I spend my time like I spend my money: on purpose.
This is especially true over the holidays. Because I’m on the road so much during the year, I’m very intentional about how I spend my time over the Christmas break. My priority is to be with my three amazing boys and the rest of my family, and to not get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season.
Being intentional simply means living each day with a purpose. So, before you get caught up in the whirlwind of the season, think about what really matters to you. It all boils down to one thing: relationships. Who is most important to you? And how can you fully enjoy your time together this Christmas? I’ve got six ideas to get you started.
1. Plan creative ways to connect.
Ask yourself this question: What memories do I want to make with friends and family this Christmas? It could be watching classic Christmas movies or decorating gingerbread houses. But here’s a pro tip: A little friendly competition goes a long way! If you love sports, you could organize a family winter Olympics. Or you could plan a fun scavenger hunt for your kids with a big prize at the end. With a little bit of effort, you can capture their imagination and create memories that last a lifetime.
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Remember that being intentional requires planning. Write down your activity wish list, then schedule the activities before time gets away from you. And don’t forget to communicate with your family—get them pumped about spending time together! If you’re excited, they will be too.
2. Don’t feel guilty about saying no.
Okay, can I be real with y’all? I just don’t get ornament exchanges. You mean to tell me that I need to spend money on a ceramic snowflake or a shiny ball, just to give it away in exchange for a surprise ornament that I might not even like?
All right, I’m done. All you ornament lovers can calm down now.
My point is, you can’t possibly attend every party, participate in every gift exchange, or volunteer at every nonprofit. Make a list of the people and activities that you’ll prioritize and say no to the rest.
Guarding your time also means saying no to guilt. Family members and friends may lay on the guilt trip if you decline invitations to meals, get-togethers or parties. Don’t jump on the hamster wheel. It may look like fun, but you’ll be exhausted and irritated (not to mention broke!) if you try to do it all.
3. Go screen-free.
During the holidays, I don’t even check my phone unless it’s necessary. I understand that business goes on even during Christmas, and you might need to set aside time to do some work. But don’t let that quick trip online turn into a two-hour rabbit trail. Your phones, tablets, TVs and computers will drain your time if you’re not careful. Shut them down.
As a leader in your home, you set the tone for how your family interacts with devices. Show your kids how to unplug and have fun without technology.
4. Be strategic with shopping time.
Avoid the holiday rush by shopping before work or late in the evening. You’ll get in and out faster and avoid crowds, crazy parking lots and cranky toddlers who missed their afternoon nap. You could also skip the stores altogether and shop online.
Don’t make the same mistake I’ve made before and put off shopping until the last minute. Get it done early! Plan ahead to avoid the crowds on Christmas Eve so you can spend time with your family instead.
5. Volunteer together.
Serving with your family or friends could possibly be the most fun you’ll have all Christmas. And it’s a great way to teach your children the importance of giving their time and talents to others.
Support an organization that’s doing good work in your community. You can take meals to people in need, give presents to kids in the foster care system, or ask your local church if any elderly members need some yardwork done.
If you have a skill or hobby, get creative and use it to serve others. I know a professional photographer who organizes a Christmas photo shoot and gives beautiful portraits to struggling families who could never afford to pay him.
Giving your time or talents will fill you with joy that lasts long after your shiny new presents have lost their charm.
6. Be present.
Your presence—being fully engaged, excited and alert—is the greatest gift you can give your friends and family. Be aware of your body language and stress levels when talking with your loved ones. Are you relaxed? Are you looking them in the eye? Are you showing them that you care? Wherever you are—whether you’re playing games or cooking a meal—be all there. Multitasking is just another word for distracted.
In 10 years, your loved ones won’t remember what you bought them. They won’t look back on how clean your house was or how good the food was. But they will think of the games you played, the stories you told, and the experiences you shared.
Those memories are worth every second you spend on them.
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