Organized & Productive 
November/December, 2013   
Give thanks

Lisa S. Griffith
Lisa S. Griffith 

8 Ways to Get a Handle  

on Your Holidays


Now that "Thanksgivukkah" is upon us, the frenzy of preparations for the holidays really kicks up a notch. No matter which holiday you celebrate, there is always some element of preparation involved for most of us. Along with the holidays come the great burden of expectations and the fantasy of the perfect holiday. Those expectations and unrealistic dreams stress us out, exhaust us, and steal the joy from our holidays. Getting it all done in time and in one piece takes a little advance planning and a little dose of holiday reality! As my gift to you this season, I offer up my favorite holiday tips to make your holiday preparations a little easier and your celebrations a little more joyful! (There are 8 - in honor of the 8 days and nights of Hanukkah and this year's historical convergence of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. Double reason to give thanks!)


1. Ask for Help

If your teenagers can figure out how to make and post a video on YouTube, they are most capable of addressing cards. If your spouse can operate an IPhone, s/he can wrap a few gifts. You don't have to do it all by yourself - it's not a contest! Whoever does the most DOESN'T win!


2. Establish Priorities

You may be surprised at the things that your loved ones consider most important at the holidays. What they treasure most may not be what you're knocking yourself out to accomplish. Ask them. Then make the most important stuff what you spend time and effort on.


3. Focus on Your Calendar

Sit down with a paper copy of the calendar for the month of December. Write in all of the scheduled activities - the non-negotiables like kids' concerts, religious services, family gatherings. Block out the time you need for your work and regular chores. Don't forget exercise and a good night's sleep. The time that's left over is the time you have to work with. Write out your to-do list, assign each task a time, draw up a schedule for what you need to get done, and stick to it. Actually seeing the days blocked out will help you to be more realistic about what you can and can't accomplish in the time that you have.


4. Stay Organized On-the-Go

To keep all those little bits and pieces of paper, receipts, and lists under control, make up a portable holiday organizer, utilizing one of those 13-pocket "coupon" organizers:

Label the pockets:

"To-Do List"


Two pockets each (lists & receipts) for each group/family of people you buy gifts for, e.g. "Lists: Smith Family" and "Receipts: Smith Family"

"Party" (if you hold an annual holiday party)

Carry it with you, in your purse, car or briefcase throughout the holiday season. You will always have your lists and coupons handy, and all of your receipts will be in one easy place to find once the holidays are over for easy returns!


5. Go Digital

Use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of your gift purchases. Set up columns for name, gift purchased, budgeted cost, actual cost, date purchased, wrapped and (if applicable) mailed/delivered. Then, each time you purchase a gift, open up your spreadsheet and update.


6. Plan for Next Year

(This one can wait until after New Year's, but will make next year easier!) Set up a Gift File, either on your computer or in paper form. Make a page (or separate document) for each person on your list. Keep them in a file folder or a 3-ring binder marked "Gifts". On this page, write all the important information about each gift recipient that you may need when you look for a gift for this person (this works for birthdays and anniversaries, too!) This way, when gift-buying time arrives, you have all the information you need at your fingertips.


7. Make It a "Stuff-Free" Holiday

Consider giving less stuff and more fun this holiday season. Give folks the gift of experiences and time, with items like concert & sports tickets, restaurant & movie gift certificates, a voucher for babysitting, or lessons for a favorite or longed-for skill. One suggestion from one of my holiday workshop participants that I just loved was that she and her group of close women friends decided to pool the money they would spend on gifts for each other and have a "girls' night out" instead! How much fun is that! (and certainly much more memorable than another candle or mug!) How about a donation to someone less fortunate in your gift recipient's name - my favorites are Heifer International, World Vision, and Charity Choice, but there are so many more out there. Pick a cause that's close to their heart and give something special that will make a difference in someone's life, instead of adding to the clutter in their home.



8. Take a Breath


Take some time, even if it's just a few minutes each day, to enjoy the moment. Breathe in the crisp, pine-scented air, enjoy the reflection of candlelight on your loved ones' faces, revel in the smiles on your children's faces as they watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" one more time, and savor that favorite holiday treat (just the thought of my two grandmothers' cookies can make my mouth water: my Pennsylvania Dutch Nana's pecan tassies and my Italian Grandmom's pizzelles were my favorites!) The tree may be crooked, the wrappings a little wrinkled, and the latkes may be a little burned, but the time will still pass, and you don't want to miss the special stuff in a haze of "hurry up and get it done."

Breathe. Just a little.


My family celebrates Christmas, and I'd like to leave you with some verses from my favorite Christmas song, with text by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Whatever your tradition, I wish you a joyful and peaceful holiday season.


I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, good will to men!


And thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along their unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.


And in despair I bowed my head:

"There is no peace on earth," I said;

"For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men."


Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men!"



In joy, in peace, 


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