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Method For: Shifting Forward

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I love the Holiday Season.  I love the music, the food, the time spent with family and friends.  I love going to movies, making soup and bundling up for cold walks with Gus. I love all the things! Except the thing that sucks, which is that we can’t pause the rest of life to enjoy it all. The month of December Always feels crowded, stressful and overwhelming. Although most of us enjoy some time off over the course of the 6 week stretch, the majority of the ‘joys of the season’ are layered on top of school, work, sports and everything else that is part of our non-holiday lifestyle. As the joys are layered on the season starts to feel like one big To-Do list with lots of stressful deadlines to be met. Not super joyful. Boo. 

So, in the absence of a lovely Pause button that puts all of the Have-To’s on hold for 6 weeks I have a strategy to help you lighten the load and make space in your life to actually enjoy the joys of the season. It’s about shifting some key things forward and taking care of them now, so there is less on the list to stress about later. There are a few activities that don’t actually have to happen in December even though they seem like they should. It’s about how you organize your time. If you execute on those few things in November then when December arrives you can actually enjoy it because there are less things to do and more time to do them.  It does matter what you shift forward; my list of 3 things below includes a couple of biggies that have stressed me out in past years and are also the ones I hear the most noise about from clients and friends. 


This is the activity that will have the biggest impact on your ability to enjoy December. Make a commitment to finish all of your holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. Start by devoting half an hour to making an organized list of everyone you need to buy for and jot down some ideas to get the juices flowing.  Then fill in the blanks over the course of the week, or better yet just order the gifts online as you think of them (but make sure to make note of what you bought and for who! Use a Notes app on your phone to keep track.) Pull out your supply of gift wrap.  Lots left from last year? Great, use it.  Need an infusion? My favorite wrapping paper selection is the one at The Container Store, have a few rolls shipped to you. If you are really on a roll you can get the gifts purchased and wrapped by the end of November, but only if you aren’t hosting Thanksgiving! 


If there is any kind of holiday baking on your agenda in December use the time you have now to stock your pantry with everything you need. Flour, Baking Chocolate, Vanilla extract, sugars white, brown and confectioners. My planner brain works like this: if I have everything I need to bake on hand then I am more likely to either A) be spontaneous or B) squeeze in baking on a day I otherwise wouldn’t because there isn’t time to bake and (insert whatever activity/errand/chore is on your list for that day.) My efforts at holiday baking often got edited in the years when the kids were small so now I have a big cookie ritual that includes traditional recipes and new ones, elegant packaging and special delivery to friends and family. And I stock my pantry in November. 


Holiday cards tend to cause people a ton of stress and I get it. I have managed to get one out every year (in addition to one of those letters in which I subject my people to all of my family updates) but came perilously close to ditching it a couple of times.  So do it now!  Pick the photos!  Select the template! Order!  Didn’t get a family pic this year? Pick individual photos of each family member.  Have teenagers that won’t smile? Use actions shots from sports or better yet borrow from their social media shots.  Your people don’t care about a picture-perfect family shot, they just want to see you! There are so many sites that make Holiday-Card ordering easy as pie.  So don’t over-process on this one – get ‘er done now and have yours be one of the first on the mantle! 

The other option available instead of shifting forward is to edit completely. You don’t have to send a card at all. You don’t have to bake anything. You don’t have to go overboard on gifting. The more you streamline your life in December the more holiday spirit you will ultimately have. But if you can’t bring yourself to edit, make the shift. December you will be oh so happy! Even taking care of just one of the things on the list above will make a big difference in your ability to enjoy yourself this season. And you deserve to enjoy yourself! I am looking forward to having all 3 of the Powellings home for the holidays and I intend to enjoy every minute with them by taking care of a few big time-suck items now. I hope you do the same! Happy Holidays!

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