The holidays will pile on many more “shoulds” on your already full plate. I should do this… I should do that… I should be doing this faster. It is easy to get so overwhelmed by the things we should be doing that we are much less effective on what we actually are doing. Here’s how to avoid the “I should be” ambush and keep your holidays and your life more relaxed and effective.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up - It’s Bad For You

“I should plan for Friday’s meeting”, “I should be working out”, “I should catch up on my emails", "I should get the house decorated”, “I should get my holiday shopping done”, “I should see my grandmother”, “I should find a financial planner…”  If we let these type of “should be” thoughts regularly run through our minds we can keep ourselves in a constant state of distraction and guilt. This “should do” guilt triggers a release of negative stress hormones that undermine the clarity of and eagerness for our immediate intentions and efforts. When you are on a constant guilt or stress trip - you get tense, uptight, dull, unfocused, burned out. Your productivity, creativity and joy in life go down. Obviously not good things!

This type of gnawing stress can peak during the holidays. If that happens to you here are four proven ways to help shut down your should-do’s. 

Use Your To Don't List

I should do this, should do that…maybe; maybe not. Recognize all your should do’s are actually could do’s. You can choose to do them, or not. There are an infinite number of could do’s that might add to your security, happiness or overall well-being. But pile too many on and you will detract from many of those good outcomes. Be selective about what you put on your “to do list” and choose to put more things on your “to don’t list”.  It’s important to say “No” to yourself or others, when the outcome will be better than saying “Yes”, at least for the time being.

Schedule It

Make sure your selected to do’s are not just on a list. Each one needs to be scheduled on a specific day, not just on a to-do list somewhere.  We call that a WIN®.  When you decide to do something WIN with it, Write It Now in your calendar on the day you intend to do it.  If you want to block a specific time for it that can be even better. WINing keeps things you really want to do from falling through the cracks and stressing you out more. It also helps you escape the “I should do ambush.”  When you are focusing on something and another Should-Do pops in your mind, just say “No, I have that scheduled and I will address it then.”  It’s not a should-do now; it’s a will-do later.  If it is not scheduled but is something you want to do, take 20 seconds to WIN with it and move on. You know you have it saved in your calendar so you don’t have to save it in your head.

Clarify Your Priorities

To travel as straight a path as possible to your most daily priorities you need to be clear on what they are. When you start your day look at your daily calendar page and clarify your priorities by labeling each to-do as an A,B, or C.  A’s are must do today.  B’s are nice but not necessary to do today. C’s are things that could be postponed for a while or may not be necessary at all.  If you have multiple A’s prioritize each A as A1, A2, A3 etc. Start on your A1 and stay with it until you finish or can’t progress on it anymore at that time. 

You will get more done this way than losing time unnecessarily jumping around between priorities. The added benefit of staying out of B and C land is that it insures you are getting your most important things done for that day, instead of less valuable  B’s and C’s. I expect like me you are already aware of this simple method but it helps me to reinforce it from time to time to keep myself on track.

Schedule Shower Power Moments

There is great value in planning and in scheduling your plan. However, it is critical to realize that some of life’s greatest values come from unplanned moments. Having nothing to do fills us with a sense of freedom and release. By scheduling and creating unplanned time you can clear your mind, restore your energy and experience some of the most meaningful emotions life has to offer. Here’s how taking a shower will help you make that happen.

A lingering warm shower cuts us off from all outside sounds, sites & distractions. Our minds actually relax and clear out the buzz and fuzz for just a few minutes. We are just there, in the moment, enveloped by the warmth, the massaging touch and the soothing patter of the water cascading over us. We give our brain a break from our should do’s.

To add balance to your life, intentionally create those shower power times during your day.  Turn off ALL your technology. Then take a stroll in the park or the parking lot. Take a quiet drive or bike ride. Find a quiet place to close your eyes for 20 minutes. To improve my focus when doing intense mental work I make it a habit to break every 25 minutes for 5 minutes of shower power, head clearing time.  It is both relaxing and recharging. No should do’s allowed as they are already scheduled for another time.

So take a long warm shower. I mean that literally as well as figuratively. Un-stress and clear your mind so you can hear yourself. Schedule intentionally relaxed unplanned time. 

In closing I want to thank you for your readership and feedback this year. I sincerely wish for you a wonderfully memorable and joyful celebration of your holiday season.

Jim Bird

About The Author:

Author: Jim Bird
Jim Bird is the founder and CEO of, the internationally recognized leader in increasing organizational performance by developing leaders and employees who succeed in both work and life. He champions work-life balance as positive achievement and enjoyment every day by delivering work-life and leadership training that increases organizational and leadership success both professionally and personally.

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