Perhaps the best way to salvage a holiday season that’s been grounded by the pandemic is to carve out some time to think about what you really want to get out of it. 

Planning, in my book, is one of the most important human activities. Without it, we leave our lives to chance. With it, we’re exponentially more likely to get what we want, need and deserve—whether it’s for our careers, our relationships or even for our upcoming holidays. 

Here are five ways to plan for a happy holiday. 


There’s no point in spending any more time lamenting what you can’t do this holiday season. Instead, find some quiet, alone time to devote to thinking through what you want to do, who you want to see, how you want to feel and what you want to look back on once the season has passed. 

During this reflection, forget—just temporarily—what the people in your life want from you. This is a time to get into your own head and figure out what you need. There will be plenty of time to take care of everyone else after you make your plan. 

Do you want to ignore the holidays this year; spend them alone; skip the decorations and gifts and food prep? Think to the end. How will you feel on Jan. 2 if you do that? Regretful? Guilty? Relieved? Relaxed? 

Don’t just wave them off because the pandemic won’t accommodate your traditions. Don’t skip the holidays just because they’re not holidays-as-usual. If you really want to be alone or otherwise take a pass on the holidays, do it because you have thought it through, decided that is what’s best for you, and are sure you will be OK with your choice once it’s too late to change it. 

In other words, if you want to skip the season, do it on purpose. But don’t let it skip you simply because it snuck up on you before you had a chance to make that decision for yourself. 


On the other hand, you might want to embrace the holidays, even if it’s not in your usual way. 

In that case, spend your quiet “think” mulling over what you want and need from the holidays this year. 

This is a bold suggestion because we usually just do what we’ve always done—or what our families have always done, or what our children or spouses want us to do. Sure, we had to plan the dinners and the decorations and the gifts and the schedules, but as happens when we’re keeping our traditions, we’re on auto-pilot when we do all of that. 

And chances are good that you reap plenty of benefits when the work is finished and the fun is over: love, time with family, joy, warm memories. 

You didn’t have to think about that. You just had to make it happen. 

This year, you do have to think about it. You get to think about it. 

So what do you need from the holidays this year? Peace and quiet? Family time? Spiritual renewal? Time off? 

You won’t get what you need if you don’t know what you need. Take the time to know what you need. 

Then—again—think from the end. What do you have to do to get what you need? 

Like Santa, make a list and check it twice. Write down your goal, and then write down every single thing you need to do to meet that goal. 

It’s really no different from the kind of planning you do for a project at work, or when you’re throwing a party, or before you go on vacation. 

You make your to-do list so you won’t forget anything. And then you get to work making it happen. 


A big part of any plan is getting your to-do list onto your schedule. Deciding what you’re going to do and when is the best way to make your holiday planning a priority, devote time to it, and get everything done before the big day. 

Incorporate the little tasks into your regular daily schedule: a run to the grocery store, putting the ornaments on the trees, wrapping the gifts. Then, block out chunks of time for the heftier projects: shopping for gifts; cleaning the house; cooking the meal.  

Keep to your schedule just as you would if the project were for work. Meet your own deadlines and you’ll avoid rushing around in a panic at the last minute. 

Reach Out 

If you accept this one thing about yourself, you’ll cut your work in half: You can’t do it alone. 

So reach out to family members to pitch in with the shopping, cooking and cleaning. Delegate the pandemic-necessary jobs that you’ve never had to do before, like setting up socially distant tables and portioning out slices of pie and home-baked dinner rolls so the family doesn’t have to congregate around a buffet table. Turn your kids into family spokespeople so they can call the relatives with holiday wishes and explain why your celebration is immediate family-only this year. 

Involve everyone in the preparations, and everyone can be proud when the festivities go off exactly as planned.  

Follow up 

The better the plan, the better the event. And the more time you’ll have to enjoy the fruits of your labor. 

Be grateful for that. In fact, once it’s all over, take another break for quiet, alone time, and use it to count your blessings. 

A holiday that’s as unique as yours will be this year is the one you’ll remember forever. That’s something to be grateful for. 

Dr. Cindy McGovern, known as the “First Lady of Sales,” speaks and consults internationally on sales, interpersonal communication and leadership. She is the author of Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work. Dr. Cindy is the CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting, a sales management and consulting firm. For more information, please visit, and connect with her on Twitter @1stladyofsales and on LinkedIn