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The Sandy Spring Way

Managing Your Holiday “To-Do” List

November 5th, 2014 | By Sandy Spring Bank

By Sandi Maxey, Senior Vice President, Learning & Professional Development

Most of us look forward to the holidays, at least in theory. We anticipate spending time with family, visiting with old friends, sharing memories, and carrying on traditions. Whatever your vision of the perfect holidays, the reality of pulling all of it together may make you wish you could throw the bed covers over your head and settle down for a long winter’s nap. Now that you’re an adult responsible for creating the holiday memories of others, do you wonder how your parents did it? Between the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, and the wrapping, how did they get it all done and make it look so effortless?

Frankly, I don’t have a clue. Despite the fact that I am a natural born planner and enjoy elaborate holiday celebrations, I will experience a holiday melt-down at some point during the season. Over the years, I have learned a few simple things I can do to reduce my anxiety and enable me to enjoy the true spirit of the holidays.

Tip #1: Decide what you want your holidays to be.

Those glossy holiday magazine covers at the grocery store checkout beckon to me. You know the ones. They depict beautiful hand-made gifts and the perfect Bouche de Noel. I feel so inadequate with my membership warehouse frozen appetizers. But wait a minute. The holidays should be what you want them to be. Decide what is most important. Leave out all the rest. Honestly, your friends don’t care where the snacks come from because they are grateful they didn’t have to make them.

Tip #2: Make a list. Write it down.

I’m a consummate list-maker. I live by them. I have even, on occasion, made lists of lists. Write down everything you need or want to do. Organize your list in due-date order. This well help you exert control and reduce feelings of being overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that need to be done.

Tip #3: Prioritize the list.

In some ways, I have become a victim of my own list-making success. I have learned that when a list grows too long, I spin out of control. Review the items on your list. Ask yourself which ones are absolutely necessary (Auntie Fran’s special “from scratch” bundt cake) and which ones are just cool ideas (the ice sculpture centerpiece). Delete any list items that are just not practical or worth the energy.

Tip #4: Keep the list with you and review it often.

To be a truly effective management tool, a list must be a work-in-progress. Keep it handy and review it frequently. Cross-off completed items and revise items that change. This will keep you on track and provide you with immediate and on-going feedback about how you’re doing.

Tip #5: Delegate.

Be generous. Share your list with loved ones. Your family and friends really do want to help. They just need to know what to do. Leverage the strengths of those around you and delegate tasks well suited to others. This is a win-win strategy. They feel involved and you get some much needed help.

Tip #6: You control the list; it doesn’t control you.

A list should not be an ultimatum. You can change your mind. When the unexpected happens, go back to your list. Re-prioritize. Get more help. Revise and eliminate as you please.

Although a list can’t do the actual shopping, cooking, wrapping, or cleaning, it can help you stay on top of everything you want to accomplish. With a realistic vision and a bit of planning, you and your loved ones can enjoy the best holiday season ever.


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