Categories | Community Contributions | Family
This weekend kicked off the holiday season which, for most people, is synonymous with utter chaos. Often, work projects need to be wrapped up by end-of-year, we are inundated with party invitations from friends, clients, and vendors and — on top of all that — family commitments multiply. Oh, and then there’s that whole “buying presents” thing, which is made all the more fun by the current economy (aka “these uncertain times”).
Here’s how GTD can help you maintain your sanity this holiday season:
Calendar Kung Fu
If you haven’t already gotten a calendar management black belt, use the next two months to earn it. My favorite moves include:
- When party invitations arrive, put the party on your calendar immediately with a question mark at the end of it. This is your placeholder until you RSVP. Then, drop the invitation into your Action Support (or Tickler) folder and review your invitations once a week or so. Seeing all the placeholders on your calendar will help you decide which events to attend: Can I really make it to that client happy hour if we’ve got parties with our close friends the next night? Don’t overextend yourself by feeling like you “have” to attend everything you’re invited to; make decisions about what to attend based on which events are important to you. Sound snobby? It’s not. Your time is precious; don’t waste it!
- If you’re using a digital calendar, use the Notes field to remind yourself of anything you’re supposed to bring to the party, who your babysitter is for the evening, etc. If you’re using a paper calendar, your tickler file is a great place for these reminders.
- If you haven’t already found a good way to share calendars with other family members, now is a great time to start. Much pain and suffering can be avoided when you can see, at a glance, that a holiday party conflicts with Junior’s piano lesson and your spouse’s business trip. Here’s an article I wrote on sharing calendars with Google but, if you can get everyone in the family to keep it updated, a paper calendar can work just as well.
- Block out time on your calendar for gift shopping so you don’t find yourself wandering the mall on Christmas Eve in a panic. (Trust me, I’m speaking from experience.) If you’re a big shopper or bargain hunter, put reminders of big sales on your calendar so you don’t forget them.
- If you’re hosting parties, block out the prep time you need in the days and hours before the party.
Tickle Me Elmo (er, GTD)
The Tickler file can really save your bacon at this time of year: event tickets, invitations, directions, coupons and gift cards* — anything that you need on a specific day belongs in your Tickler. GTD Times just recently posted a great article on the importance and usefulness of the Tickler.
I also use it to “mail” reminders and affirmations to myself. If the holidays are a time of year that stress you out, it can be nice to get a soothing quote or reminder once in a while. Toss it somewhere in your Tickler and surprise yourself.
*If you know you’re going shopping on a certain day. Otherwise, I have a Gift Cards & Coupons folder on my desk where I centralize everything. I check that folder before I head out on any shopping excursion.
If you have a fair number of people to buy for, consider creating a Google doc to keep track of your list. As ideas occur to you jot them on your Google doc. You can share the doc with others (like your spouse or other family members) and cross things off the list once they’re purchased. This helps spread the shopping load and takes a lot of noise out of your head.
Knowing what you want to buy ahead of time also allows you to do a bunch of homework on where to get the best price. It’s also a great place to keep track of links to places you’ve found to buy the product online. Then, on your “shopping day” you can place as few orders as possible (thus reducing the number of shipments and, in some cases, reducing shipping fees and/or packaging).
Once things start getting nuts, Weekly Reviews are more important than ever. Don’t let anything encroach on that time; use it to clear your head and recalibrate. One of the most wonderful ways to use the Weekly Review at this time of year is to remember your priorities. Looking over your Areas of Focus might remind you that what you really want is to spend more time with your kids, not more money on them (which simplifies that whole shopping thing a lot more!). Or, it may help you decide to attend a client gathering instead of your neighbor’s cocktail party because you’re trying to do more professional networking. Whatever it is, the Weekly Review can often help remind you of where you want to spend your limited time and energy.
Meghan Wilker is a regular community contributor to GTD Times. She’s also been featured in David Allen’s In Conversation series on GTD Connect, spotlighting some of the most fascinating people in our network of GTD’ers around the world.