Oh my goodness, I hate what I am about to do. I am going to use a buzzword-y jargon-y word. Please, please, please forgive me in advance.
Bandwidth: the amount of information that can be sent over a network connection at one time. Also, a person’s capacity to take on more work, responsibility or stress.
Let’s be honest. When it comes to bandwidth, most of us don’t have a ton. At work we are asked to do more with fewer resources, both human and financial. At home, we equally have to do more with less. Growing families, rising prices, stagnating salaries, increasing baseline needs mean there is necessarily more stress on our resources of time, talent and treasure.
I’m right there with you. And yet, I am asking you, here, now, at the beginning of November, to start thinking about how you want Christmas to look this year.
The Bandwidth Problem
I hear your arguments, because they are the same ones everyone makes when I start talking about the Ideal Life Exercise. The arguments are, first and foremost, bandwidth problems.
Argument one: “I don’t have the time to do this.”
Let me counter with another thought. Right now, Christmas is a little more than seven weeks away. Right now, you have no thoughts about Christmas, except for the annoyance that they are playing Christmas music at Starbucks already (at least where I am right now.) But in about five weeks, you are going to have a lot of thoughts about it, and you will have only two weeks to do anything about it.
May I humbly suggest that a little investment of a ten minutes today, twenty minutes tomorrow and five minutes the next day thinking about Christmas will actually lighten your stress-load considerably come December, leaving you more time in December to actually enjoy the Christmas songs at Starbucks instead of having them cause your pulse to race and your blood to boil?
Argument two: “Thinking about Christmas just depresses me.”
Believe me, I understand. Feeling underwater, overstretched and overwhelmed is not a sentiment I particularly enjoy pursuing, either.
But let’s “sing with our feet” for a second. Remember, how I said sometimes we have to do things differently in order to make headway and breakdown the walls that are keeping us from advancing? Well, in this case, I am going to suggest that by entering this holiday season on our own terms, by defining and limiting our expectations for this season, and by making a plan to fulfill them, we are setting ourselves up to see progress and success, because we know what we want to experience and can articulate it.
Argument three: “I’m already a perfectionist. This will just make it worse.”
Oh, welcome to the Perfectionist’s Club, friend.
May I share with you an observation I have made about being a perfectionist? My most offensive perfectionist tendencies happen in the areas I have given very little thought about. I am a perfectionist when I have highfalutin, but ill-defined goals.
The more lucid I am about a goal, the less perfectionist I am about it. The more I actually consider my capacities, my resources, the less perfectionist I am about its accomplishment.
Done, not perfect.
That is the mantra I invite you to adopt this season with me. Done, not perfect. Done, not perfect.
Defining your own Bandwidth
When it comes to being a great gift-giver, the first person you have to consider is yourself. No, not what kind of gift you want to receive or what your Gift-Receiver Template is. You need to consider what you can give.
Let me humbly remind you of the three treasures you possess:
- Your Time
- Your Talent
- Your Treasure
These are the resources that make up your holiday cheer bandwidth. Each are in limited quantity, each are precious in their own way. A careful, thoughtful budgeting of each of these treasures this Christmas season can help you find more joy and experience less stress this year.
The holiday season doesn’t give us much choice in the matter, and once it starts, it’s like planning a wedding: everything starts to revolve around it. Decorating. Buying Gifts. Baking cookies. Christmas concerts. Office Parties. Volunteering. Church potlucks.
You are the only one who can define how much of your time you want to invest in this. We’ll come back to this after a bit, but let me offer you my permission (because sometimes we need permission) to drop the things that take up too much time and that stress you out.
Unpopular opinion: A Christmas Tree is not the only way to make a home festive. Baking cookies because you have always baked cookies is not a reason to bake cookies.
I’m not asking you to make decisions right now. Just think about this. What part of the season do you feel takes up too much time and brings you zero joy? Are there ways to reduce the time you spend on these zero-joy activities? (Don’t worry, we’ll come back to this.)
If you are a handy person, a crafty person, a creative person, you might be thinking that you will be using your talent to make gifts for people. FANTASTIC! I LOVE THIS! (A unicorn quilt, anyone??? Wink wink nudge nudge!) But let’s be honest, sometimes we let our imaginations get carried away.
You also might want to consider other ways in which your talent might be useful to make this holiday season more meaningful to you. Are you a cookie baker who loves to bake cookies? Are you a handyman, who sets up Christmas lights like nobody’s business? If these are things you love to do, perhaps you might trade with someone.
For example: How fun would it be to have a cookie baking (something I hate)/gift wrapping (something I love) session with a girlfriend who loves to bake cookies but hates to wrap presents? It’s a way to spend time together: she bakes cookies for both our families, I wrap her family’s gifts and mine. It’s a way to do useful things together, and both come away with a win.
My sister, the Life Coach, is using her talent by talking me through what I want to do for my family this year. I’m telling you, everyone should have a Life Coach for a sister.
This year, my friend Aline and I are organizing several small Christmas concerts to be held in the living rooms of people we love. This is our talent: we make music and we love to give our music away. It is a win for the people hosting the concerts, because they can invite the people they love. It is a win for us because it fills the holiday with songs celebrating Jesus, which is what we live (and love) to do.
This is the most challenging, and I am going to be honest, most humiliating, area in which to be lucid.
Isn’t it awful to have to put a dollar value on the affection you have for someone? I HATE THIS.
However. If we are lucid about our bandwidth, and about the fact that the people who love us and who we love do not want us bankrupting ourselves to prove our love, this is an inevitability.
At some point, you have to decide on your budget. You have to be willing to put a dollar amount on how much you can spend, and then make a plan to not go beyond this. I am not talking about being cheap here. I am talking about your bandwidth. Not your Uncle Scroogeness.
This point is going to come into play later when we start studying the people we love and what their expectations are regarding gifts. Some people love lots of little things. (They are into quantity). Others love one big thing (They are into quality.) Knowing this about the people we love will help us budget for them accordingly.
Did you make a list of all the people you want to recognize this season? It’s definitely okay if it’s not complete yet, but do get it started.
Now. Look at your list with your “lucidity” hat on. (I am actually literally thinking of the Santa Lucia celebration, the girls wearing wreathes of candles on their heads. Please, please, please keep this image in your mind this season.)
Who on your list absolutely must get something? Who might get something if you can find the right thing? Who will you last-minute end up sending an Amazon gift card to because you forgot them? Who gets a card? Who is on your list that you put there because you feel guilty because they sent you a card last year and now you feel like you have to return the favor?
Okay. Now. Remember, guilt is never a reason to do anything. Especially at the holidays. Right this very moment, I want you to promise me to not do anything out of guilt this year. Let that go right now.
Love is the only reason.
Let me say that again.
Love is the only reason to do anything this season.
Rendez-vous tomorrow to start talking about the Gift-Receiver Templates.