Christmas Time Management Tips

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It’s the holiday season and it seems like your life is a whirl of shopping, planning and cooking preparation for the big day. Here are some Christmas time management tips to reduce your stress and get finished early so you can put your feet up with a glass of your favourite Christmas cheer.

Plan Gifts with Family #

Plan your gifts with your family well ahead of the date,. Here are a few tips:

  • Decide on limits or if you even want to exchange gifts
  • Get a list of potential gifts people want – give them what they want instead of stressing over what to buy

You want to start planning gifts early. I use OneNote to capture gift ideas year round. I also use OneNote and my smart phone camera to take pictures of gifts that I notice my wife likes or that I think would work for other family members. I often buy gifts by Sept/Oct especially if they must be shipped.

My goal is to avoid shopping malls in December at ALL costs!

If you do have to go to the mall in Nov/Dec, take advantage of non-traditional work hours if at all possible. I am self employed so I could take a Tuesday morning to shop if need be.

Embrace Gift Certificates #

I know you want to surprise people with the perfect gift, but this is difficult to do. Chances are your tastes are not the same and that tie or lamp will just be shoved into a closet somewhere.

Git certificates are fast and easy and let people pick what they want from their favourite stores. In many cases, they are a more thoughtful gift than a sweater or shirt that the recipient has to pretend they like. Amazon gift certificates are a particularly a good alternative as Amazon sells such a wide range of products.

Shop Online #

Shop online well in advance and your gifts will arrive without you having to make multiple shopping trips. If you are worried about family members opening or snooping in the delivery boxes, use a neighbor’s or other family member’s address. I have used my sons’ addresses to keep gifts for my wife under the radar and I pick them up a few days before Christmas to wrap them,

Make a List and Check it Twice #

I use OneNote to capture ideas and make Christmas lists. I use it for:

  • Gift lists
  • To do lists
  • Fun ideas
  • Invitation lists
  • Food needed
  • Decorations needed and more

Batch Trips #

I recommend that you batch together gift, food, decorations purchases into as few trips as possible. This saves not only time but fuel or transit costs.

Get Help #

Many of us become Christmas “martyrs”- refusing help from anyone. This is short-sighted. Many people genuinely want to help and it can increase enjoyment for both you and your group of “elves.” Here are a few ways to get help at Christmas:

  • Enlist family members to help
  • Use gift wrapping services
  • Cleaning service
  • Catering
  • Delivery service
  • Get others to pick things up for you

Christmas Traditions #

Make a list of your Christmas traditions and look at the list closely. Do all of these traditions serve you well? Do some cause stress? Are there some that your family really isn’t interested in?

Keep only the Christmas traditions you and your family truly enjoy and dump the rest. You can also create or adopt new Christmas traditions.

In my case, two of my old family traditions include home made donuts and a big turkey dinner which I still enjoy and keep.

But some people don’t like turkey. It is all right to change it up and have something else for dinner. Many young couples and families visit both sets of parents at Christmas and often end up at multiple Christmas dinners. So they are getting turkey overload. They will likely be excited to find you are serving a beef or port roast, ham or anything other than turkey!

My wife and I moved to the west coast of Canada about 12 years ago. In our new city, we adopted some new Christmas traditions. One is the Christmas Sail By. The local yacht club decorates their ships with Christmas lights and sails around the harbour in the dark. A spectacular experience and a great night out for me as an amateur photographer.

Another favourite new Christmas tradition of ours is Winter Harp – an amazing Christmas concert with huge harps and other medieval instruments.

Christmas Baking #

Plan to do your Christmas baking 1-2 months in advance. Consider a baking exchange with family or friends where you each make 1-2 square or cookie recipes and then exchange some of your baking so that everyone has a greater section. You can either each do your baking individually or turn into a fun event with family or friends where you all get together.

Cooking #

Cooking for a large group is a lot of work. Don’t be a cooking martyr – ask for help. Even non-cooks can peel and cut vegetables and this gives you company and fun in the kitchen instead of being all alone while everyone else is having fun in the living room.

Party Planning #

If you are planning a party, you can once again use OneNote for

  • Theme ideas
  • Invitation list
  • Needed items

Learn to Say No #

You don’t have to say yes to every social event over the season. Dropping a few events will decrease your stress and give you more time. Just say yes to the events you really enjoy.

Set a Cutoff Time #

Set a target date after which there is no more shopping or running around, just working with what you already have.

Don’t Tie Everything to One Day #

Don’t think of Christmas as Christmas DAY, think of it as the “12 Days of Christmas” or Christmas week. Set up little mini-events where you meet with family or friends over the season instead of just one big day where you try to do everything.

Bored Family Members #

Supper is over and now you have a bunch of family members in your house, usually of multiple generations. You can only visit for so long and youth may not have the patience to just sit around so it is important to have additional entertainment options available. Here are some ideas:

  • Movies
  • Board games
  • Video games
  • Suggest local activities (bowling, billiards, coffee shops, art galleries, hiking, sledding)

Open Houses #

Invite people for an open house come over a block of time (1-5pm or 4-8 pm) instead of for a dinner. This doesn’t have to be on the actual Christmas day. A friend of ours does this on Christmas eve. The nice thing about an open house is that people can drop in for an hour or two then do other things.

Escape #

Reward yourself for all your hard work. Pick a day or 2 over the holidays to do something for yourself such as a spa visit, an overnight in a hotel or cabin or going to a play, concert or gallery you really want to see.

After Christmas #

After Christmas, debrief yourself. Ask yourself what worked really well and what didn’t. Then make a list of changes you want for next year (OneNote). For example, if you were really rushed buying all the gifts, you can schedule to start shopping earlier next year.

I hope you enjoyed these Christmas Time Management Tips. Please share them with others.

Merry Christmas from Captain Time!

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