If this time of year stresses you out and stretches you thin, our experts will have you throwing parties with ease, appreciating the company of even your quirkiest relatives, and walking out of work early enough to enjoy a swinging social season.
Expert: Annie Lee
WISH: A DINNER PARTY THAT DOESN’T TAKE DAYS TO PREPARE
So you invited your neighbors and family for a Thanksgiving feast? Great idea in theory—but now you have to actually pull it off. Don’t panic, every smart host cuts corners, and done right, no one will be the wiser. First, craft a smart, easy-to-achieve menu. Keep it simple (turkey or ham, not both), and limit the number of dishes you make from scratch. We’re not talking microwavable mashed potatoes, but if your favorite restaurant makes an amazing cranberry sauce, order some and serve it alongside your dishes. And try include more than one veggie option—or your guests will stuffing themselves on starches and undoing their top buttons well before dessert is served.
As for decorating, focus on the overall mood. Cue up some background music that’s energetic but not overwhelming (we think Adele’s newest, 21, is a great blend of jazz and pop). Skip the homemade, paper-cut cornucopias in favor of a few items from the produce department displayed on the table like a fall harvest bounty. Lay some yams near the candied sweet potatoes, nestle some chestnuts alongside the stuffing, and place a pumpkin with a bundle of cinnamon sticks by the pie.
If you’re attending—not hosting—the festivities, be a gracious guest. Be sure to ask if you can bring something and resist the urge to badger your host into serving your grandmother’s famed pecan pie: the courses may already be planned out. Opt instead to bring a bottle of wine. Arrive precisely on time, lend a hand with clean-up and you’ll definitely be asked back.
Expert: Lauren Ing
WISH: NOT JUST SURVIVE FAMILY TIME - ENJOY IT!
We can’t choose who we’re related to, but we can choose when to visit them. If things with your family are really tense, the holidays—and all the expectations that come with them—just exacerbate matters. Perhaps now isn’t the time to take that trip. Opting for an outing in January or February when there’s less pressure, will allow you to head home with a positive mindset.
If you do decide to brave the celebrations with your family, be realistic: Aunt Sue will likely still annoy you and dad isn’t known for his easy-going demeanor—holidays or not. A lot of the disappointment people feel this time of year comes from thinking everything is going to go perfectly. Manage your expectations.
Conversely, don’t go into the weekend anticipating the worst. Yes your mom was hyper critical when you were growing up, but that doesn’t mean everything that comes out of her mouth now has a negative connotation. Give your family the benefit of the doubt and open yourself up to the possibility that this year, quality time with your parents and siblings will be had.
Expert: Nicole Williams
WISH: TO SPEND YOUR NIGHTS AT PARTIES, NOT THE OFFICE
Your social calendar is more packed than ever, but sadly so is your workload. No need to slack off at the office to fit in the fun. Most people actually waste a lot of time while they’re in the office without even realizing it. Here’s how to clock out in time to raise a glass of mulled wine with your friends:
1. Turn off distractions. The internet, phone calls, even a friend stopping by to chat, all play a part in pushing back your departure time. Turn off the ping that sounds every time an email arrives in your inbox, and limit checks to three times daily (arrival, lunchtime, and an hour before leaving). Handle each message immediately by deleting, delegating, or dealing with it yourself. Consider closing your office door or, if it’s acceptable where you work, put on a pair of headphones (even if you there’s no music playing). Office mates will interpret that as a sign to leave you alone.
2. Make a priority list. Don’t amble through the day doing things at random. Each morning make a list of all your to-dos in order of importance. Finish one project before moving on to the next. Backtracking involves extra time spent just bringing yourself back up to speed; completing a task in one fell swoop is faster.
3. Keep your eye on the prize. Hang your party dress on your office door as a visual reminder of why you’re putting your nose to the grindstone. Worried that not burning the midnight oil will hurt your career? Not the case. Bosses like employees who can get through their work professionally and efficiently, and know when to let off some steam.