Not to brag, but I feel like I’m kind of crushing this holiday season. Don’t kill me.

 

I’m feeling good. I’m getting all the things done – shopping, planning social gatherings, running my business, taking care of my kids, keeping the house pretty tidy and still doing a good three workouts a week. And if I had a nickel for every time I hear someone say “I’m so overwhelmed!’ I’d have that second home in Mexico by now.

 

Three things always keep me grounded and focused on what’s important.

 

Lists, mise en place and a solid morning routine (and a s**t load of help).

 

I looked at this chaotic month on December 1st with an almost overwhelming list of to dos –  from holiday cards, performances, family, friend, teacher/coach gifts to buy and running a household to wrapping 1000 gifts. Oh and running a business by myself and all that entails! Plus a healthy pour of social obligations. But then I remembered –

 

I don’t do overwhelm.

 

It just takes a realistic plan and a way to set yourself up for success. It’s gonna take some no’s. I’m a pen and paper girl so I list everything that must happen, that might happen and some maybes, before Dec.24th in a plain ole spiral notebook. Then I begin to pencil things into my calendar. I slot out time for every task generously because things always take longer than you think. Then I start pruning the list.

 

It’s a big puzzle. How will it all fit? Once my non-negotiables like my teaching schedule, kid activities and workouts are in, I puzzle in all the other things. I address cards while watching TV at night. How many nights will it take? About 4. I set slots of time from 15 minutes to 3 hour chunks between my work hours for various tasks from phone calls, writing, studio admin, online shopping, a stop at the post office, even cooking.

 

I made time for the holiday stuff I love like taking my daughter to The Nutcracker and going downtown with my family to see A Christmas Carol. But I’ve said no to other things like deciding not to host a holiday boutique or open house at my studio because that would send me into overwhelm zone and I don’t want to go there.

 

The other thing that keeps me organized, sane and calm is twofold – mise en place and my morning routine. Mise en place is a French culinary term for ‘everything in place’. In practice this means, the night before, I set out my coffee pot with filter and my preferred cup ready. I pick out the clothes I will wear the next day including workout clothes in my bag. I also set out my computer, charger, journal, calendar and pens in my spot on the dining room table. Ready to go.

If I’ve done my mise en place, my morning routine goes smoothly and I’m not hunting around in the dark for the pen I prefer or that pair of underwear that doesn’t show under my white Alo leggings.

I wake up a good hour and 15 minutes before my kids so I can start my day joyously…and quietly. I brew my coffee (now half caf/decaf), shower, a short meditation and settle in to do my morning pages, a practice I’ve done almost everyday since the 90’s.

 

Taken from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, morning pages are a big brain dump. I just write write write everything bugging me, whatever’s on my mind, things I want to work on. Anything. Just get it out. After that, I’m clear and calm and focused to receive my kids, get breakfast going, school lunches made and attack the day.

 

“I don’t do overwhelm” has become my mantra. I believe if you plan with lists and you edit so the list is actually feasible for a human in a day and you get up early enough to do a morning routine to center your brain before the craziness starts, you can do anything.

My lists give me the whats, whens and wheres. And there’s nothing better than checking those boxes off your list. My morning routine coupled with the night before mise en place sets me up for success and it works every time. Chaotic mishaps happen all the time but with this centering practice I can handle what inevitably comes up with clarity.

 

But who’s kidding who? ‘Not doing overwhelm’ and staying calm and joyful also takes help – it takes a village! Thanks, Hillary Clinton. I’m no Super Woman. I have a rockstar husband who shares equally in kid and household duties. I have an amazing housekeeper who helps keep my house in order. I have a self-care team of a chiropractor, massage therapist, Pilates and yoga teachers who keep me upright, pain-free and fit. I have friends who let me vent at times. I have an awesome business coach who helps steer my business in the right direction. I have my beauty people for hair and skin. We have a super babysitter. We can’t thrive on our own. It takes a behind-the-scenes crew to be able to accomplish the important goals we have. I have zero guilt for that. And neither should you.

I challenge you to set up a centering morning routine for yourself, set everything you’ll need for a successful morning the night before and write a reasonable to do list for the day and just try not to have a good day. Say goodbye to overwhelm!