Know How to Achieve the Perfect Family Christmas
As I write this, Christmas is only three weeks away. It’s a wonderful time of year.
But it’s also a time when extra demands on your time mean that busy diaries become busier.
And many parents find their stress levels rocketing!
The secret to achieving the perfect family Christmas, lies in taking a little time each day to plan. To follow the basic principles of daily planning.
Here’s a brief reminder of these simple principles.
1. Have a diary, a “master to-do” list and a daily plan:
Most people have a diary – it doesn’t matter whether it’s digital or good old paper.
But now, more than any time of year, you must ensure that it’s kept up to date.
And in a family, that may mean keeping on top of at least 3 or 4 diaries!
Because at Christmas there are so many extra things to fit in.
At school there will be parents’ evenings, school concerts, carol services, and assemblies.
The whole family will have invitations to Christmas parties.
There’s “last posting” days. Visits to relatives to celebrate Christmas and to deliver and collect Christmas presents.
And many other tasks and activities.
There’s probably more food shopping to do than usual and, of course, all that extra cooking.
You need to write all these extra appointments down.
If they have a specific date and time put them in the diary straight away.
Then, add any preparation required to the master “to-do” list.
Now, many people’s problems with time management stem from their “to-do” list.
They have a long “to- do” list, and attempt to use this to plan their day to day activity. The problem is that by its nature this is an “open” list, and things are continually added to it.
So, often the “to-do” list is longer at the end of the day than it was at the beginning – which is very discouraging!
Does that sound familiar?
It is OK – in fact it’s a good idea - to have an extensive, wide ranging “to-do” list.
This should be the place where you capture all manner of things.
Write down actions from larger projects, and your hopes, dreams and aspirations.
It can and should be a mixture of “TO-dos” and “MIGHT-dos”!
But you cannot use it to work from on a daily basis.
With your diary and your master to do list bang up to date, you can now begin to plan each day effectively.
Each day, every day you should take 5 to 10 minutes to create a specific plan for that day.
You can do it at the end of the previous day. (This brings the benefit of letting your brain work on the problems while you sleep).
Or you can do it first thing in the morning – that’s a matter of personal preference.
But whichever you choose, here’s what you need to do.
2. Start with scheduled appointments:
I know this sounds obvious, but every day check the diary.
Start your day’s plan by noting all events and appointments for that day.
And, allow extra time for each appointment. For meetings include the travel time to and from the meeting.
I would also always include a “buffer” of at least 15 to 20 minutes at the end of the meeting in case it runs over.
3. Now look at scheduled appointments over the next few days:
What appointments fall over the next 2 to 3 days? Will these need preparation?
Papers to read? Presents to be bought and wrapped?
Food to buy and prepare?
Travel arrangements to make?
When you have done that, if there is time available, go to the “master to-do” list
Are there any items on there that you can work on, and progress today?
Plan them in.
Scheduling time to work on these things in advance radically improves your effectiveness. And that means less stress at this busy time.
4. Now add minor tasks, but follow the “5 + 5” rule:
As a basic rule of thumb, follow the “5 + 5” rule.
By this I mean plan no more than five major tasks or pieces of work in a day (and it could be less).
And no more than five minor tasks.
[A major task is an activity such as a meeting or an event, or working on something for at least 25 to 30 minutes.
5. Remember the key principles for successful daily action planning:
Keep it short. The less you plan the more you will achieve!
Plan on doing between three and five major things a day and you will get more done.
Identify ONE thing that you will do each day.
Every day, identify the one thing that you must achieve in that day.
Ensure that whatever comes along, and no matter how busy you become, you do that one thing.
Having named it the night before, or at the start of the day will help you focus attention on it.
(It’s surprising how many people struggle to achieve this!)
And remember…however long you think something will take, it will take longer. It just will.
Allow at least one and a half times the time you expect it to take in your plan.
And if you’re new to all this allow twice the expected amount of time.
It is an annoying but unavoidable fact that almost everything in life takes longer than we think.
And certainly longer than we would like it to!
(There is actually a “Law” for this. Hofstadter’s Law. It says “ It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”)
Expect change and be ready to change. No matter how well you plan your day, at work and at home, new challenges will arrive. Don’t worry. You can take these in your stride, and having a clear plan to begin with helps.
First, assess whether this new demand on your time is of a higher priority then what is already planned.
If not, add it to your master “to-do” list and incorporate it in tomorrow’s plan or a plan later in the week.
But if it’s clearly a higher priority.
Or urgent or an emergency [“Mum, I need some angel wings for the nativity tomorrow…”]
then it needs doing.
Don’t worry. Amend your day’s plan BUT, cross off at least one of the activities already planned for the day. Then add that activity back to the master “to- do” list.
For those of you familiar with working with me. Or familiar with basic time management principles none of this will be “new” news.
You can find more in my booklet (free to download) The Productivity Code
But, at what is usually of very busy time of year, I thought it would be helpful to remind you of these simple principles.
And beware. These principles are simple.
But that doesn’t mean that they’re easy.
Especially at a time of year when your diary is under greater pressure than usual.
But stick with them, practice them each day.
You’ll greatly increase your chances of achieving the “perfect family Christmas”– whatever that means in your situation.
If you’d like to discuss any of the points raised here.
Or discuss particular challenges that you face, then please drop me an e-mail to get in touch.
Until next time.
Andy Smith Changesmith Coaching.