This is a continuation on “Getting a Head Start on the Holidays,” with ways to help you enjoy more of the Christmas and Holiday Season. Today we continue with part two of Secret #1: – Organizing and Planning Ahead.
In the first part of “Organizing and Planning Ahead,” we went over creating a Calendar with a list of events and activities that you and/or your family would like to or need to consider for the coming holiday season.
Once you have your basic calendar and a list of events and activities, you need to look at each item and event and decide if there are smaller tasks that need to be done in order to prepare for that event.
For example, You may have listed sending out Christmas Cards and Letters. To some folks this is a monumental task. But what if we break it down into smaller tasks.
If you like to send relatives and friends a small letter re-capping your activities this past year, start writing it now. Write a little each day and in a few days, you will be almost finished. Then all you have to do is update it prior to sending it out.
The same goes for putting together the address list for sending out those cards and letters. Start with last years list of cards you sent out. Add to that the names of new friends and maybe those folks who sent you cards last year. Do some today and the rest next week. Then review it a week later. This will also give you a count on how many cards to order, and how much postage to buy.
And speaking of postage, add to your Calendar a note to purchase your stamps in Late October or early November.
Now to help you organizer you list a little better, I have put together a list, broken down by month, with tasks and activities that you may want to consider and add to your master plan.
- First things first. Create your Master Calendar for the Holiday Season. Include all personal and family activities, school & religious events, business trips, family trips, concerts, socials, annual parties, etc. Have everyone in the family give their input. Consider all of the activities that you are planning or that you don’t want to miss.
- Make a list of all the tasks and projects you want to complete for the Holiday Season. (Use this outline for ideas and suggestions)
- Next, schedule all of the activities, plus your list of tasks and projects by putting them on your Master Calendar.
- Pull out your old decorations and lights. Decide what to keep and what to get rid of. Have a yard sale, or donate to your favorite charity, the things you don’t want. Don’t go overboard, Remember, most pre-1950 toys and decorations are now valuable collectables.
- Make a list of the decorations you would like to add this year. Then when you are out and about, you will know what you need to purchase.
- Setup a Holiday gift idea file. Use a separate page or folder for each person on your list.
- Start clipping catalog pages, pictures from magazines, and Sunday newspaper inserts.
- Update your holiday card mailing list. Decide what kind of and how many cards you’ll want this year.
- If you include an annual letter with your Holiday cards, start writing it now while things that have happened this year are still fresh in your mind. Simply add to or edit the letter each month until it’s time to print and mail.
- Depending on where you will be spending the holidays, start working on the detailed arrangements. If it’s at home, set up your menu and decoration plans. Double-check school, work and social schedules that may conflict with your travel plans.
- If you are planning to travel, you should be searching now for travel bargains on airfare, hotels, etc. The longer you wait, the higher the prices will be as the holidays approach. If you are planning on using a personal vehicle, schedule any maintenance prior to your travel. Or better yet, think about renting a vehicle. Most rental companies have weekly rates and you are covered if anything breaks down. If you are driving to an unknown location or place that is new to you, check the internet or the auto club for maps and directions.
- Start ordering gifts, especially ones that require special touches or that may be going overseas.
- Start buying a few gift “$” cards each month. Chose popular department and specialty stores, your friends and family shop at. Gift cards are now a very popular form of giving, as they eliminate awkward situation of giving the wrong gift. You can now find display racks at Kroger and other stores with twenty to fifty or more different cards for your favorite stores, restaurants, etc. Check and make sure the gift cards have no expiration dates and no hidden monthly fees. Note: Those receiving gift cards will get an added bonus when taking advantage of after Christmas Sales!
- If you like crafts or making your own decorations, or not, now is the time to start shopping for new holiday decorations. A few shops, such as Michaels and Jo-Anne’s, will have pre-season displays and possibly sales on decorations, candles, lights, etc.
- September is also a great month to start working on your Holiday Diet. (Santa’s are exempt from this!)
- Scheduled a day or days in November and December to bake cookies, make fudge, wrap presents and deliver gifts. If Halloween is also a busy time for you, make sure you have these events, tasks and activities on the Master Calendar, too!
- Make out a list of new things you would like to do this Holiday Season, i.e., attend a holiday concert; see a live performance of the ‘Nutcracker,’ visit a theme park or Holiday Village. See if they can be added to your Master Calendar.
- Either make your holiday labels now or start addressing envelopes. If you do a small batch each week, starting now, you’ll be done before you know it.
- Start checking local Department Stores for holiday decorations and items. The best selections are always available sometime in October, while everyone else is thinking of Halloween.
- Review your calendar again, for changes or revisions. Now is a good time to schedule a few breaks, in November and December, especially if your calendar is getting full. Re-check school, church or other calendars for events that may have changed. Make all of your November and December appointments for haircuts, beauty salon, etc., now before all the good times are booked! Don’t forget your pets grooming too! Add a few appointments in December with yourself. These are buffer times when you can relax, get a massage, go to the movies, and reduce the stress. Plan for some quality family time, too!
- Order your holiday cards if you have them professionally printed. Get your holiday picture taken if you include a family photo with your cards. ( Note: Many local photo studios have special packages for holiday family Portraits, usually in October or November. Some even have photos with Santa!)
- Get out your recipes now and plan your holiday menus. Decide on your favorites. Do an inventory of the ingredients in your cupboards and then stock up when you catch a good sale.
- The Holidays are a tasty time, filled with all kinds of great food. Instead of trying to make it all, pre-order special baked goods, tamales and any special items that you prefer not to make. (Save yourself some time. If a local bakery can make a cake or cookies just as good as or better than you, why not order theirs. Your guests and family will applaud you.)
- Get a Flu Shot. If you’re a senior or someone who is very active, a flu shot can help you keep your immune system in shape. Be Healthy.
- Purchase Holiday stamps for the cards, labels for the computer, and holiday pocket cards for cash gifts. (NOTE: In Mid-October, the U.S. Postal service will issue a new set of four Holiday themed stamps. Other Holiday stamps that might be available in October usually include a Christian themed stamp, a Chanukah stamp, and a Kwanzaa stamp.)
- Complete any catalog or online holiday ordering now before the November rush.
- Decide now, what gifts you would like to receive. Tired of getting something you really didn’t want or need? Afraid you won’t have an answer when someone asks you what you want. Why not be bold this year. Make a list you can give to those you exchanged gifts with. Have a variety of gifts in different price ranges to fit everyone’s wallet. Then when someone asks that dreaded question, you can present them with your very special list.
- Time to get your holiday decorations ready. Decide what you are going to use and where you will be putting these and the new items you bought in September.
- Review your calendar again, for changes or revisions.
- Shop for any food staples or kitchen supplies you need before November 15th. Then all you need to do is your regular weekly shopping or shopping for fresh items
- Address the rest of holiday cards before Thanksgiving.
- Clean the House. Make this a family activity with everyone pitching in. If you want to do something special, schedule a house cleaning company or maid service to clean your home a few days before Thanksgiving or one day in December. You may also want to schedule a cleaning after the holidays.
- Order any special gift certificates you want to give.
- Proofread your holiday letter one last time. Print and insert copies into cards and your pre-addressed, pre-stamped envelopes, ready to mail.
- Decorate your home. You decide whether to do this before Thanksgiving or after.
- Double check your gift lists and wrap all presents.
- Send all of your overseas gifts before Thanksgiving.
- Mail your U.S. cards, letters and gifts on December 1st. Especially packages going overseas.
- Double check your calendar for parties and events.
- Bake, wrap and deliver gifts and greetings to friends and those who cannot visit you.
If all goes as planned, you can now do something special to de-stress. Enjoy your pre-scheduled Holiday massage or day at the Salon.
And finally…. pat yourself on the back for actually getting ahead this year! Now you can relax and fully enjoy all of your Holiday events and time with your friends and family.
Tomorrow – Secret #2 Eliminating Un-Necessary Tasks