Holiday “Productivity”

woman with child looking out the window. Holiday "productivity"

December is a busy month. Managing the various holiday responsibilities can feel like an additional part-time job. In spite of rushing around and working hard, we can end up feeling like we aren’t being very productive. No matter how much we do, there still seem to be unaccomplished tasks on the never-ending to-do list, including:

  • Purchasing, wrapping, and sending gifts
  • Decorating
  • Preparing special foods
  • Sending holiday cards
  • Hosting and/or attending parties
  • Planning family gatherings
  • Moving the “Elf on the Shelf”
  • Making charitable donations and purchases
  • Attending holiday concerts, worship services, and special events

Will we ever get everything done?

 In the past, I’ve given tips on how to calm the craziness of the season, manage holiday clutter,  and save time where you can. This year I would like you to reconsider what “being productive” during the holiday season really means. As the Grinch came to realize in the famous television special, there is “a little bit more” to Christmas (and other holidays) than simply checking items off of the to-do list. That is what makes them so special!

So how can you feel productive during the holidays? By giving yourself credit for all of the things you are doing to show love, kindness, and generosity. I suspect that many of you are sacrificing time, energy, and resources this month with little recognition and for little credit. Therefore, I hope you will accept this post as acknowledgement that all you do is important, “no matter how small.”

My hat is off to all of you who are…

  • Caring for aging parents, especially those who don’t want or appreciate help
  • Altering plans in order to help someone facing a difficult situation
  • Staying up into the wee hours to wrap and assemble toys
  • Sacrificing sleep to feed a baby
  • Remaining in an uncomfortable position so as not to disturb a pet or child asleep next to you.
  • Waiting patiently in a line
  • Buying and delivering gifts to needy people whom you will never meet
  • Serving a meal in a soup kitchen
  • Covering for someone on medical or family leave
  • Forgoing a pleasure so as to have funds to give to someone else
  • Pregnant
  • Fixing technology glitches, for yourself or for someone else
  • Staying awake until teens arrive safely home
  • Cooking and baking, for your family or others
  • Holding your tongue when criticized by someone who is having a bad day
  • Letting someone move ahead of you in line
  • Giving blood
  • Picking up litter
  • Wearing a mask, even if you personally do not think it is necessary
  • Surprising a server with a large tip
  • Sending a care package to someone in the military overseas
  • Walking dogs in the cold & dark
  • Repeatedly reading a book or watching a show that someone else likes
  • Listening to someone tell a story that you have heard before
  • Driving someone to a doctor or therapy appointment
  • Shoveling snow for someone who can’t
  • Holding the door for another person
  • Calling or visiting someone who is lonely
  • Paying someone a compliment
  • Smiling, especially when you don’t feel like it
  • Feeding the birds
  • Posting a positive word on social media
  • Singing with a choir or offering other musical gifts
  • Doing the bulk of the work on a “group” project
  • Doing laundry
  • Washing dishes
  • Picking up after a toddler
  • Caring for a loved one with dementia
  • Giving another person your full attention

These are just a few examples of truly “productive” actions I see all around me. I hope this holiday season you will show yourself grace and remember that sometimes the least celebrated tasks are the ones that matter most!

Have you seen someone being “productive” this holiday season?

36 thoughts on “Holiday “Productivity””

  1. This is such an important message, Seana. While I get why you grouped these as “productive actions,” the ones you listed are also beautiful acts of kindness, compassion, and graciousness. We all need more of that in the world. Your list encourages us to do better, be kinder, extend ourselves just a bit more to help others. Beautiful!

    1. Truly ’tis the season. I know so many who do so much, and then feel guilty because they “haven’t accomplished anything.” Nonsense! They’ve accomplished more than they can even imagine! Cheers to the holiday spirit, and to those who truly show it!

  2. This quote is so right, “giving yourself credit for all of the things you are doing to show love, kindness, and generosity.” I do that every day I feel like I didn’t get anything accomplished. It is a great tip year round.

    1. It certainly applies year ’round, Julie! May all who are productive in these ways give themselves credit for having accomplished important things indeed!

  3. “Caring for aging parents” is one that resonates with me. This is the first year we do not have to be of service to my mother-in-law and the extended family during Christmas Day. We instead will be visiting my family and extended family on Christmas. It’s bittersweet since she has passed. But, we appreciate that one year out of the 26 years we have been together, we do not need to host a Christmas party at someone else’s house.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…12 Christmas Entertaining Tips For the Busy HostMy Profile

    1. So many of my peers are in the position of caring for aging parents right now. Many of them struggle with siblings or the parents themselves. It is an act of love which goes largely unacknowledged, and yet means so much. Wishing you a wonderful trip this year!

  4. This is a wonderful post, Seana. There are so many things we do that go un -noticed (or so we think) and under appreciated. I love the idea of taking time to think about what we do and to celebrate that it’s all the small things that add up to create productivity. Thank you for highlighting all these wonderful small (and big) accomplishments.
    Diane N Quintana recently posted…3 Reasons It Is Hard To Stay OrganizedMy Profile

  5. “Sometimes the least celebrated tasks are the ones that matter most!” is the most wonderful thing I’ll read all season, Seana. Truly, the everyday gifts of time and attention, small acts of service and encouragement are the gifts that mean the most. Your post is one of those gifts, I’m grateful to read it.

    1. Thank you for these kind words, Lucy. I hope it blesses you and those who read it. So many people need an encouraging word as they sacrificially serve this month (and all year long)!

  6. Seana, This was like reading a ((HUG)). With Thanksgiving and Hannukah overlapping this year (my husband and I host Thanksgiving), thinking about gifts and cooking for the holidays started the first week in November. Today, I cleaned the wax off my menorah and started putting decor away. I’m ‘toast.’ Thanks for the reminder to give myself credit for how ‘holiday productive’ I had to be. I’m often guilty of not giving myself enough credit–thanks for the gentle reminder. 🙂

    1. Cleaning wax off of the menorah – that certainly qualifies as productive, and yet no one will ever notice that you do it (probably each year…). You’ve had a busy time already. I hope you can celebrate all you’ve accomplished, and perhaps find a few moments to relax!

  7. So often, people feel overwhelmed because they’re doing things for which society (and one’s families and friends) give no credit. There’s a lot of emotional labor that exhausts us. And OMG, I stuck a mini- screwdriver into my thumb (ouch!) the other day trying to clean wax out of the deep recesses of the menorah, so I thank you and Stacey (above) for acknowledging that. All of these are valuable and valid for counting toward productivity!
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Paper Doll’s Holiday Gift List: The Useful and the BeautifulMy Profile

      1. One of my Jewish facebook groups had lots of advice about this! Some ideas:
        1. Put Menorah in the freezer – wax will peel right off
        2. Opposite end of spectrum – Put Menorah in oven at 180 degrees Farenheit for 20-30 minutes (make sure to place on paper towels on cooking tray) and wax will melt off
        3. Put Menorah under hot water in sink (cover drain so wax doesn’t go down drain)
        4. Leave wax on and watch it collect over the years

  8. Kudos to all those people who are doing all those things and still trying to do more to make the holidays special. I advocate for slowing down over the holidays so you can be present and make memories. But as you showed many people have a lot of responsibilities that can’t be “slowed down” on. Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves?
    Janet Schiesl recently posted…10 Ways to Have a Green HolidayMy Profile

    1. My heart really goes out to caregivers, both personal and professional, at this time of year. Their jobs are truly 24/7/365. If you can’t slow down, at least give yourself credit for all you are doing, right?

  9. What a feel good post! Thanks for sending some love to all of us so we aren’t beating ourselves up about all we are NOT doing during the Holidays. I have my Holiday traditions like everyone else (buying presents, making Latkes from scratch, creating a “Chanukah Table” with all my menorahs, dreidels, etc.) but it’s nice to remember that the responsibility and caring that goes into my everyday life still counts in December.

    1. In fact, I’d almost say give yourself double points for keeping the “every day life” responsibilities cared for at this busy time. Next year I’m coming over for homemade Latkes – yum!

  10. Such a wonderful post. All those things that we do all year long are still necessary during the holidays and then we add 10 more and suddenly think we are not accomplishing anything. Those things you listed are really the most important. No one will remember what gift wrapping we used last year but those people we helped or sacrificed for will have benefited from our efforts whether they realize it or not. We do these things because the are important
    and needed out of love and not for thanks. That’s what love really is-doing something with no expectation of thanks or recognition but because we love the people we are helping. If we do something that needs to be done we are doing something important no matter how small it is.

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