In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the importance of setting realistic expectations and adopting a Zen attitude regarding the holiday season, as well as the importance of eliminating as many holiday obligations as possible. Today, I offer my best practical tips that have helped me to experience more joy and less stress during the holiday season.
BEGIN HOLIDAY PLANNING EARLY
Would it surprise you to hear that most of the holiday planning books and resources suggest that you begin the planning process in late September/early October? When you begin your planning well in advance of the official holiday season, it will enable you to spread out your massive To Do list into bite-size chunks (always the key to nipping the “overwhelm” in the bud). In addition, you will be able to identify tasks that can be completed well in advance, which frees up more time for relaxation and enjoyment as the holiday week draws near.
CREATE A MASTER HOLIDAY TO DO LIST & CALENDAR
Begin the planning process by creating a Master Holiday To Do list, that outlines each task that you need to complete for the holidays and order them by the month in which the task needs to be completed. Be sure to consider the following broad categories when creating your To Do List:
Holiday Home Preparation – cleaning, decluttering, decorating;
Holiday Hosting – food shopping, menu planning, sending out invitations, cooking/baking;
Holiday Traditions – family portrait, holiday cards, caroling, tree farm, religious events
Once you’ve completed your To Do list, the next steps in your planning process are to 1) estimate how long each task will take to complete, 2) determine a start date and a deadline for each task, and 3) enter these dates into your holiday calendar.
CREATE A HOLIDAY PLANNING NOTEBOOK
A holiday planning notebook is the most essential tool for maintaining your sanity this time of year. The planner should serve as the home for all information, resources, and planning tools you need to accomplish the tasks on your Master Holiday To Do List. In addition to your To Do List and calendar, the holiday planner should contain the following:
The notebook can be created using a variety of formats; I suggest using a 3-ring binder with page protector inserts to contain your papers. The good news is that there are several fabulous online resources for creating a holiday planning notebook so you don’t need to start from scratch! My favorite resources for free holiday planning printables are the Organized Christmas and Christmas Your Way websites. Both of these websites offer a holiday calendar and a master Holiday To Do list, as well as many other blank checklists, inventory sheets, and shopping lists. No need to reinvent the wheel, right?
USE HOLIDAY PLANNING APPS
If you prefer electronic over paper organizing solutions, there are a ton of holiday planning apps out there for you to explore. Some apps assist with managing your gift purchases/budget, while others assist with holiday meal/menu planning.
DELEGATE HOLIDAY-RELATED TASKS
A primary cause of holiday overwhelm is the belief that we have to complete all of the items on our Master Holiday To Do list ourselves. This year, I invite you to challenge that belief and explore ways to delegate the responsibility for some tasks to others. Have your kids stuff the holiday cards into the envelopes. Divvy up the gift shopping list between you and your spouse. If you are hosting a holiday dinner party, make it a “potluck” so that you are preparing only the main course instead of the entire dinner.
Alternatively, consider hiring professionals to outsource certain tasks (a handyman to install exterior lights, a professional cleaning service, a printing company to address and send out holiday cards). The small investment will pay you back tenfold in the form of reduced stress!
Do you have a favorite holiday planning tool, resource, or method? Let me know about it; I’d love to check it out!