Today is day two in our two-week Christmas series: Organizing Your Way to a Simple Christmas.
Money and budgets may be thought of as the main sources of stress during the holidays, but calendars and schedules are at least equally responsible!
Trying to balance family time and social obligations, shopping and making gifts, baking and entertaining and still finding time to focus on the “reason for the season” can stress out even the most laid back person.
The key is deciding which activities are really important to you and then keeping a detailed calendar — not just of events and obligations but also as a way to make sure there’s time to make, buy and wrap gifts, send cards, bake cookies and everything else you want to do between now and Christmas.
Enjoying It All
So how do you juggle it all without just saying no to everything?
As someone who loves everything about Christmas, I won’t be the one to tell you to just automatically cut all of those activities out so that you’re not busy this holiday season. I believe it’s okay to be busy during the holidays if you’re busy for the right reasons — enjoying your family, making memories and blessing other people — but if you’re stressed out by everything you want to do, you have three choices:
1. Stay stressed out and miss out on an opportunity to enjoy it all.
2. Cut out some activities until you’re less stressed.
3. Find a way to manage your schedule so you can do the things you love without getting stressed out.
Making Choices About Your Calendar
To start, how do you decide which activities are worth your time?
Start by choosing your activities carefully. There are a lot of expectations and obligations placed on families during this time of year, and those are often a major source of stress.
Visiting family, volunteering and going to see Christmas lights are all good things. But if you don’t have time to do everything without turning into Scrooge (and I speak from experience here), then you need to prioritize and choose those that matter most.
For example, you may not be able to attend 2 or 3 different family get togethers on Christmas Day this year. Try inviting everyone to you instead.
Likewise, volunteering and charity are good, but there’s no reason you have to cram it all into the holiday season. Choose one opportunity to give this season, and spread the rest out over the rest of the year instead of trying to do it all at one time!
Sending Christmas cards, baking cookies and making thoughtful gifts are also all good activities, but you have to decide which are the best and plan your holidays accordingly. Remember how your momma always said, “It’s the thought that counts”? Well, cards, cookies and gifts made out of obligation rather than love are really no better than nothing at all.
Above all, know what your priorities are ahead of time so that you can continue to prune your calendar if needed as we get closer to Christmas.
Finding the Time
Once you’ve decided which events and activities are important to you, how do you make sure there’s time to get everything done?
If you’re holiday plans include making gifts, baking cookies, visiting family, volunteering and looking for ways to make memories with your children, but you don’t plan on starting any of those activities until after Thanksgiving, chances are you’re going to end up stressed.
Instead, start your holiday plans now and enjoy the preparations for the holiday before the busyness sets in.
:: Bake cookies now and freeze them until you’re ready for them.
:: Begin making homemade gifts.
:: Start your Christmas shopping.
:: Wrap presents as you buy or finish making them.
:: Get your Christmas cards addressed and ready to go.
Creating a Calendar
With that in mind, I’d encourage you to take some time now to look at the calendar and begin planning your Christmas preparations and schedule. Work backwards and choose a date that you’d like to be done with gifts, baking, etc. so that you can enjoy the rest of the time with your family. I usually try to be done two weeks before Christmas (although there are always last minute things to do!).
Next, think through the list of things you need to do: buy gifts, make gifts, wrap gifts, mail gifts, send Christmas cards, bake cookies, etc. Put each and every activity on the calendar. We’ll talk about handmade gifts tomorrow, so you may need to wait until you decide what you’re going to be making and for whom before you can add the detailed tasks — such as, “Finish knitting scarves” — to your calendar.
By assigning each task a specific day or week to be completed, you’ll have a better idea of what you can realistically get done and a calendar to help keep you on track.
Today’s task: Use the Christmas Master To-Do List printable to make a list of all the preparations you need to do this holiday season. Then transfer everything onto the Christmas Calendar printable, assigning specific days and weeks for each activity. Begin adding family and social obligations to the calendar as plans are made as well.
Do you enjoy the busyness of the Christmas season, or do you feel burdened by everything you’re “supposed to” be doing? What activities are the most important to you? Which are you thinking about eliminating this year?