Each work day you strive to keep scheduled appointments, prioritize tasks, complete projects and keep everyone on track. That can result in an exhausting day, and when you get home, you have to do the same things with your family. How can you possibly fit in more to prepare for the holidays?

If you find yourself dreading the holidays because the added activities represent added pressure and expectations, then it is time to stop and reconsider your approach. The season comes around every year, and it is supposed to be a happy reconnection with family and friends. Using the skills that make you effective at work can make holiday preparations easier to handle.


You know well in advance that these dates are coming up and that they will cut into your regular routines and responsibilities. However, you often end up in crisis management mode, trying to get last-minute tasks done. Take time, before the rush starts, to schedule the activities, family meetings, gift shopping, card writing, baking and decorating. They are going to get done sooner or later, so why not sooner? Start to book them into your calendar now.


Since you may not be able to get to everything, choose the items that are most important to you this year. These are your "A" level, high-priority focuses, and the ones you definitely want to accomplish. If you finish in time and can get to the "B" level jobs, that is great, but if not, you can still have a successful holiday season.


Begin with a family meeting to discuss plans for the season. Share the shopping, cooking, cleaning and other responsibilities. Involving others can bring the family together for a more meaningful celebration. Using project management techniques, you can delegate chores and track the progress of team members.


Establish guidelines as to what you can spend and stick with those. You may choose to involve the family again. It is a great lesson for children to understand spending limits. Everyone wants to be generous with gifts, and you can be trapped by impulse buying. That sinking feeling when the bills start to come in January is no way to begin the new year.


Once the project is over, you can "file" the components. Purchase appropriate containers ahead of time. In this case, large tubs with lids are a good way to sort. Group all tree items in one tub, outdoor decorations in another, kitchen items together, etc. Make sure you label them on the outside so that next year you can pull just one container at a time as that activity comes up on your schedule. Since you access these only once a year, they can be stored in the attic or basement.


Mark your calendar for a review at the end of December to think about how things flowed this year. What changes would make it smoother next year? At this time pencil in your dates to begin next year's preparations.

Start to look forward to the holiday season now!

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Denise Landers is the author of Destination: Organization. Visit www.keyorganization.com to learn more.


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