5 Tips To Make Your Life Easy With Productive Holiday Planning

Holidays can be fun, but they can also be exhausting. And with all of that hustle, bustle, and last-minute preparations, you run the risk of missing out on precious moments that would otherwise create beautiful memories. The best way to enjoy every moment is with a good dose of productive holiday planning.

As with any type of planning, starting early is the best way to go. A truly productive holiday planning session will help you get a jump on every aspect – meal planning, handmade gifts, lists, greeting cards, and even the simple things such as setting your table.

Here are some tips that may help you get started with your productive holiday planning:

Productive Holiday Planning Starts by Getting Organized

a Christmas notebook opened to Gift ideas; a pad of paper and pen to make notes

In order to have the most productive holiday planning session, the very first thing you want to do is find a comfortable quiet place to work. For me, I settle in to my favorite shady spot outside, armed with something cool to drink, a fresh baked cookie or two, and a box that holds all of my supplies.

By doing this, I am not only getting some fresh air, which helps my brain to work better, but it is also quiet. It also provides me with inspiration as I look at my surroundings. Take a moment, settle in, and let your creative spirit loose!

As for that box of supplies, make sure it is filled with everything you will need for a productive holiday planning session. Here are some items you will need:

  • Notebook
  • Paper
  • Pens / pencils
  • Highlighters
  • Address book
  • Calendar
  • Calculator
  • 3-Hole Punch (optional)

One of the best ways I have found to get organized is to create a notebook specifically for holidays. With this method, you can keep all your lists, ideas, menus and plans together in one location. This prevents all of your hard work from getting lost, separated, or tossed out with the trash.

It took me several years of crazy hectic holidays before I realized I desperately needed a better plan. Instead of enjoying them, I spent most of my time in the kitchen, searching for lost gifts, or up to my elbows in dishwater.

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Tired of missing out on all the fun, I created a notebook that held all of my lists, gift ideas, meal plans and more. My productive holiday planning sessions started in August. By the time the holidays rolled around, everything was done, and I was laughing, talking and enjoying the season.

It worked so well that I turned one of them into an eBook. Called Have a Merry, Simple Christmas, it is 99 pages of tips, ideas, lists, checklists, meal plans, recipes, DIY gift instructions, a calendar, and much more. It is designed to not only help anyone get organized for Christmas, but you can also add to it with other DIY instructions, and other more personalized lists and notes!

An ‘Idea’ Plan

a black chalkboard with a thought bubble in white chalk filled with a real light bulb

This is basically a piece of paper that you use to jot down all of your thoughts. Do you want to establish a theme this year? Write down your ideas. Consider the look, feel, and ease of any overall theme. Do you need to make this year extra special for someone? Make a note on how you can accomplish it. Are you considering incorporating new traditions? Create a list of things you would like to do, and if they will replace or enhance those already in place.

One thing you need to consider when introducing new traditions. Sometimes it is easier to add them slowly, especially if dealing with children or other family members. An abrupt change may cause hurt feelings, confusion, or discord if the old traditions are just dropped.

a checklist with a black marker

Create Your Lists

Now that your ideas are down on paper, it’s time to start creating lists. You don’t necessarily have to have them all filled out during the first productive holiday planning session. But you do need to have them handy to fill out as you go along. These are some of the lists you will need to make:

  • Meal Plans
  • Gift Lists
  • Invitations (for any parties, as well as for the actual holiday)
  • Grocery
  • Supplies
  • Things to Accomplish

The two most important lists you can have are your Meal Planning list and your Gift List. These are two of the most time-consuming parts of holiday planning.

To make a meal plan, you first need to consider if you are going to be providing the majority – or all – of the foods served at each meal. You also need to think about all the meals that will be served.

For Thanksgiving, there is only one primary meal for which you need to plan. But Christmas may also include breakfast, the main meal, a lighter meal, and/or snacks. Knowing exactly what meals you need to plan is the best way to get started.

christmas shopping gift list page with blue background, snowmen, and gifts

The Gift list also comes in two parts. First, you need a list of everyone you plan on giving a gift. Second, you need to remember this doesn’t just include family. Are you planning on doing something for your neighbors? What about any parties you may be attending, that require a gift?

By each name on the list, jot down some ideas of what you may like to give. If you included highlighters in your supply box, use a specific color and highlight any gifts that will be handmade. These are the gifts you need to concentrate on first.

Using a second highlighting color, mark any gift on the list that will require baking. Many items can be baked ahead of time and placed in the freezer. Having this list will come in handy when you schedule baking time.

(Need a quick and easy gift idea? Purchase a flash drive. Then purchase and download helpful eBooks from The Farm Wife! You can also download any freebie from other posts and add them to the collection. This would be a great gift for anyone on your list!)

The Dreaded Budget

Click the Image to Start your Holiday Budget!

It may be one of the most difficult parts of productive holiday planning, but in order to keep your spending on track, you really need to do a budget. These don’t just include groceries and gifts. You also need to consider the ‘little’ things, such as wrapping paper, handmade gift supplies, and much more.

In the beginning, your budget will be a bit rough. To keep from changing it too often, I try to make notations (usually in pencil, so they can be changed, if necessary) on the lists I make. On the gift list, I determine roughly how much the gift will cost, or the price of the supplies I need to create it. As for the Meal Planning list, I usually do an overall amount and write it down at the bottom of the list.

Once I have an opportunity to do a bit more research, I will refine those amounts in order to create my budget.

Here is a trick I learned about budgeting: Instead of seeing it as a task master, or dreaded necessity, view it as a challenge! You can almost make a game of keeping within a budget. It is also a great way to stretch your creative wings. Instead of purchasing something, see if you already have it, or can find a suitable, affordable replacement.

If you struggle with this aspect of your productive holiday planning, be sure to check out the Holiday Budget Bundle. With the Bundle, you get both a Workbook and an Excel Spreadsheet.

The workbook helps you to break down your Christmas spending, has worksheets to help you keep track of your gift lists, shopping and meals, and even has a few recipes to get you started. Holiday Budget spreadsheet will show you exactly where your holiday money is going!

Mark Your Calendar

a December calendar page with Christmas tree and gifts artwork in the corner

Once you have your list made, have focused on a theme, and know what you want to bake, you are ready to start carving out time on your calendar.

Try to find at least an hour or two a week to work on your plans. Make a notation on your calendar to mark off time. If you are making handmade gifts, mark out 1:00 to 2:00 on Tuesday for ‘Working on John’s scarf”, or 10:00 to 2:00 on Saturday for ‘pre-baking’ session.

Having a calendar to work from will help you not only find the time, but keep you focused on getting your holidays planned and organized. To me it helps to ‘keep my feet to the fire’, so to speak. By doing things in small increments, I have all my productive holiday planning done, and most, if not all of my gifts completed by the first of November – not to mention a freezer full of food ready for the big day.

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Productive Holiday Planning

With these five tips, you can easily get started on a productive holiday planning session. By getting organized, having an idea plan, creating lists, making a budget and setting aside time on your calendar, you will be well on your way to having those simple, enjoyable and delicious holidays you have always wanted!

Looking for more ideas, tips and ways to have a Simple Holiday this year? Keep reading for more on meal planning, gift ideas and more!

Plan Ahead for Christmas in August

Finding Quiet Time During the Holidays – 5 Simple Tips

How to Bottle the Christmas Spirit in a Jar

Wrap it Up! 4 Simple & Creative Gift Wrapping Ideas

Handmade Gift Tags

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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