Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Tackling a Large Project During the Holiday Season


The last quarter of the year seems to fly by. Besides writing projects, holiday planning and family activities fill the calendar. Despite how the pandemic has changed our plans, a mountain of tasks remains. What happens if a large writing or editing project comes your way?

In October, an author asked me to edit a 117,000 word manuscript. Since then, two more authors have inquired about my services. I’ve also looked at a couple more projects. Now, how to figure out what I can add to my already jam-packed schedule.

If you’re facing the same dilemma, the first thing to do is take out a piece of paper or fire up your computer—I go the paperless route because it’s one less thing to lose—and make three columns:  family/home, work, volunteering. Under each heading, list all you have to do for the next two months, noting deadlines where necessary. Then the actual work begins. 

Review each item on your to-do list to see if it’s something you must work on, can delegate, or change the deadline on. You must also discipline yourself by eliminating distractions and interruptions and consider if you have the time to dedicate to volunteering. 

Let’s talk more about these and see how to create that realistic schedule you’re looking for. 

Delegate What You Can 

The easiest way to remove things from your to-do list is to delegate what you can. Gasp! You mean I am expected to allow someone else to handle things I only trust myself to do?  

I know how tough it is to give up control of things, because I struggle with it every day. Unless you want the entire holiday season to pass you by without enjoying a minute, you need to ask for help. You can delegate household chores, errands, and meal preparation to other members of your household. Even small children can help keep the living areas of your home clean by picking up their messes before bedtime. Family might gripe when you ask, but they will enjoy a less stressed you and appreciate more time together during the holidays. 

Are These Firm Deadlines? 

If a large project comes your way that you want to add to your already jam-packed schedule, it might mean you have to consider changing deadlines on smaller projects. You should not do this without giving it a great deal of thought. Some things to consider are: 

  • What is the impact to the relationship with this client if I ask for an extension?
  • Have I asked this client for an extension in the past?
  • What is the impact to my business if I can’t meet this deadline?
  • What is the impact to my business if I take on this larger project? 

Once you’ve damaged a relationship, it takes a tremendous amount of work to repair it, if the client even allows you that opportunity. On the flip side, if the new project will have a positive impact on your career, it is worth finding ways to make it happen. 

Going with less than five hours of sleep for a month is not the right way! 

Talk to your clients, keeping them informed of your progress. If it becomes necessary to move a deadline, let them know in plenty of time and be ready to offer them a new “firm” deadline for the completion of the project. 

Planning Ahead 

Planning ahead is vital to creating that realistic writing schedule you’re looking for. Here are some tips:

  • Spend a few hours preparing menus for each week of November and December, including your holiday menus.
  • If your holidays include baking, prepare cookie dough ahead of time and freeze it.
  • Shop in bulk so you can cut back on the number of errands to pick up food, household items, and office supplies.
  • Shop online. I complete over 90% of my holiday shopping online, and I take advantage of gift wrapping services when they are available.
  • Consider pre-printed holiday cards. Remember, your time is also worth something.
  • Ask a family member to bring a side dish to your holiday meal. 

Many of these suggestions will work year round. 

Distractions, Interruptions, and Time Wasters, Oh my! 

Distractions, interruptions, and time wasters can threaten any project, no matter the size. It is especially important when approaching a large project during the holiday season to eliminate all things that steal time away from your writing/editing. 

Setting aside a time during the day to return phone messages and emails will keep you focused on work. It is important, especially when you’re juggling multiple projects and family or volunteer activities, that you discipline yourself not to check email or surf the Internet instead of writing. Don’t fool yourself by saying it will only take a few seconds. It rarely takes a few seconds.  As you train yourself, you can also train your family to respect your writing time and not interrupt your work schedule. 

With many students learning partially or fully remote, you may have less time available in your schedule. Take time at the end of each day to plan the next day’s schedule and write out your to-do list. While you can’t plan for every interruption, put in frequent breaks so you can help with online learning. Post your schedule where family can see it. That way they will know when you’re available to help. In addition, have items readily available to entertain children once their school day ends: books, crafts, and maybe an hour’s worth of television or video games will help.  

Do I Have Time for Volunteering? 

We all like to give back to our community. It sets an excellent example for our children and makes us feel good about ourselves. The problem is we may find it hard to say no even when we don’t have the time. 

Look at your list and see how many items are under the volunteering column, then ask yourself if involvement in all those activities is realistic this time of year. That two-letter word, “no” can be difficult to say, but you’re not saying no forever, just for now.  

Rest Up 

One thing that will reduce stress around the holidays is getting the right amount of sleep. Burning the candles at both ends helps no one, and won’t make you more productive. Get the required amount of sleep each night so you’ll have a well-rested mind to tackle your projects and anything unexpected that comes your way.

You can have a realistic schedule around the holidays that will allow you to consider taking on new projects. Use these tips to help create the balance that works best for you.

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at and her children’s book blog at