It's holiday time again! Only how many more days until Christmas?
Despite our early planning, we often still end up with too much to do in too little time. The office work doesn't slow down, but there are so many extra tasks we've given ourselves. Since we're not as effective in the office when we're distracted by outside obligations and feeling the effects of stress, consider some ways to lighten those still-pending, holiday tasks.
For each activity that's still on your to-do list, write it down on an index card. It's easy to prioritize by putting the cards in order. You can delegate a chore by passing a card on to someone else, and you can collect the cards for next year, with all the planning steps already noted. Store them with your other holiday decorations.
• Use your computer to print the address labels. The clear labels are nice for this. Even if you don't have all of your Christmas card recipients entered into a computerized database, it's worth the time to put them in so that they'll be saved for the next years. You have to write them anyway, so why not just do it once? It will be easy to add and delete next time.
• Be sure you have enough return address labels so you're not doing each card by hand. If you run out of cute ones with holiday themes, you can always print up a sheet of plain labels on your computer.
• Holiday postcards are easier. Write a quick note and use an address label. There's no stuffing the envelope, and the postage is less.
You probably have boxes and containers with decorations you've accumulated over many years. It's not necessary to put out everything. With fewer decorations, each one has more impact, and you have less to put away again later. Next year, you can spotlight different decorations.
• Go alone when Christmas shopping. It may be more fun when you have a friend with you, but you will lose time waiting for your friend to make his or her purchases, or going into stores you have no need to be in. If you do go with a friend, consider splitting up and getting together for a snack or lunch at a set time.
• Shop from home using the Internet and catalogs. Be sure you keep track of your purchases - date ordered, date expected, order number, total cost quoted - and put it in your "pending" file to review occasionally so that an order isn't lost and overlooked.
• Think about using gift certificates so that you don't end up giving a present that becomes clutter in someone else's place. Make it easier for others, too, and ask for gift certificates for yourself.
• If you don't like the idea of just giving money in the form of a certificate, consider experience gifts: theater tickets, ski passes, amusement park packages, or a day at the spa.
Don't try to handle it all yourself. Friends and family are always asking what they can do to help. Let them be a part of the preparations. Buying food from a gourmet deli is also OK, if that means you're more relaxed and have time to spend with those special guests.
• To keep up with your efforts to control clutter, make a pact with yourself. For every gift you receive, donate or give away something of equal size.
• If you received a present you don't need, accept the spirit of the giving, but let the material object go to someone who can really use it.
• Ask for your family's input after the holiday. What did they like and dislike? Next year, you can focus on the special activities that had real meaning for your family.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Denise Landers is the author of "Destination: Organization, A Week by Week Journey." She helps businesses and individuals accomplish more with productive office systems. Reach her at (602) 412-3876 or firstname.lastname@example.org.