The holiday season is almost upon us and like any major project, it is a good idea to identify all the pieces that need to be taken care of in order to ensure that everything comes together by the deadline. The most essential tool for success is using a planning calendar (either paper-based or electronic) to record specific tasks on specific days so you stick to the plan and everything gets done with time to spare.
Here are the things you need to take care of if you celebrate the holiday season fully. Ideally you want to start with creating an Action Plan six weeks before Christmas. However, you may have procrastinated a wee bit, so here’s the condensed schedule:
- 3 Weeks Out – Gift Planning/Purchasing, Holiday Cards
- 2 Weeks Out – Decorating and Wrapping
- 1 Week Out – Meal Planning
If you have the budget, focus on the tasks that you really enjoy and hire out the rest. There are a bevy of services at your disposal including personal chefs, concierge services, decorators, and professional organizers.
I have written about gift and meal planning many times, so I thought I would switch gears a bit and focus on the particulars of sending holiday cards. Whether you send seasonal greetings by mail or electronically, the time to get started is now as this one task has several steps.
1. Gather together all names and addresses – Gather together all your address books, if you have more than one, and any scraps of paper or lists of names. Check with your spouse and children to see if they have anyone to add to the list. Consolidate this information into a spreadsheet or other contact management system. If you set up a simple Excel spreadsheet you can use it to generate printed address labels. And you can create a column to keep track of sent cards so you don’t miss anyone next year.
2. Count the approximate number of people – do a rough count to get a quantity for purchasing cards if you are mailing them. Before you go shopping, check your stash from last year. You just might have enough. And while you’re there, check your supply of wrapping paper, bows, tags, etc.
3. Type up a personal Christmas letter – many people choose to type up their personal Christmas letter and send a copy to everyone. I like this method as it saves time and allows you to pack a whole lot of news into every letter rather than trying to hand write the card and not filling everyone in on the same family news. You can even set it up so your computer addresses each letter personally.
4. Mail Christmas cards within Canada by December 10th or earlier – In light of the Canada Post strike and resulting backlog, you might want to use an online card this year from a service such as BlueMountain.com. Your goal is to have mailed cards arrive the week before Christmas so it gives the recipient a chance to send you a card if they have forgotten! Fingers crossed it all works out.
If you need more holiday planning tips, check out my Herald Homes column in print or online during the month of December. And in the meantime, care to share your best tip for preparing for the holidays?