets back to normal.

Solution: Keep to normal routines as much as possible or create a holiday routine that still covers the basics.

4. We forgot we already have commitments over the holidays:

We know that there is all this "time off" coming up, but it isn't really uncommitted time. Around holiday season there are all the extra gatherings and parties that need to be attended, all the extra travel to get there, the presents to purchase, cleaning and organising to get done. And really this is the point of the holiday season — to spend time with family and friends. But if you are out all weekend at your end-of-year work party, brunch with your friends, and then your nephew's choir recital, then you won't get time to do all the things you usually do on the weekend, like sleep, laundry or gardening, and those things will pile up on the to-do list for later. 

Solution: Make sure all the events are on your calendar and block out extra time to compensate. 

And the extra bonus:


It amazes me how our holidays can get filled up by other people; suddenly someone says, "Oh we really should catch up sometime" becomes, "Hey, why don't we catch up while you are on holidays?" and there goes the day that the shed was going to get fixed (okay it was never actually going to get fixed but that was the plan). Or "Your sister is staying with us for the holidays, you should really come over and spend some time with her." There goes renovating the bathroom (who are we kidding, that was never going to happen).  And sometimes we are our own worst enemy and we say, "Sure, I'd love to help you move house next week! It's okay I have time because I'm on holidays!". This one is really hard because when we are in the middle of these sort of conversations we are either swept up in the moment and agree or we are unable to refuse without offending someone. Saying, "No" or "Let me check my calendar" doesn't always work.

Solution: Plan ahead. Know these things come up and just don't try to renovate or write a novel at the same time. 

Everything changes during the holidays. Routines go out the window, expectations are lowered and indulgences are permitted because, well - it's the holidays!

But if you really need to get something done then don't try to do it during the festive season. If you are carving out time for a project the best way to get it done is to pack a suitcase, tell everyone you are going interstate, then go home, lock the door, and get started on getting stuff done, on your terms.

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