Starting early – making it easier to decide & do

Planning for NEXT Christmas
(What better time than when the weather blusters?)

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Habits, Decisions, Attention Series

Reviewing a Planning Concept using Christmas as a model

If you ever hope to live your life as an organized person – or even a more organized person – you need to think in terms of making sure you jettison the dead weight – those things that are working against you. Begin with a vision of where you’re going and the “somethings” that are keeping you from “gettin’ up and gettin’ on it.”

As I told you in several earlier articles

the further away from the moment of need the decision is made

  • the easier it is to make . . .
  • and the fewer the distractions that will disable you.

It’s always a good idea to front-end the decision-making process for any task you can’t seem to make yourself do early enough to avoid the last-minute scramble.  Planning in January is about as far from next December as possible.

Be sure to write it down, write it down, write it down. On paper.

Handwriting uses a different part of the brain and activates different pathways than typing into one or the other of our devices.

It also feels less like “doing” so is less likely to set you up for activation agita.

Most of us can follow simple “directions” fairly well – one at a time. Planning is like leaving breadcrumbs for yourself to follow later: directions!

Christmas Planning Lessons

Since, for many of us, it’s too cold to play outside much anyway, lets play an indoor game: planning.

Grab a planner, a pencil with a decent eraser and your favorite pen or hi-lighter, then snuggle in with your favorite cup of something warm and wonderful. Let’s plan next Christmas.

I can almost hear some of you moaning that Christmas comes too early already, but anyone who knows me will tell you that I start thinking Christmas the first time the temperature dips below 70 degrees.  January weather is clearly colder than that – where I live, at least.

Anyway, what better time than January to review the Christmas in our rear view mirror before it disappears from sight: what worked, what did not, what you wish you’d done, and where you put everything you just took down?

If you wait much longer you probably won’t remember much of anything very clearly – except the very best and the very worst.

Let’s use planning for next Christmas as a model for up-front planning for other things in our lives (like packing for a trip, finally organizing your kitchen so that it works for you, labeling the boxes and bins that you’ve stashed ladder-high, no longer sure what’s up there, and so on).

Christmas still up? Even better!

  • That means you haven’t stashed things away before you considered how best to store the items (and whether anything you used this year isn’t worth storing at all).
  • You can also still use your eyes to jog your memory. Since our emotions leave tracks, pay attention to any tightness in your body to tip you off about what didn’t work well this year.

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for a reminder of how links work on this site, they’re subtle ==>

Start with Categories

If you were trying to decide what to pack for an upcoming trip, for example, it would be a lousy idea to start listing clothing and toiletries until you categorized the events you were packing FOR: travel to the event (and back), each day you’d be away, each night, that special party on Saturday, etc.

Next, it makes sense to try to envision your last trip to try to recall things that worked well, things that didn’t, what you forgot, and so on.

Since we are using the Christmas holidays as our model, think about the holiday activities you’re most likely to repeat next year as a quick-start. Use the list below as a model, but use only the things YOU did (or anticipate doing next year) as your categories. Begin in pencil, and leave space between each category you list.

  • Holiday meals
  • Holiday gifting (buying/making)
  • Gift wrapping (supplies/ideas)
  • Indoor holiday decor
  • Outdoor holiday decor
  • Holiday events
  • Holiday travel
  • Holiday cards
  • Holiday storage

Let’s look closer

We’ll look at only five elements:

  1. What REALLY worked & why (quick & easy for us to manage, kids or partner loved it)
  2. What drove us crazy & why (it didn’t work, no time to finish, too complicated or time-consuming & needs to be simplified, things we almost forgot and had to scramble to get done at the last moment)
  3. What we hate doing & why (not our idea of fun, way too much work or time, kept us from enjoying the holidays, can’t get it together to do, etc.)
  4. What we totally forgot (what didn’t happen)
  5. What we’d miss (even if nobody else cares about it, it means Christmas to us)

Take a look through each of the categories from your first list and write down anything that seems worth noting, using the five items immediately above as a guide. Start with what you’d miss and work up.

MY examples (working backwards)

5. What I would miss:

Even though decking the halls is time intensive (and a lot of work), I’d feel like I was being punished if the holidays came and went without at least one tree, mantle decor, and something on both outside doors — and on my balcony.

• I also like at least a bit of Christmas cheer in every single room and in the long entry hall.  • And stockings!  I have to display at least a few of my life-long collection of Christmas stockings.

What would YOU miss most?

4. What didn’t happen (only what I wanted to happen):

• I didn’t put the up the electric window candles – because I couldn’t find where I’d put them. • AND I ran out of time to put up the tree for my bedroom, or find the Nutcracker Suite decor to finish the kitchen (so I didn’t string the lights the way I wanted to)  • Nor was I able to give my Twelfth Night party. I was not prepared – and the house was still a mess, anyway.

• I also never got the big Christmas lights for the balcony up and working.  There’s no outside outlet and I waited too long to figure out how to connect lights to an indoor plug without having to endure cold drafts inside.

• I also didn’t get my replacement CD/DVD player installed so that I could export my collection of Christmas music, currently stored in iTunes on my office Apple (with the typically dead-in-the-water CD/DVD player).  It would have been more joyful and relaxing to have it playing softly out of the good speakers of my Bose unit in the living room instead blaring out of the tinny speakers in my office.

• The biggest missing was my memorial tree honoring all who are now gone, including my puppies.

I simply ran out of time to follow-through on the idea of using Santa’s tree for that purpose – because I couldn’t find where I’d hidden stored most of the Shih Tzu ornaments.

What did YOU leave out (consider dinner, if you host)

3. What I hate/hated doing:

• Bringing the totes up the stairs from basement storage.
• Climbing up on ladders to see where I stored the items I was trying to locate.  Even though each container is labeled, I can’t really read the labels from the ground.
• Trying to recall where I’d stashed stored things in the various spaces inside my new apartment.

What do YOU need to do differently (or not at all)?

2. What drove me crazy:

• Totes and boxes all over the house, the sofa, and seemingly everywhere I looked!
• The Christmas scavenger hunt – not being able to immediately locate what I was looking for.

Think about what drove YOU crazy

1. What really worked:

• Making it to Christmas on Ludlow to get TinkerToy’s picture taken with Santa (but not the elf-hat they plopped on his head!) • My new life-sized Santa with tree (even undecorated & in the modern Santa suit) • The Victorian tree in the living room (with the new candle holders and candles).

• I also loved the mantle decor in my office (even though I didn’t string the lights through it). It could even go up before Thanksgiving if I waited until December to hang the rustic deer head that I got at an after Christmas sale two years ago).

• I really loved having the tree up early enough to over-decorate with faux fall leaves and gourds.  All I had to do on December first was remove the leaves and gourds and the Christmas tree was ready for me to enjoy for the entire season.

What really worked for YOU?

Learning from my list

I can clearly see now that I need to spend time organizing in a more effective manner this year. The items I do not intend to use next year can go downstairs, perhaps, along with anything so large that it can’t be stored anywhere else. Everything else, however, needs to be stored IN my apartment for ready retrieval.

I need to put things away thinking about how I plan to decorate, instead of by room – so I only have to take out (and put back) a tote or two at a time, instead of getting them all out at once.

I also need to make sure to take the time to document “What’s Where” in a Christmas notebook. It’s sheer idiocy to believe I will remember a year from now, no matter how logically I organize or put-away!

Looking through what worked I can also recall my thought at the time that if I expect to be able to enjoy much more than the Petey’s Pet Stop and Santa, I need to get to Christmas on Ludlow earlier – and get Tink groomed at least the day before we go.

What else it does for me

With all of this in mind, it will now be less painful for me to get rid of things I probably will never use again, regardless of how much I loved displaying them in the past. That alone will streamline the storage of what I will display in the future.

If decorating for Christmas were an easier, more streamlined process, I might even have time to DIY some things that I’d like to handle to simplify further – like using paint and glitter to adapt my color palate to one that says “winter” more than “Christmas”, so I can leave most of it up until spring.  Then I could take my time taking it down and storing it.

It might also leave me enough time to send out invitations, and plan and prepare for my party in a relaxed manner that I could enjoy completely.

Can you see how running through the event in this manner helps me to make my to-do list for the next time it rolls around?  I am reminded that I want an “easy-up/easy down” holiday decor – and that I’d like to deck the halls in a manner that that allows for most things to stay up until Spring – with a minimum of tweaking,

Once Spring has sprung, I wouldn’t remember much of any of this – and next Christmas would be yet another last minute scramble.

Movin’ on to Getting Organized

NOW I am ready to make a more detailed to-do list and begin to work my way down the list as I put things away in a manner that will work better for me next year. So are you, if you played along.

Remember, you don’t have to bother to write it ALL down. The lists above are simply suggestions.

Do take the time to note the categories that make sense to you, however, and a few items that will make it easier for you to see what you actually need or want to DO.

Isn’t that the point of planning?

Let me know

If you intend to try this with your Christmas planning, let me know (down in the comments section).  Will running through this way of planning Christmas change anything about how you plan other events? Inquiring minds WANT to know!

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

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