Does it sometimes feel like when the holidays come around you have less time? 

Between the festivities of Thanksgiving and the bustle of Christmas, I notice feeling like I have less time and more to do. I don’t actually have a job that gets busier at the end of the year, and I still have the same number of hours in a day. But there are more things to cook, usually more events to attend, more cards to send, and more gifts to give than at any other time of the year.

A lot of our holiday activities bring joy to our lives, but when we haven’t built time for them into our already busy schedules, our day-to-day sanity hangs in the balance. There’s nothing that can suck the joy out of making your family’s prized casserole like fielding work emails at the same time.

We need to give ourselves some slack.

By slack, I don’t mean giving ourselves a free pass to drop some balls—although that has its time and place. I mean that in order to get through the holidays with both grace and completed checklists, we will benefit from building slack into our schedules. Unexpected things will come up, or holiday events may take longer than expected, potentially pushing other obligations to the brink. If we build in time, knowing this will happen, we will be less surprised and more able to revel in the joys of the season.

Time-management expert Laura Vanderkam shared insights about slack building in her 2015 book I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of their Time. Vanderkam spent years studying numerous working women’s time logs before sharing insights about how women in different careers and states in life make things work. The result is an encouraging compilation of possibilities readers can try on for size in their own lives, all while learning to understand the distinction between the removable limits we put on ourselves and the limits we truly need to work within.

I interviewed Vanderkam for insights on how we can tailor slack-building habits to the holidays.

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