life Planners Work

End of the Year Madness: An Analysis

December 15, 2020

Every year it hits, and every year I am surprised about it.

We aren’t even one of those families who does 93434 holiday events. While I love a good Charlie Brown Christmas, I wasn’t raised with Christmas traditions per se, so the pressure shouldn’t be so high.

And yet.

Here is my analysis as to what makes the end of the year feel so frenetic:

1- Fitting in a month’s worth of projects and meetings in ~2-2.5 weeks worth of work. Because so many people take the week of Christmas and New Years’ off, it’s presumed that nothing will happen during those weeks. But we still feel the need to close certain loops before the new year, so there are more meetings and projects than ever during the earlier portion of the month.

There’s also the “mid year” and “end of year” meetings that tend to happen – I have 16 resident check in meetings in the next few days (note to self – maybe do half of these in January next year?), and Annabel has a school conference. It’s also the heart of residency interview season which is a very busy time from a program director standpoint.

Clinically, there are also patients trying to get meds filled/appointments done before they have to start a new deductible for the next calendar year. Can’t blame them one bit, but it adds more pressure to the mix.

2- School projects – same deal of everyone trying to fit things in before winter break. Plus, teachers want to make things ‘fun’ at the end of the year. Fun involves sending money, sending gifts, and remembering which dress up day is which (well, if you’re good about that sort of thing, which I am admittedly not). Annabel has gotten to the point where she understands that keeping track of dress up days is something she can do, and will manage it herself. I love it! (THEN it’s actually fun!)

3- End of year due dates. Stuff just often gets pushed to end of year. We have work “modules” we have to do, I need to send documents to our accountant, etc. At least actual tax filing day isn’t until later!

4- Holiday traditions and gifts. Oh, and also Josh’s birthday + Genevieve’s birthday thrown in there in our house! I am delinquent and haven’t sent Hanukkah gifts/$ to any nieces/nephews yet other than my baby niece (she got Magnatiles!). We do holiday cards though I recognize that’s entirely optional. Holiday bonuses/cards have to be filled out for service workers. Holiday gifts have to be figured out for office staff and GME staff, and residents! (This year the faculty leaders are sponsoring a virtual gingerbread making party for them – which I’m actually kind of excited about!)

This is in a year WITHOUT actual parties or holiday shows and IT STILL FEELS JAM PACKED AND HECTIC.

I don’t have any idea what to do about it really though perhaps 2021 will be the year that I really REALLY do all of my gift buying / wrapping / card writing / etc / early. Like in October. It will seem silly while I do it, but how happy will I be to have that portion entirely taken care of!?!?

ALL that said, I am excited to step away from work from 12/23 – 1/3. It will make the frenzy of the past few weeks worth it and I very much hope I will feel ready to jump into a January calendar with a bit more space and breathing room.

Looks so calm from the monthly view. But looks are deceiving.

PS: Loved the meal planning ideas on Sunday’s post! I am going to create a round up listing all of your ideas, so if you have additional resources to recommend let me know!


  • Reply CBS December 15, 2020 at 9:06 am

    Oof, somehow the holidays have snuck up on me. We moved on the 7th, my birthday is on the 22nd, and then we celebrate Christmas (although just the three of us this year). Childcare is open for a few days over the holiday and since we’re not travelling, my husband will be in the office a few days here and there. So I’ll have some time solo when I’m not technically working – going to work flat out until the 21st and then spend the rest of the time doing house stuff (unpacked but would like to get a bit more organised), reading books, and going for walks if the weather cooperates.

    • Reply Amy December 17, 2020 at 3:16 am

      I have another blogger to add who shares weekly meal plans – The Organised Housewife. looking forward to seeing the roundup! I love seeing what other people make for dinner.

  • Reply KGC December 15, 2020 at 10:07 am

    Something different about this year (which I hope continues…) is that nearly all retailers that are of interest to me started their black friday sales early. Consequently, I was 95% done with holiday shopping before Thanksgiving and it made A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE. Same goes for getting holiday cards out (they were ordered mid-November!).

    As is typical, ‘moms bring the magic’ so I am generally the one making our holidays merry and bright and this is literally the first year since having kids that I feel like I actually have the bandwidth to do so – mostly because of being able to start it all much earlier (and having an extra 2 hours a day to do stuff now that I’m not commuting). So I’m totally with you on getting some of this done in October or early November…my hesitancy to do so in the past has to do with the fact that there are SO many deals on Black Friday and waiting does seem to pay off. But now that I’ve had a taste of how nice it can be to not be rushed, I may just suck it up. Or hope that retailers had a good experience with starting sales early and do it in the future!

    This is a very long way of saying that YES you should try to do some of this stuff early next year and I bet it will make the end of 2021 feel less crazy! Also best of luck getting through it all. I may have the holiday shopping done but all the other stuff you mention (minus family birthdays) still exist so it’s not like I’m off scot-free =)

  • Reply Gillian December 15, 2020 at 11:46 am

    YES!!! My patient flow increases dramatically at this time of year. I am supposed to see 36(!) people on Thursday and now we have a big winter storm coming and there is no where to move them. This was always going to be a stressful week for me–Ack!!! Plus all the other stuff you mentioned.

  • Reply LDMN December 15, 2020 at 12:04 pm

    Oooh. Guilty as charged. I just looked at the list of things I want to get done over break and realized I need to revisit. There’s way too much on there… especially if I want to laze about some, too!

  • Reply Beth @ Parent Lightly December 15, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    I always do my end-of-year wrapup meetings in January. Our fiscal year is the calendar year so we are always insanely busy in December.

  • Reply Megan December 15, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    Same problem in our house. Over time, my husband and I’s remedy is the “Fall Busy List”. Before it’s time to order Halloween costumes, we make a list of all the things from your post that pop up from late Oct til end of Dec. We pour a glass of wine and decide what to cross off and not do (some years, the Christmas cards), then we decide what can move (a person with a Dec birthday can move the special dinner to Jan some years), and then we divy up what’s left so we each have a manageable load. It doesn’t SOLVE anything, but gosh it helps.

  • Reply Grateful Kae December 15, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    I always have the best of intentions of starting holiday prep way earlier, but it always feels impossible. In Sept/Oct it’s back to school + busy soccer season here for us, plus I feel like there’s a whole slew of other busy FALL stuff that takes precedence, like finding Halloween costumes, decorating our house for Halloween (we decorate a lot for both Halloween + Christmas), visiting the pumpkin patch. some fall birthdays, wanting to do outdoor things like hikes, etc since we have great fall weather….So by the time all of that is done, it’s basically November and then Thanksgiving shopping/prep/family/etc. and then here we are again cramming all the Christmas stuff into December yet again. Argh. We have the early Dec. birthday for my youngest too which doesn’t help matters.

  • Reply Ashley December 15, 2020 at 3:58 pm

    2020 is the most “on top” of holiday things I’ve ever been. I attribute that to nothing happening — no Christmas programs, no holiday gatherings — and working from home. I was able to start shopping earlier. I’ve been wrapping gifts during my lunch break rather than scurrying at the end. Holiday cards were ordered by mid-November. A lot of the extras that usually stress me out are not happening this year, and that’s been, dare I say, nice!

  • Reply Michelle December 15, 2020 at 5:01 pm

    As an eye doctor, I have always worked the week between Christmas and New Years, and it is our busiest week. I dread it every year because it seems like everyone in the world has off but me… I definitely picked the wrong profession.

  • Reply Katie December 15, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    I have a tendency to push anything ‘end of year’ related into the first week of January rather than trying to wedge too much into December. This year from the beginning of November I started asking How can I do LESS work and make space for MORE Christmas joy because I need it this year. Starting the ‘pre-Christmas’ prep weeks earlier has made it really leisurely and fun, and I’ve pushed MANY work tasks into January, as I always end up feeling like it’s a crappy quiet month for me otherwise, and this way I’ll have lots to dive into with New Year enthusiasm.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 15, 2020 at 6:34 pm

      Ooh that’s lovely!

  • Reply Alyce December 15, 2020 at 7:51 pm

    Maybe it’s the questioner in me who doesn’t respect the end of the year as a meaningful deadline, but it seems like a lot of artificial deadline-making here. I mean, hey, you’re the program director – why not just decide to do all of the check-in meetings in January? If others are imposing end of year deadlines that involve you, have you ever considered asking why is the end of the year the deadline? I’ve found that 98%* of the time I question the meeting, the organizer acknowledges the deadline isn’t real. Or I find that the imposed deadline is because of some issue they identified and there are actually multiple options to address the “time sensitive” issue that doesn’t involve imposing a deadline on me. And the 2%* of times when it is a real deadline – well, great! I can prioritize accordingly, and have a good reason to push back on other non-urgent requests. But I get out of so many unnecessary meetings/urgent deadline by asking why is this happening and do I really need to be involved?

    On a practical note – we give holiday gifts for the various workers in our lives at Thanksgiving rather than wait till December. We can write a nice note of appreciation that explicitly ties into the holiday, we don’t have to worry about personal religious observances, they get the gift in time to take advantage of Black Friday sales, and it spreads out the the big expenses we tend to have at the end of the year (additional charitable giving and shit I buy for myself). A win on all fronts.

    *76% of statistics are made up, including all of these. But I swear, the correct percentage would be really really high.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 16, 2020 at 5:34 am

      Oh it’s SOO self-imposed! I mean, I have to report to GME by end of Jan but could totally have done some of those meetings later. I think my Upholder nature has me thinking of things as more rigid than they actually are and next time I am going to try to purposefully counteract that 🙂

      Interesting about the holiday bonuses/gifts at Thanksgiving! Something to consider!! At work there is definitely a culture of giving in December but for other service providers I could totally go earlier.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa’s Yarns December 16, 2020 at 10:37 am

    I usually order and get my cards sent out around thanksgiving so that is crossed off the list. That isn’t happening this year since we had a baby 12/3! But I am hoping to take some pics of the baby today and get the birth announcements ordered so that is off my list of things to do. I don’t write in the cards and i print labels so it’s very easy/not very personal but oh well!! Gets the job done and I am happy to get cards from others and don’t expect a personal note.

    I am enjoying having no holiday parties this year. I usually have 2-3 at work. Not this year!! I’m an introvert and the parties are always after work so it makes for a long day. I do enjoy my husbands, though, but hopefully next year we can resume that tradition. It was always a nice date night for us. This year they got us a huge box of omaha steaks and meat – as a minimalist we appreciate a consumable gift!

    I don’t have any other end of year stuff at work since I am not a manager. Our self reviews are due in mid November which is nice as it takes something off your plate as you approach year end. The last weeks of the year are quiet for us usually but I know it’s totally different in the medical world where people want to get things done when the deductible is met and they have FSA money to spend!

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