The Christmas Plan Challenge: Week 45

The Christmas Plan Challenge: Week 45

It's time to create a plan for Christmas, so you can have an organized, peaceful holiday. Do these short steps and you'll be ready!Is it still too early for you to think about Christmas? I understand. But every year that I’ve delayed thinking about Christmas until after Thanksgiving has been disappointing. This week, we will begin the process of planning for Christmas, so come December, the holiday will be even more enjoyable.

#1 Discuss last Christmas

What did you and your family especially love about last year’s celebration? Was there anything that you wanted to do, but didn’t? Discuss this now and take notes.

#2 Set up planner

Last year, I used a Christmas planner for the first time and it made life easier. There are great free Christmas printables like this set to get you started. I’ve pinned others to the Organized Homeschool board. Christmas is a big project when you think about it and it requires one place to keep all your information.

If you prefer a digital solution, you could plan Christmas on Pinterest, making liberal use of secret boards or in Evernote.

I wrote about my difficult time with the Elf on the Shelf. Maybe this elf planning calendar could help? I’ll add it to my planner.

#3 Add events to calendar

Now is the time to add all of the events your family wants to attend to the calendar: the church Christmas program, the extended family Christmas party, the live Nativity scene, the medieval Christmas feast, the neighborhood caroling event, the toy drive, and the lights display. Even if you aren’t sure you will attend, I recommend adding the dates to your calendar, including any deadlines.

While you’re at it, add any associated to-do’s to your planner or incorporate them into your task management system.

#4 Plan ideas for making it meaningful

Christmas is a time for celebrating the birth of our Savior and for making memories. What could you do to enhance your worship of Christ during Advent? Celebrate Jesus, an Advent study, is one idea. Last year, I took these free printable Advent Scriptures, put them in decorated, numbered take-out boxes along with a fun family activity. It was such a relief not to try to come up with candy or small gifts for all the kids each day and we made wonderful memories. This holiday bucket list and this Advent list can give you some ideas. Be sure to check the Organized Homeschool board for even more choices.

Have a favorite meaningful Christmas tradition? Please tell me about it in the comments.
Follow Dr. Melanie Wilson @psychowith6’s board Organized Homeschool on Pinterest.


Here is the November printable Organized Homeschool calendar and a list of previous challenges:

Get organized with the November 2014 homeschool calendar.

Organized Homeschool Challenge

Week 1: Daily Devotions Challenge

Week 2: Daily Routine Challenge

Week 3: To-Do List Challenge

Week 4: Memory Keeping Challenge

Week 5: The Decluttering Challenge

Week 6: The Organized Computer Challenge

 Week 7: The Marriage of Your Dreams Challenge

Week 8: The Confident Parent Challenge

Week 9: The Extended Family Challenge

Week 10: The Bring on the Spring Challenge

Week 11: The Spring Cleaning Challenge

Week 12: The Organized Easter Challenge

Week 13: The Serve the Church Challenge

Week 14: The Chore Challenge

Week 15: The Organize Your Finances Challenge

Week 16: The Curriculum Challenge

Week 17: The Friendship Challenge

Week 18: The Family Celebrations Challenge

Week 19: The Organized Clothing Challenge

Week 20: The Organized Vacation Challenge

Week 21: The Organized Summer Challenge

Week 22: The Outdoor Activity Challenge

Week 23: The Used Curriculum Challenge

Week 24: The Homeschool Space Challenge

Week 25: The Goal Setting Challenge

Week 26: The Homeschool Planning Challenge

Week 27: The Bible Time Challenge

Week 28: The Special Study Prep Challenge

Week 29: The Extra-Curricular Challenge

Week 30: The Core Curriculum Prep Challenge

Week 31: The Elective Curriculum Challenge

Week 32: The Back to School Challenge

Week 33: The Fall Bucket List Challenge

Week 34: The Organized Bedroom Challenge

Week 35: The Clean Out the Pantry Challenge

Week 36: The Meal Planning Challenge

Week 37: The Grocery Shopping Challenge

Week 38: The Organized Kitchen Challenge

Week 39: The Freezer Cooking Challenge

Week 40: The Hospitality Challenge

Week 41: The Blog or Business Challenge

Week 42: The Hobby Challenge

Week 43: The Charity Challenge

Week 44: The Thanksgiving Challenge

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Can Project Management Help You Get More Done?

Can Project Management Help You Get More Done?

Enjoy a Saner Christmas This YearThis is Week 39 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested whether a project management approach, specifically the Christmas Countdown Planner, could help me get more done. For details, scroll to the bottom of last week’s post.

How a Project Management Approach Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Helped me feel in control. Just getting started on my Christmas planning relieved stress. I even enjoying talking with the kids about what they’d like to eat over the holidays. In the past, it was a rushed process with little input from them.
  • Will save time. I haven’t had a chance to put it into practice yet, but I do a lot of online shopping on Black Friday (beginning Thanksgiving night). I realized I can use one of the forms in the planner to plan my online shopping. I will make note of the must-visit websites, the items I want (with prices in case I find a better deal) and discount codes. I’m surprised I’ve never done this before, but again, I didn’t approach Christmas as a project before now.
  • Excellent memory aid. One of the reasons I haven’t used a project approach for Christmas is because I think I can remember everything. Well, I can’t! I’m really looking forward to next Christmas with these forms because I’ll remember what gifts I gave, how many strands of lights I need, and what activities we want to be sure and include.

How a Project Management Approach Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Focusing on the forms. When I focused on the details of the planner that I would change, it kept me from enjoying its benefits. No planner is perfect for you, but most can be modified to serve you. The great thing about a digital planner is you can leave off pages you don’t need and print extras of those you need more of. If you realize you need a form that isn’t there, make one!

Did a Project Management Approach Help Me Get More Done?

Yes, though the real benefits of it have yet to be realized. Planning ahead and keeping necessary information and materials together has been helping me get more done with blogging, too.


I do use project management for curriculum writing and blogging and I like it. However, I do most of my work using one system –ToDoist and Skedpal.

can little and often help you get more done?, time management, organized, productivityThe Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 40

This week I’ll be testing little and often, as espoused by Mark Forster. I’ll be combining little and often with another of Mark Forster’s approaches I’ve tested previously: Do it Tomorrow. Every incoming task (that doesn’t already have an assigned day for completion) will be given a due date of “tomorrow.” When I do anything to move a task along, but it isn’t completed, it will be redated for the following day. Furthermore, I’ll be applying little and often to my routine tasks, too.

The concept. I was first exposed to little and often when Mark created the rules for Autofocus (AF). The idea was to write down everything you wanted to do, including recreational tasks. Scanning the list, you worked on the first task that stood out to you for as long as you wanted and kept working on a page until nothing stood out. Tasks that were worked on, even a little, were crossed off and re-entered at the end of the list. Pages had to be worked on in order. When you came to a page where nothing stood out, the whole thing was “dismissed.” The problem I had with the system (though I really enjoyed it) is my list became enormous. It was taking me many days to get through the whole list to the recent tasks that really needed to be addressed. (Note that several iterations of Autofocus were created to deal with this issue).

Little and often, regardless of implementation, has the potential to overcome the fear and perfectionism that create procrastination. Example: For some reason, I hate snail mailing things. If all I have to do is get an envelope, look up an address, find a stamp, or put something in my car to go to the post office, I can get myself to do it. Often, I will do more, but even if I don’t, the next time I come to this task, it’s easier to do because I’ve already started.

Little and often is also designed to help you get projects done early. That being the case, even projects which aren’t due for a few months should be added to the list to start on tomorrow. If you have a task or project that doesn’t make sense to begin immediately or that you aren’t sure you want or need to do, this can be added to a Someday/Maybe list that can be reviewed weekly. Alternately, a tickler or future review due date could be added to these items. I am currently using SmartPad for this purpose.

Explanation of the DIT/AF Approach (Scroll down if you just want to get to this week’s assignment)

My approach, which is very much a hybrid of DIT and AF, has the advantage of not letting the list become too big. Current items (typically being those that were entered yesterday) can be worked on at any time during the day. The pressure to get things worked on before they are more than 3 days overdue gives enough grace time to allow for “busy days,” with a consequence for not working on them that is entirely appropriate: tasks that you haven’t touched at all in that period of time get deleted from the list. I don’t allow myself to add these tasks back to the list, so that I have to rely on memory only. If I have a planned absence, it’s my responsibility to make sure I will have no tasks more than 3 days overdue on that day. If I were ill or unexpectedly detained for a day or two, I would put off deleting tasks for that period of time.

I have already been using this approach for a number of weeks and want to apply little and often to one of the problems with it that has cropped up. My DIT / AF approach focuses my attention on the tasks appearing on my ToDoist list, leaving routine tasks that I keep in my HomeRoutines app (mostly cleaning tasks) neglected. I have determined some reasons for this. First, there is no “do or delete” deadline for routine tasks and there should be. Going three days without completing my routine means that I need to delete something from it, because I obviously can’t keep up with it. Second, I need to apply the same little and often principle to routine tasks. Rather than having to clean my whole bathroom on Monday to mark it complete, I just need to do something.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read Mark Forster’s explanation of Little and Often. You could choose to complete his assignment which is to choose the project with the furthest deadline and begin working on it little and often every day. Or, you could try my approach of giving everything a deadline of tomorrow and working on each task or project to completion or using little and often as desired. If you try this approach and also deleting items more than 3 days overdue, I’d love to hear how you get on with it.

To see if little and often worked for me, click here.

Are you on Google+? Circle me here. I also participate in Mark Forster’s General Forum.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s 7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

Week 26: Focus & Relief List

Week 27: Accountability Chart

Week 28: Limiting Choices

Week 29: Zen to Done

Week 30: Heatmapping

Week 31: Gamification

Week 32: The 12 Week Year

Week 33: David Seah’s Ten for Ten

Week 34: David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner

Week 35: Steve Kamb’s Do It Now

Week 36: Rising Early

Week 37: Computer Shortcuts

Week 38: Interrupter’s Log

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Enjoy a Saner Christmas This Year

Enjoy a Saner Christmas This Year

Enjoy a Saner Christmas This YearI’m all about saner living, especially at Christmas time.

Too often, the season that should be the most peaceful and joyful can become stressful and unhappy. One reason we may experience less than the best at Christmas is because we don’t treat the holiday like the project it is. With cooking, cleaning, decorating, entertaining, church activities, gift making or buying, budgeting, work parties, and travel, it’s easy to see how we can become overwhelmed.

I have discovered some time savers for this time of year, including Send Out Cards and the mGifts iPhone app.  But I have not thought of Christmas as one big project before now.

When I was given the opportunity to review The Simple Christmas Countdown Planner from The Sassy Slowcooker, I realized that I was not only making Christmas more stressful, but I was missing out on some of the  possibilities the season offers. Here’s why.

The Christmas Countdown Planner offers some forms you would expect to make this project manageable– like Christmas card and gift lists. But it offers a lot more! There are spaces for tracking decorations needed, favorite traditions, and cleaning chores to be done. Using this planner can help me pick up some end-of-the-season bargains on decorations, help me delegate chores to the kids, and can ensure that we do the things that are most important to us this Christmas.

My favorite form is the daily list that will help me stay focused on the reason for the season. I love that it includes a gratitude reminder, prayer requests, a memory verse, a to-do list, cleaning tasks, and a menu. I could use this form all year!

There are also page dividers for storing favorite recipes and family devotions. (Click here for a list of all the forms that are part of the planner.) Why didn’t I think of keeping all of these things in one place? Because I wasn’t thinking of Christmas as a project.

You could absolutely create your own Christmas planner, but why take the time when this planner is so cute, thorough, and ready to download now? For just $3.99, you’ll be organized for a saner Christmas this year and next.

P.S. It’s not accidental that I’m writing about this planner now. Get a head start on Christmas today!

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