Planning the Holidays With Purpose

The holidays, man. They are a whole thing. 

I don’t feel recovered from the holidays until just before the next holiday season. Can you relate? 

They are simply a lot of work - mentally, physically, and especially emotionally. That doesn’t mean bad or not worth just means they are a lot of work. Dare I say, especially for women. 

My husband thinks we bring this upon ourselves and overcomplicate things. I tell him that he’s overcomplicated, because that’s the best comeback I have to his half-true assumption. 

This is why it is especially crucial to set your intentions ahead of the season. So, like, now. 

There is a podcast I heard 2 years ago about boundaries and intentions for the holidays, and it has been a game-changer for me. I guarantee I will listen to that podcast ahead of this season for years to come. It was The Rachel Cruze show, and she interviewed Dr. Henry Cloud on how to protect your time, money, and sanity during the holiday season when other people (especially your family) feel entitled to it. 

Henry Cloud is no doubt the boundaries expert. He is a Clinic Pyschologist, best selling author, and has helped millions of people and companies with this concept. 

Dr. Cloud talks about sitting down ahead of the season and drawing a pie with 3 pieces. 

(side note, pumpkin pie is still my favorite but my mother-in-law makes a KILLER pecan pie, and I kind of think that is the best pie of Thanksgiving. Don’t even at-me with apple. Just no.)

The 3 pieces are:

  1. Emotional - how do I want to feel at the end of the holidays? (he actually called this ‘Clinical’ but I relabeled it)
  2. Relationships - who do I want to make sure to see? Who do I need to avoid?
  3. Performance - what are my goals? How much to spend, and when do I get my shopping done? Etc.

Think about January 2nd (this date may shift depending on your religion). When you’re putting your intentions together, ask yourself:

  • Do I want to be burned out, depressed, and crazy? How do I avoid that? (emotional)
  • Will I want to have had time with the people meaningful to me? How much time or how little? (relationships)
  • How do I want to spend my money? How do I want to spend my time? (performance)

SO GOOD, right? You can watch the whole thing here. The segment starts at minute 4:35 - 12:30 (That's only 8 minutes of gold).

Now to look back to plan forward. Start with the end in mind, then get out that planner. 

Starting with the big picture, decide what is most important to YOU during the holidays. Pick 3 at most, and make sure your schedule and time reflect that

Moving onto the pie model, I’m going to ask a couple reflection questions for each “piece,” and a corresponding tangible action you can plan for. 


  • Reflect: In the past holidays, what made you feel peaceful? Joy (excited, giddy, nostalgic)? What made you feel content?

    Action: Plan those things in now. Let everything else be around these things, because these are the things that give life to the season.

  • Reflect: In the past holidays, what made you feel stressed, anxious, and made the holidays zero fun?

    Action: Decide if these things are necessary or can be eliminated altogether? If they are necessary, make a plan ahead of time on how you can minimize the pain. For example, shopping well in advance so you aren’t doing it last minute, and losing sleep to wrap everything in the midnight hour.


  • Reflect: Who are the most meaningful people in your life? Are they the same people you want to gather-with in some capacity this season?

    Action: Make those gathering plans now. People’s schedules fill up fast.

  • Reflect: Who drains your joy and energy?

    Action: If they are someone you cannot avoid during the season, how can you minimize your contact with them?


  • Reflect: What expectations do you have of yourself during the holidays? What expectations do others have of you? (expectations of your time and resources).

    Action: For everything listed, decide if it’s true, necessary, and if it brings you joy or stress. If it brings you stress, can you eliminate it, or delegate some or all of it?

  • Reflect: Between work, caregiving, sleep, and everyday necessities, how much time and money do you realistically have to give to these [additional holiday] expectations?

    Action: Decide how you can perform inside these parameters. If you cannot, then delegate now or let it go. 

Because I love hearing real-life examples from people, I’m going to walk my talk and answer these reflection questions in hopes it helps you. 

From the big picture view, the most important things to me during the holidays are my faith (I'm Christian, so Jesus’ birth), spending meaningful time with my family, and the joy & wonder the season brings. 


The things that bring me peace and joy, that I will be planning into our schedule/making a practice of: 

  • Music 
  • Church
  • Decorating the house (inside)
  • Cutting down our tree with the kids (tradition)
  • 1 dedicated shopping day, all by myself
  • At least 1 holiday movie night (Elf is our go-to)
  • Low-key family gatherings...3 specifically
  • Getting everything done with plenty of time. Rushing and lateness are huge triggers for me. 
  • Cooking 
  • Candles
  • Quiet time
  • Driving around looking at Christmas lights on houses
Things that make me stressed, anxious, and depressed at the end of it all:
  • Cramming too much in
  • Drinking too much
  • Not getting enough sleep 
  • Having my shopping list be 1 million pages long
  • Back-to-back-to-back gatherings/events
  • Leaving everything until the last minute
  • The kids being hot messes
  • Zero alone time 


  • I have my home team dialed in at this point. Almost everyone on that list is who I want to spend meaningful time with over the holidays. There are 3 family gatherings that go on the schedule every single year. We also have our key friend traditions.

    With kids, we have tried to be very mindful of what is too much for them. And making sure they get to bed at a reasonable time. It’s a guaranteed formula that if they are hot messes, then I’m a hot mess too. 


  • As the planner, the expectation of me (from myself and others), is:
    • Manage our family schedule (true & necessary)
    • Plan, buy, and wrap all the gifts (necessary but partly true. I could outsource more to my husband)
    • Buy & cook all the meals/sides we bring to events (necessary but not true...I could easily utilize help here)
    • Manage the budget (true & necessary)
    • Plan all extra events (untrue & not necessary)
    • Be happy and joyful (untrue & not necessary but doable in the right conditions, as listed in the clinical lists)
    • Also, be “on” for the peak business season of planners (necessary & true. Not delegatable this year)
    • Create and disperse detailed gift lists for the kids (untrue & not necessary, even if family asks for it. It’s a lot of thought and time).

  • My time will be more limited this year because of the business, and everything I need to do to meet some upcoming deadlines. Because of this, I plan to get as much shopping and wrapping done in the next 2 weeks.

    I also am utilizing HelloFresh for the next 4-7 weeks to help alleviate some of the meal planning/shopping load.

    Lastly, I’ll communicate wishes and expectations of my husband’s help soon, instead of getting to the overwhelmed shut-down stage and do it all myself once it gets here.

    Next year, I may not do a detailed kid’s gift list. I know how helpful it is, but it’s time I need to focus elsewhere. 

This exercise is really helpful. It makes me feel like I have a better grasp on my needs, and can exercise what control I have for this season. 

I highly encourage you to do this yourself. It simply approaches your holidays ON PURPOSE instead of getting dragged through them via marketing and other people’s expectations. 

For those of you facing really hard holidays for 1 million different reasons, this exercise is even more important to protect your mental health and give yourself what you need during this time. 

To help, grab this printable to make it super easy to fill out. The reflection and action prompts will be included on the back (assuming you’ll print double-sided). 

Sprouted Planner Intentional Holiday Printable

Cheers to a holiday filled with peace, joy, and purpose. 

Cover Photo by Davies Designs Studio on Unsplash