Holiday Planning – Step 5 – Recovering Excellence from the Excess!

944233_94159959Introduction to Holiday Planning

Step 1 – Let’s Get Real

Step 2 – List It All Out

Step 3 – Express Yourself

Step 4 – Break It Down


This step is the real turning point where you will find all your work beginning to pay off.  Step 5 is the big AHA moment where you will know with confidence that your hard work is going to make all the difference.

You have your processing thoughts on how this last year went — what you loved, what you hated, what you wish you’d had and you’ve been brutally honest with yourself (here’s a tip:  if you have gotten this far and are still convinced that your fantasy holiday is still within reach, go back over the first couple of steps, but have your family do them with you — you might be surprised to learn that you are spending a ton of effort on something they all hate — or, at least, could do without.)

You have your list of everything you’ve been trying to do in your holidays — you’ve highlighted the things you have to do, and made note of your top several things that you want to do, or  things that you love and that give the holiday special meaning for you and your family.

You have the detailed lists of what is required in order to do those obligations and most meaningful things.

Now you will put it to work for yourself.

For this step you need to pull out your calendar and open it to whatever month you are planning — whether it be December for Hanukkah or Christmas, or November for Thanksgiving, or you want to start with a Spring celebration like Passover or Easter.  Whatever holiday you are working  on organizing, it’s time to make a plan.

Before you actually start planning, though, take a few minutes to fill in the regular obligations you have in that month.  For instance, do you attend a regular place of worship?  Put that on your calendar!  Do you have family obligations that are ongoing (classes, sports, activities)? Put them on your calendar!  Make sure the holidays and any extra important days are marked. For us this includes park days for our homeschool group, any coops we are doing, as well as any educational plans I have scheduled for that time, dance classes, work for my oldest child, church services, and several other things.

Let’s say, for the sake of an example, that you are planning your Christmas and let’s use, for example, a Cookie Exchange you go to every year with people from your office.  I’ve chosen this example because something like this can be an obligation and a huge source of grumbling, or it can be easy breezy and you can show up ready, well rested, and with amazing cookies!  Since we’re making this up as we go, let’s say your event is set for December 8th, which happens to be a Tuesday in 2015.  Make sure you put it on the calendar and now we work back.

Now take your list where you broke down everything involved in this event.  For example, you might have a list that looks like this:

Cookie Exchange

~bake 8 dozen cookies

~ choose recipe

~ buy ingredients

~ make special wraps and recipe tags (and, let’s admit it, this is the part you probably forego when you’re up at 4 in the morning burning your last dozen cookies)

So we know our target date – December 8th – and we know what we need to do to get there!  Now we work backwards.

When it comes to a treat like cookies you want them to be fresh so you can’t cook them too early, unless you are going to freeze them far in advance.  You might opt to prepare the cookie dough in advance and freeze it, pulling it out to bake the cookies fresh. For the sake of this example, let’s say you are going to try and do them fresh and you know you can bake them on Sunday, December 6th.

In order to bake them, you have to have bought the ingredients. If you wait until the 6th to do that, you will find you spend so much of your day at the store that you are cooking late into the night.  So let’s make sure you have your ingredients before the 6th!

Sprouts has double discount Wednesday, so let’s decide that we’re getting high quality ingredients and select a Wednesday prior to the 6th when you will be buying all of your ingredients. Then put a note on the calendar for when you need to have your shopping list compiled.  Let’s say we’re doing December 2nd for our shopping and we are going to make the list of what we need to buy on the 1st (Tuesday).

The only thing left to work back to is choosing a recipe for our cookies.  You might have a favorite and you could do this step now (if you’re really wanting to get a jump on this year, you can do your shopping list for the cookie ingredients and save it in your computer with a note to add it to the grocery shopping trip prior to the 2nd!), or you might want to look around for something new.  I love going through the Living Without magazine for the holidays when it comes out and trying new things.  After doing this for a few years I’m inclined to select a recipe and have it ready and then if something really wows me with enough time to adjust my plans, I might.

Honestly, after doing this for enough years I’ve come to find solace in the things that can be regular and ritualized. I leave my wild and impulsive urges for what I wear to the Cookie Exchange or how my hair looks for the holidays! But not everyone is as crazy busy as I am and there were many years where the latest idea for fancy cookies would totally make it fun for me!

Now we have cookies, made in advance, on a schedule that lets us get enough rest that we don’t have bags under our eyes or flour in our hair! We also have an entire year to decide what kind of fancy wrapping we’re going to do and whether we’re going to attach recipe tags or not.  If you decide you really don’t care, buy some holiday saran wrap (make sure it’s on the list for your shopping in advance of the cookies).  If you decide you really do care, spend some time here and there on Pinterest or in your local craft store and come up with some wonderful ideas!  What you can put on your calendar for now is a date by which you will choose your awesome packaging, a date by which you will have them made, and a date between those two where you will buy your supplies.

You have now successfully woven a holiday obligation into the course of your year in a way that will allow you to attend the event successfully ready, and you will not have to stress about it at all!

The most exciting thing???  Every part of your holiday — and every part of your year! — can be this relaxed and enjoyable.

You can decide today to make 2015 the year you throw your stress away for the holidays!

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