Getting Everything Done

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” -Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

It is that time of year again.  The time where you feel like you can barely catch your breath as you hurry from one thing to another.  As of today, there is only about 10 days until the Christmas weekend.  I don’t know about you, but I am starting to get worried about getting everything done in time.

I have a million Christmas chores that still need to be finished.  I have a little bit of shopping, cookie baking, some decorating, meals to plan and cook, and gift wrapping.  And that does not include social events to attend and year-end work deadlines that are rapidly approaching.

While part of getting everything done is just sheer fortitude, I do have a few tips that I use to finish it all, without losing my mind in the meantime.

Make Lists.  I am a big believer in the power of a list.  Once you put it on the list you can save your brain energy for more important things other than remembering to buy Scotch tape the next time you go to Target.  I keep several different lists this time of year.  Also, my lists are always written on paper and not on my phone.  The physical act of writing it down helps me remember my shorthand notes and also helps me remember that I have a list.

I often will make a list of things I need to do like the one above, listing holiday baking, gift wrapping and decorating.  I always make a Christmas shopping list.  My Christmas shopping list is organized by the person I have to buy a gift for.  I simply write the person’s name down along with my gift idea for them.  If I know which online site I want to use or brick-and-mortar store I want to visit for that particular gift I write that down as well.   After the gift is purchased, I cross the person off of my list.  I can then easily figure out what gifts I have left to purchase.

Plan Meals.  Planning weekday meals is important this time of year, so you have something that you can throw together, especially if you get home late.  It also keeps you feeling good to tackle all of your to-do items and prevents some of the dreaded regret come January 1.

In addition to planning regular meals, there is the planning of the holiday meals that you are hosting or the item you need to bring to a party.  Because time is precious right now, you do not want to go to the grocery store multiple times and the list of unusual ingredients makes it very easy to forget one critical item for a recipe.  To stay organized, I write down my whole menu for a holiday meal that I am hosting, including the main course, sides, drinks, dessert and even any extra items such as festive napkins or plates.  I then get out my recipes for each of the dishes and read them carefully, writing down on my grocery list any items I need to buy.  If I am not sure whether I have an item, I write it on my grocery list with a little star next to it and check the pantry or refrigerator for those items before I go to the store.  If I have the item already I simply cross it off the list.

The day before the hosted meal, I once again look at my overall meal plan and figure out if there are any items I can make ahead of time.  For Christmas Eve, our meal is our family’s tradition of steaks on the grill with a few new additions.  So I almost always make Olive Cheese Bread by The Pioneer Woman (this is delicious but has probably a million calories so we only eat it maybe this one time of year).  The cheese topping for the Olive Cheese Bread can be made the day ahead and put in the refrigerator, so I will do that and then just place it on the counter a couple of hours before I want to spread it on the bread.

The day before,  you may want to put the leaf in the table and make sure someone is bringing extra chairs.  As a funny side, we host a lot of family parties but own no folding chairs so someone always has to bring some.  I guess we need to invest in some of those.  Some people like to set the table the day before.  I tend not to do that because it gives me the heebie jeebies of unclean dishes by the day of the party, but I do try to set it before my guests arrive.

Group Errands Together.  Let’s face it, traffic around stores is terrible this time of year.  If you can, try and do errands to several different stores in the same area at the same time.  When I do errands, I like to go out once and get them all done before I go home.  Sometimes, this is impossible to do especially if you are trying to do errands after work.  However, if you can group together as many as possible, you will save yourself the aggravation from having to be in the same traffic more than once.

Also, if you can do errands early in the morning or later at night and during the week the crowds will be smaller.  I try to go grocery shopping early on Friday mornings.  The lines are short (including at the deli where there is always a wait), there are less people running into you with their grocery carts, and you can breathe a little easier.

Make it Fun.  These Christmas chores are supposed to be fun.  This is a one-time-of-year thing and I look forward to a lot of it.  So figure out how to make it fun.  When I wrap gifts, I put them all in one place and get out all of the supplies (paper, tape, tags, scissors and ribbon).  I then put on a Christmas movie, like Elf or Fred Claus, and get wrapping.  Watching the movie makes the chore a little easier.

For Christmas baking, my mom comes over and we bake cookies together in my tiniest of kitchens.  We listen to Christmas music and as the day wanes, enjoy a glass of wine.  Even if we only have a couple of hours for baking, we have fun doing it.  And she helps me do my dishes so double win for me!

Take Time For Yourself.  It is so easy when your to-do-list gets long, to not put yourself on that list.  This is not the time to forget about your well being.  Make time to go to the gym.  Definitely do yoga.  Take a walk and look at Christmas lights.  Go to church.  Just sit and be in front of a crackling fire in your fireplace with the Christmas tree casting the only light in your living room.  Sip that glass of wine while you watch the snow fall.  And most importantly, be with the people that matter the most to you.  That is the joy and spirit of Christmas.

Good luck with your to-do-list!  And remember Christmas will be here even if some things are undone.  –June

Sure Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.

Lights please.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo the angel of the Lord came down upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.”

That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown. -Linus “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

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