The holiday season comes faster every year. It seems like Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations now appear in stores simultaneously….before Halloween.
There is one nice thing about decorations and other holiday items appearing so early – it’s easy to get a head start on planning holiday parties and gatherings if you can purchase these items and squirrel them safely away until the appropriate moment to bring them out.
The holidays should be a joyous time of year, but all too often it is more stressful than anything else – both for people planning family gatherings and holiday outings, and for the people who attend them!
If you work full-time and are also the designated planner for holiday parties and gatherings, here are a few tips to help you plan great gatherings, while at the same time remaining stress free and productive at work.
It all comes down to planning and forethought.
# 1 Meet the “Planning Fallacy”
Planning an event is always more work than you think it will be. Something will always come up to complicate matters. As a result, it’s wise to start planning holiday gatherings and events as early as possible.
Invest in a monthly/weekly planner at the very least, or print out a few calendar sheets from the internet to use to assist you in your planning.
Starting a Google Calendar online, specifically for your family is a good idea. Everyone can update it and plans can easily be seen.
#2 Know your dates
Depending on where you work, you may know well in advance how many days you will get off for each holiday in any given year.
If you know the days well in advance, that will assist your planning, of course. It will also make your work environment less stressful because you’ll know the dates for any deadlines!
If you work in a profession where you are “on call,” and won’t know what days you’ll have off until a week in advance or maybe even the day before, plan as if you’ll be able to attend your own party, but have a contingency plan in case you do have to work.
#3 Keep a Sense of Humor
And on that note, let’s segue to a very important consideration – keeping your sense of humor.
No matter how well you plan, there will always be “a fly in the ointment. The monkey in the wrench. The pain in the ass,” to quote John McClane from Die Hard.
The more contingency plans you make, the better. But you can’t plan for everything. So just be prepared to go with the flow and see the humor in anything that may go wrong.
#4 Put together some committees to help
Having a committee – even if it just consists of you and one other person – to help plan events can make all the difference to your stress level during the holiday season.
In addition, delegating tasks to committee members can also be more efficient. You don’t need to do everything, so you can make sure that what you do have to do is done right.
A “committee” is a term most often used in the workplace, but if you’re going to recruit family members to help you plan your event, call them a “committee” too.
Run your family committee just like you would run one at work. Request regular reports from each “member” on their tasks, so that you know that everything is getting done.
Communication between committee members is key. Make sure each member of the committee keeps a calendar and updates it, and other committee members, on a regular basis.
#5 Develop contingency plans
If you live in an area that gets frequent snowstorms during the winter time, expect a snowstorm to come and plan for it. Have extra food in the house, blankets and so on, in case family members can’t leave the home and go to a hotel for the night as they’d been planning to do.
If you’d been planning for everyone to go on an evening outing to a concert or a play, and the snow or some other event puts the kibosh on it, have the entertainment in your own home. Put together makeshift instruments such as kazoos, for example, and put on your own concert, turning a disappointment into a fun time.
These days, with all our communication technology, there is no reason for someone stranded at an airport to be “alone” on the holidays. They can call you and with Facetime, or SnapChat, or Skype, you can talk and see each other. It’s the next best thing to being there, to coin a phrase.
#6 Know your work responsibilities
You’re planning for your holiday gatherings, but at the same time you’ve got a full workload at your place of employment. In fact, it may even be fuller than normal, as end-of-the-calendar-year tasks may need to be completed.
Since you’ll have committee members to help you with your home holiday work, you’ll have time to do your work as well.
Planning and communication are essential here as well. Are there people you work with who need to give you deliverables before they go off on vacation. Communicate your needs to your co-workers a couple of weeks in advance so that you are all on the same page.
There are many tools that help a business person keep ahead of the curve! For example, if you are in charge of the social media for your company, you can use a bulk SMS service to schedule your social messages well in advance, thus freeing up your time for other tasks.
#7 Holiday parties – good fellowship
Because most work places have a diverse workforce, “holiday” parties rather than “Christmas” parties are typically held.
Whatever your work gathering may be called, remember that its main purpose is to develop camaraderie and good fellowship between you and your colleagues. The sentiments of the holiday season are the same – peace on earth, good will toward all.
#8 Your home holiday tasks
It’s fun to go out the day before Christmas and see the lights and the decorations and to people watch.
It’s not quite so fun if you’re trying to do last minute shopping and have to wait in line to buy things!
Here’s how to ease much of the stress of your own holiday tasks.
- Decide on your party decorations early. If you don’t use the same decorations every year – which would be a nice tradition to develop – purchase them as soon as they show up in stores before Halloween!
- Decide on your menu early. Confirm any food allergies and have dishes suitable for all to eat. Divide up the cooking with your committee members.
- Make a list and check it twice. By purchasing presents throughout the year, you eliminate the need for any last-minute shopping. Gift certificates make great stocking stuffers. If you don’t know a family member well enough to purchase – or make – a personalized gift, give a gift certificate.
- Depending on how large your family is, choose lots, so that each person buys – or makes – a gift for one other person. Too many people go into debt unnecessarily over the holidays. Remember the reason for the season – whether it’s a religious one or one of good fellowship, don’t go into debt!
- After the party is over, pack all decorations away carefully, in boxes or storage containers clearly labeled, and place them in the same location each year, so you can find them easily the next year!
Bonus tip: Bring some holiday joy to the lonely.
If you know someone who will be alone for the holidays, for whatever reason, why not invite them to join an outing with your family?
Or perhaps spend a few hours volunteering – serving at a food kitchen, perhaps, or playing music at a retirement home.
The holidays should be a joyous time of the year. You can help make it so, not only for yourself and your family, but for others in your community. It all comes down to planning, planning, and more planning. And having fun when the planning’s done!