My Insanely Easy Way to Plan The Holiday Season

Holiday Season Planner

I have a love/hate relationship with the holiday season.

The thing about the holidays is that there is too much to do, too much to remember.

And you still have to do all the normal day-to-day stuff!

If I have to shop, decorate, meal-plan, and cook how the hell am I supposed to do the laundry, too?

A couple years ago I created a two-month Holiday Planner for myself. Sort of by accident.

I made it in a notebook because I have ADHD and I need to break things down into chunks. It was not fancy at all.

I did this because every year I begin to freak out around Halloween. I get overwhelmed with the obligation of it all so I basically shut down and ignore it.

The joy of the holiday season is totally lost on me and I spend two months feeling grouchy.

It’s hard enough getting a Halloween costume together, the idea of cleaning the house and preparing a Thanksgiving meal is just TOO MUCH.

Writing down everything I thought would need to happen to get through Thanksgiving made me feel better. So then I did the same thing with Christmas.

I used blank calendar pages and mapped out what I thought would be good to do each week leading up to the holidays.

Last year I repeated the same process, except I made it look prettier using Canva and I gave myself little reminders and added details like meal planning, and shopping lists. I even shared it with some of my group members.

The response was so positive that I made another Holiday Planner this year.

I added more worksheets to help us break down the meals, the shopping, and even decorating and cleaning. This year’s planner is 20 pages, but it’s still simple enough to follow.

Planning for the holiday season puts you in control so you can enjoy more and stress less. 

My insanely easy way to plan for the holiday season


breakdown of how to use this year’s holiday planner

Holiday calendar

Print out the blank two-month calendar that is included in your planner. This way you can write on it and display it prominently for those two months.

When you get an invitation, immediately add it to your calendar. If conflicts arise, discuss them with your family to determine which invitation you will accept.

Check your children’s school schedule to see what days they have off, and what days you must attend holiday concerts and school events.

Ask for time off at work ahead.

Plan Ahead

The first week in November decide where you are going for Thanksgiving.

Personally, I am not a great cook so I prefer to go somewhere else.

Have the uncomfortable conversations with family and friends about who is invited, who is hosting etc. Do this early, so you get it out of the way.

If you are hosting, make decisions about who you are inviting into your home. Call or email these people so they know they are invited.

This enables you to start thinking about how many people you are feeding.

Check out this Thanksgiving Menu Maker. Seriously, just do it.

Repeat this process for Christmas Eve and Christmas day the week after Thanksgiving.

Keep a running list of attendees and who has responded to your invites using the meal-planning sheet included in your planner.

Holiday gatherings

Many of us with ADHD get stressed out with a busy social schedule. During the Holidays we feel like we should be seeing everybody and doing everything.  But you don’t have to.

  • Pick and choose which engagements are really important to you.

  • Put those engagements directly on the calendar.

  • Decide ahead of time how long you will stay ahead of time.

  • Mentally prepare for crowds and chaos.


Emotional management during the holiday season

Keep your expectations in check when it comes to family gatherings and meals.

We all want a perfect family holiday, but sometimes we become more like the Griswolds than we would like. Accept your family members for who they are. You cannot change them, and you probably shouldn’t try.

No, you probably will not stick to your diet.

  • Try to predict the people and conversations that might trigger you.

  • Always take a moment to think before you speak, you are the bigger person.

  • Remain calm and try to enjoy the people you came to see.

  • Go to another room for a moment if it helps.

Parenting during the holidays

I know this sounds obvious, but often we don’t realize how much our anxiety and stress can rub off on our children.

Understand that your children will probably be just as overstimulated as you are.

Talk to them ahead of time so they know what to expect at Holiday gatherings. Discuss your expectations for their behavior in these situations.

Maintain your daily routines throughout the Holiday Season to ensure everyone is well-rested and healthy.

Gift giving

For those of us with executive function challenges, choosing, organizing and preparing gifts is extremely stressful this time of year.

I have found that when I start early, and use a master list, things go much smoother.

Begin by making a master list of people you need to buy for. Separate the list into the A list – family members and mandatory gifts, and the B list – people you would like to buy for if there is wiggle room in your budget.

Do not feel obligated to participate in office gift exchanges if you cannot afford to do so. Politely explain your financial situation.

Next, determine what, if any, budget you have for gift buying.

Browse online deals beginning after Halloween so that you can get some ideas for the people on your A list. Write down your ideas on your master list.

Look at Pinterest for inexpensive handmade gifts. People really do appreciate something you took the time to create for them.

Take care of your A list before you start on your B list.

The Holiday Planner gift+budget worksheet will help you with this.


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holiday budgetholiday meal planning

Have Fun

No seriously, do something that is actually fun. Build it into your calendar.

Look for ways to celebrate the season that are not just about gifts. This is a great way to begin a new family tradition.

Read books with your children, watch the classic holiday movies. Get all cozy and snuggly.

You really can do it all, it just takes some planning.

Planning for the holiday season puts you in control so you can enjoy more and stress less.

Sometimes all you need is a little direction, and some help planning things out step-by-step.

Download my insanely easy Holiday Planner for just $5



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