This post was written by Kelli Connell, a Power of Moms Trainer and Mind Organization for Moms Coach. If you’d like to plan your OWN Christmas the way Kelli has outlined below, The Power of Moms has a free Christmas-planning template so you can join in the fun. Scroll to the bottom to print.
“This is the year!” Every year I tell myself that I’m going to be organized, I’ll get my shopping done early, I’ll have quiet nights at home enjoying the season, but somehow I end up desperate at the mall the week before Christmas. I work all day–every day–at projects big and small, thinking it will ease my stress, but I just end up thinking of something else that didn’t get done. Meanwhile, there might be a tiny bit of resentment that there is so much to do, and it all falls on me to do it. Of course I know I can cut stuff out, and I do. But then I feel like I am missing out on things important to me and my family. I keep thinking, “This is not how Christmas is supposed to feel; there must be a better way.” Does any of this sound . . . familiar?
Yes, there is a better way! And this is the year to make Christmas feel like it should. We can be more organized and less stressed by using the “Natural Planning Model” outlined by David Allen. When we spend a little time at the beginning of the season deciding what is important and aligning our precious time, energy and money with those principles, we’ll find ourselves truly enjoying the season with loved ones. Won’t that be merry and bright?
We have put together this guide to help you every step of the way.
Whether you are a Mind Organization expert or you’re still working on the basics, this guide is for you! We will walk you through the five steps of the Natural Planning Model and give you worksheets to work through each step. Simple, easy and so worth a few minutes of your time!
Step One: Defining Your Purpose & Principles
The very first step is for you and your family to decide the “why”. Why do you celebrate Christmas? This might seem unnecessary to answer, but it brings focus and purpose to your activities. The answers will be different for everybody. One way for you to help decide your purpose is to finish this sentence, “I would be happy with any Christmas celebration, as long as . . ..”
• we show love to friends and family
• we teach our children about the birth of Jesus
• we have fun and make memories
• we have the most lit up house in the neighborhood
• we give service to the community
• my kids receive gifts they really want
• we have fantastic food
We decided the primary purpose for our family this year is show love. We want to teach our children about service, gratitude, giving and the birth of Jesus. We also want them to learn to appreciate music of the season, and, of course, have fun and make memories.
Step Two: Outcome Visioning
If your Christmas were “wildly successful,” what would it look like? What would it feel, smell and sound like? Just as athletes picture themselves performing their endeavors perfectly, if we can picture ourselves engaged in our successful Christmas we will be able to achieve it. David Allen says, “you won’t see how to do it until you see yourself doing it”. A good way to start visualizing your outcome is finishing this sentence, “Wouldn’t Christmas be great if…”. You may want to ask your spouse and kids to describe a great Christmas, you might be surprised by their answers.
For me, Christmas would be wildly successful if . . .
• my family remembers Christmas as peaceful and joyful, not stressed and rushed
• I don’t hurry from one project to another, frantically gathering supplies last minute
• the average evening is at home with family enjoying a fire in the fireplace, everyone reading or practicing music. Maybe something sweet baking in the oven
• it’s not focused on shopping. Thoughtful gifts to children and relatives are planned ahead and scheduled shopping trips, or online shopping, are finished before December
• our small gifts to teachers, friends and neighbors will be finished and waiting to be given out before school break begins
• simple Christmas cards are finished before the busyness of the season begins
• our children are prepared and enjoy performing at their concerts
• our children give small, thoughtful gifts to each other
• parties I’m hosting are well-planned and simple
• everyone joins in the work, home is somewhat tidy and I don’t feel stressed
• memories, traditions and fun are abundant
Step Three: Brainstorming
If step one is the “why,” and step two is the “what,” then step three is the “how.” There are many ways to do this, but the main goal is to get as many ideas out as possible. Go for quantity instead of quality. Don’t judge the ideas just yet. You want all possibilities for all areas.
I chose to do a mind-map on a large piece of paper.
As you can see, I have many components of Christmas coming from my main circle. As you think of ideas in one area, you’ll think of others to add to other areas. Don’t rush this step. Try to think through everything you might want to do this year. (My example is simplified to make it more legible. I actually had seven main components, not four. You may have more than seven or you may have less. The important thing it to get them all mapped out and in front of you so there are no last minute “I forgot I had to . . .” crisis moments!)
This is a stress-relieving step. Since you have a place to put all those ideas, more will flow. You are able to “grab” your ideas as they come.
Each main component is essentially its own subproject. You may want additional maps for the larger components. You can continue to brainstorm in more and more detail until you feeI you’ve removed every idea from every corner of your mind. I made additional maps of each main component on copy paper. Here is the subproject “Gifts” mind map.
Step Four: Organizing
With your ideas laid out before you, you’ll naturally start to see a structure forming. The point of this step is to sort your mind-map. You can do this by identifying the different types of items on the map. First find the projects and deadlines. Then determine if the projects need to be done in a particular sequence. Decide the priority of your projects. As your plan comes together you’ll be able to fill in missing parts. You will find some ideas won’t work, and you will probably want to send some of those great ideas to your “Someday” file for another year.
Depending on how detailed you want your plan, you may want to make a formal outline or chart. I made some notes for the “Gifts” mind-map:
➢ What are the projects or components that need to be done?
• find last year’s spreadsheet for the kid’s gifts and fill it out for this year
• kids make wish lists
• decide on gifts for in-laws
• find out about a gift exchange for the office
• decide on a baked goodie to give to teachers/friends/neighbors
• ask about doing a Learning Circle gift exchange
➢ What is the sequence?
I need to get the budget and spreadsheet finished first so I know how much to spend in each area.
➢ What has the highest priority? What will determine success in this area?
For it to be a complete success, I want the shopping finished early.
With a clear idea of what needs to be done and when, you are ready for the final step.
Step Five: Identifying Next Actions
Each item that is ready for action may go to any of these three places:
- Calendar – Mark your calendar with important dates (parties, concerts, etc), memory triggers and hard/soft deadlines you’ve set for yourself. Remember not to fill your calendar with items that don’t need attention that specific day. I made a deadline on December 1 to be finished shopping. I also added deadlines to ship gifts.
- Immediate Next Actions List – This is the context-based list you keep on a card right in your calendar. The highest priority items are placed here to be done within the next few days. I put both “spreadsheet” and “budget” on this list to work on as soon as I have time.
- Next Actions List –These items aren’t as urgent and can be given attention as time and circumstance allow. Look over this list and your Current Projects List during your weekly review, moving items to the Immediate Next Actions List as needed. I placed the rest of the action items on this list: baked goods, Learning Circle gift exchange, discuss Secret Santa with spouse, etc. I keep this list on a clipboard on the wall over my desk. (If you’d like to learn more about Next Actions, Current Projects Lists, Weekly Reviews, Someday Files, and other simple systems for keeping your life in order, please visit our Mind Organization for Moms page.)
To keep your projects moving, you need to consistently review the entire plan. Each main component (party, traditions, cards and gifts) is added to your Current Projects List to be evaluated during each Weekly Review. (Several non-Christmas projects were moved to the Someday file to keep the list manageable.) If you’re not doing Weekly Reviews, add a calendar trigger to remind you review your plans every week or so. Looking over the mind-maps and organization notes will help you determine what to add to your calendar and lists every week.
As I gather support materials for my Christmas projects, I put them into file folders and place them all in my Holidays cubby. Support materials are guest lists, catalogs, card ideas, recipes – anything that has to do with the current projects, including your mind-maps and notes. If I get too many materials to fit there I move them to a temporary basket.
As the season moves along, circumstances might change what activities are important to you. Just make adjustments and reevaluate as needed. If you start to feel overwhelmed, pull out your Christmas file and review each step of this guide to reevaluate each activity, making sure your time and resources are aligned with your purposes. And remember, even well-planned projects will have surprises along the way (we’re flexible, right?).
You know you are successful when you start to feel your usual stress of the season melt away and you find yourself truly enjoying your family and this wonderful time of year. As a bonus, you now are more familiar with the Natural Planning Model and can use it in any area of your life.
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Photo courtesy of Shawni Pothier, www.71toes.blogspot.com