This goes against everything I have told you about time management so far. It might even go against what I believe as a health professional. But holidays are an insanely busy time like no other, so my recommendations are like no other time during the year.
Normally, I believe that to-do’s and tasks should be placed on your calendar so you can block out the time needed to accomplish them without the stress of a mile-long to-do list that is never complete. Normally, I believe in saying “no” and respecting the boundaries of what you can realistically do in order to maintain your health. I still believe in these things, but holidays are not your normal routine. Expectations are high and the pressure to do more is very real.
I still believe that everyone can benefit from streamlining and simplifying to that which is really most important during the holidays, but I know that many of you are reading that and thinking “blah, blah, blah…tell me how I’m going to get it all done.” So, I felt the need to share some of my strategies for being ready to tackle some serious task management at a moment’s notice.
I want to remind you that you can’t please everyone; there may be some things that you have to accept will be cut from your list. Most importantly, you will NOT have the energy to make it through the holiday season without getting sick or worse unless you take good care of yourself. Being ultra-efficient means you are going to have to eat right, exercise, get sleep and take a minute or two on your busiest days to stop. To breathe. To go to a quiet place – bathroom, closet, where ever you have to retreat to find peace and quiet.
Now that you have been properly oriented, let’s get started. Holiday efficiency is all about organization. If you have to go back to a store and wait in a painfully long line twice because you forgot something on the first trip, you just cost yourself some precious time. Whether it is shopping, party planning, or traveling, being prepared is the secret to a smooth holiday season.
To help you be the perfect planner, I have created a few worksheets that will really help. The first is my Ultra Efficient Holiday Task Planner. I broke down November and December into individual weeks and included some common task reminders. There is extra space for you to add your own personal to-do’s – church pageants, family traditions, and other engagements. The more you work this planner, the better off you’ll be. Get in the habit of making to-do lists for all of that holiday metal clutter. When you have a mind full of chatter, it is hard to focus and accomplish anything.
Plan to complete tasks a week or two before you need them done to prevent the stress of unexpected delays. Keep your list with you so you can cross something off when even 10 minutes unexpectedly opens up or you are running an errand and the chance to accomplish a task is available. You might want to put these pages in a binder with other supplies and information to help further maximize your time. For instance, if you have holiday cards, stamps and printed address labels with you when are waiting for a doctor’s appointment or on mass transit during your morning commute, you can knock out assembly.
The second worksheet is my Holiday Budget Planner. There are two sizes – a large format (8.5”x11”) or a smaller version that is perfect for carrying with you for impromptu shopping opportunities. It is not only a great place to keep track of who you need to buy for and ideas on what and where you buy those gifts, but it helps you stay within your pre-determined budget. This will save you a lot of stress in January! Be sure you take the time to list everyone you will buy for, including extra gratuities and donations you plan on making, then total and make sure it is a number you can afford. Don’t forget to include the cost of decorations, gift wrap and shipping, holiday traditions and outings, and extra food or hostess gifts. Aside from our gift giving alone, we can spend a lot of money other ways during the holidays and you don’t want to be surprised by the added expense.
Remember that some of the most thoughtful gifts can be the ones that cost the least – giving of your time, something thoughtful from your kitchen or a photograph or letter from a memorable day. Gifts should reflect your heart-felt sentiments rather than a dollar value.
Taking the time to use these worksheets will save you in the long run. Be sure to take care of yourself and save some time for actually enjoying the season. We put so much work into making holidays special that we should savor the joys that this time of the year brings.