Approaching the Holidays Like a Pro

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With holiday celebrations just around the corner, time is running out for getting it all done. So if you’re feeling a little like Santa without the workshop full of elves, we’re here to help.

Mothers from around the country shared with us their strategies for not only surviving the holidays, but creating time to enjoy them. There are only three rules here: Plan ahead, expect the unexpected, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Plan Ahead

Creating a List

If you’re a type-A personality, you probably already have a to-do list handy for all that you’re hoping to accomplish over the next few weeks. But sometimes those lists can create their own paralysis.

Sabrina Lewis, a mom of 3 from North Carolina, recommends making two lists, “One is the list of things that I have to get done that day.” Lewis says this approach keeps her from feeling overwhelmed and, “The other list is things that I can do if I finish the first list and that allows me to stay ahead.”

In addition to keeping you on track, Michelle Emmett, a mom of 3 from Utah, admits her lists also provide much needed immediate gratification, “I enjoy keeping lots of lists and crossing out the things I’ve accomplished and adding new ones and then rewriting the list!”

If you’re at a list loss, there are a few resources we like for getting started. Real Simple Magazine created their Ultimate Christmas Countdown Checklist with monthly and weekly breakdowns. There are also free downloadable list templates with suggestions online, like this one by Simplify101.

If your smartphone is your guide, we recommend checking out Evernote, Wunderlist and Clear apps. Fast Company provides its own rundown of reviews for “5 Free Apps for To-Do Lists.”

Shop Online

When it comes to holiday shopping, once again, it’s helpful to have that ole list handy of who you’re buying for. But the most time consuming piece is generally in the purchasing. Amy, a mom of 3 from Florida, says she tries to do it all from home, “I buy online as much as possible. It’s often cheaper, ships to my door, and I don’t have to spend time in crazy lines with my three little ones!” To really save time and stay focused when shopping online, we recommend limiting online distractions like social media channels and e-mail.

Amy’s other favorite strategy is to add a homemade touch. “We like to make a lot of gifts, too, for family and friends,” she says. It’s often times less expensive and, “When done assembly-line style, it can be done in relatively short amount of time, even with ‘helpers.’”

Expect the Unexpected

Not knowing what might transpire during the holidays can be the most anxiety provoking when trying to plan ahead. That’s where Jennifer Wieland from MySweetSanity.com excels. A self-proclaimed baker, her approach is to, “Make tons of cookie dough, scoop it all and then freeze the scoops on a baking sheet.” She says once the cookie dough is frozen, she seals them in airtight containers so that she can bake them quickly for holiday parties or last minute gifts.

Kristy Hall, a new mom from Chesapeake, VA, takes a similar approach when it comes to gifts. Inevitably, someone she wasn’t expecting will surprise her with a present, so she says, “I always pick up a few extra gift cards in case I need a last minute gift!” She also strategizes how she shops. If you’re buying for friends in different social circles, she advises, “Find a good gift that will be great for multiple people on [your] list and buy several.”

And if making the family meal also falls on your plate, Sabrina Lewis says, “When things get crazy I end up doing a lot of crock pot dinners.” We like the staff picks from All Recipes.com

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

With lists in hand, and planning for the unexpected, all that’s left to do is take it all in.  Idalmis Arias, a mom of 3 from Miami, FL, knows it’s easy to become your own harshest critic, “if you forgot a table decoration or a garland you wanted to put up outside, it’s not a big deal!”

But it can be hard not to dwell on the details. Full of great ideas, the “Pinterest effect” can also create feelings of inadequacy.  Melinda Weiser, a homeschooling mom of 6 from Indiana, says when it’s all said and done, she takes this approach: “I have to tone it down and not try to keep up with having to do this or that just because others do.” She emphasizes taking an individualistic approach, saying, “ I have to seriously look at what will work for our family, and what helps us keep our sanity, and let go of the rest.”

And at the end of the long shopping lines, list making, cooking and gift wrapping, it’s Amy’s advice we hold closely to heart, “Make time for what’s important, i.e., ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, going to special Christmas activities, the local Christmas parade, driving around looking at lights, etc.”

For more on prioritizing your goals for the holiday check out Dr. Henry Cloud’s article on time management

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