As much as I enjoy all the fun and magic of the Holiday season, it can also leave me feeling overwhelmed and behind schedule. There are a few things I try to accomplish between the day after Christmas and the day my kids return to school, or at least within the first couple weeks of January.
Catch Up on One Big Thing
I find one project that has been taking up too much space in my head and tackle it with fervor. It could be editing the year's photos, sorting and purging my email inbox, donating the pile of outgrown toys and clothes collecting in the basement closet, or getting ahead of the laundry (including all the towels, sheets, and curtains). I don't try to tackle all of them ... just the one that I know will really feel like a weight off my shoulders.
Create a Projects List
I have a long list of projects I want to accomplish, but can't seem to find the time to do them. I make a list of 10 projects that should take me 10 hours or less to complete. Then I prioritize them and begin working on them one at a time for just half an hour a day (yes, I set a timer). If I stick to this schedule, I can usually finish a project each month. The trick for me is to schedule the time first thing in the morning ... if I save it for the end of the day "if I have time," I never will.
Write Thank You Notes and Return Gifts
Occasionally we will receive an item of clothing that is the wrong size or a DVD we already own. Before the New Year begins, I try to get to the stores to return or exchange any items, as well as write and send thank you notes for all the gifts we received.
Schedule Health Appointments for the First Half
Everyone in our family needs an annual physical, an annual eye exam, dental exams every six months, and an annual dermatology exam (we have a history of skin cancer on both sides of our family). I try to schedule all of these in the first half of they year because the sooner we meet our deductible, the better. I also make a note on our calendar to schedule a flu shot (in September) and a second dental appointment for everyone.
Schedule Time Off from Work
My husband's employer is more likely to approve his vacation requests if he's the first one asking for the time off. Since I work from home, I can usually take vacation when I want, but I still have to plan and prepare for my time off. We check with family to see if anyone is thinking of visiting and look at possible vacation plans for us. It is easier for us to cancel unneeded vacation days than to have them approved at the last minute.
Get "Must" Events on Our Calendar
I check the school calendar to make sure all the days off are on my calendar, plus any special events like the school play or concert, etc. I also add some of our family's traditions or annual events we are ready to commit to, such as participating in our favorite fundraising run, or having dinner at our usual restaurant for our wedding anniversary.
Set Up a Tax Documents Folder
Most tax forms are mailed by January 31. Rather than going through forms as they come in, I create a "drop" spot for all these documents. At the end of January, it is easy for me to check for missing documents and then begin preparing the year's receipts for my tax appointment, which I like to have completed by the end of February.
Create Three Goals for Myself
I don't really make resolutions, but I do like to set goals and I use the S.M.A.R.T. system to help ensure I can reach them. A resolution is little more than a desire or a hope, but a goal that uses the S.M.A.R.T. system is a plan of action I can follow.
- S = Specific. For example, "Exercise for 120 minutes each week" is better than "Get healthier."
- M = Measurable. What does success look like to me? How will I measure it? This is where being specific becomes really important. If my goal is to lose 10 pounds or spend an hour of quality time with my children each day, I can easily track this.
- A = Achievable. If I want to get rid of $15,000 in credit card debt, but I can only cut my budget by $200 each month, I probably won't be able to completely eliminate it in one year unless I receive an unexpected inheritance or winning lottery ticket.
- R = Reasonable. Is there anything standing in the way of achieving my goals? Am I limited by time, money, or ability? If there are roadblocks in my way, can they be removed?
- T = Timely. Having a deadline or setting a time frame keeps me motivated ... but I do need to make sure my time frame is Achievable and Reasonable.