My First GTD Christmas

A Community Contribution from April Perry

I’m the mom at the toy store on December 23rd with a cart full of car tracks, dolls, sports equipment, and art supplies my children may or may not like. I’m also the mom paying overnight shipping charges to send hastily-assembled photo albums to Grandma. I stay up late the night before school gets out for Winter Break, making bread for the teachers (mainly because I can’t think of anything else to get them). Our Christmas cards usually get sent out after New Year’s . . . if they get sent out at all. My neighbors don’t get plates of cookies from us, our mail lady never gets a card, and my husband gets only a big hug and a kiss. All the while, I’m feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with the holiday season–wishing I could pull things together.

This year, I decided to plan out my Christmas festivities using GTD. It works for my business, my family, and my personal life. Now I’ve made it work for my gift-giving. Here are the steps that have made this year’s holiday season a breeze:

Step 1: I sat down with my family and brainstormed all the people we want to remember this season–teachers, family members, friends, neighbors, etc.

Step 2: We identified inexpensive but fun gifts we can give them, and then we wrote our Next Actions on a sheet of paper organized by context (errands, computer, stuff to do at home). On the errands list, I included each store we need to visit. When I get to those stores, I’ll reference my gift list, which has very specific items on it. On the computer list, I wrote down each item that can easily be purchased online. Those can quickly be ordered weeks before Christmas. On the “stuff to do at home” list, I wrote down all the things my children can help me do–like pick out photos for Grandma and draw cards for the teachers.

Step 3: I noted deadlines on my calendar so I wouldn’t forget to deliver any gifts. My sisters all got together for a wedding at the end of November, so I delivered their homemade earrings then. Check! We dropped off little advent calendars to some friends before December 1st so they wouldn’t miss a day of chocolate. Check! We wrapped the teacher gifts (Christmas kitchen towels) weeks before Christmas so they could enjoy them throughout the month, and we started making the toy store rounds early enough that I wouldn’t end up buying random presents I’d only have to return later. Check, check!

I can’t even explain how great it feels to be on top of things this Christmas. Because I have things organized, I’ve been able to do some extra special things for families in need. I’ve been able to sit around with my children in the evenings, reading Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” We’ve been able to discuss the reason why we celebrate Christmas, and we’ve had a much more peaceful feeling in our home.

We’ve also decided that there are several things we won’t be doing this Christmas. Because my Routines and Responsibilities list is quite full this month, we’re not going to worry about Christmas cards. We’re not going to go to a ton of parties. We’re not going to travel. This Christmas, we’re keeping things simple, sharing love for the special people in our lives, reaching out to help those who are less fortunate, and truly experiencing Peace on Earth.

April Perry is the mother of four children and the Co-Director of www.powerofmoms.com.



9 Responses to “My First GTD Christmas”

  1. danny bader says:

    Great little article, thanks. Christmas is so much more enjoyable when treated like a project with next actions. Some folks have said to me that if I treat Christmas so buisness-like I’ll miss the true meaning. I respectfully disagree with them and say.”It’s quite the opposite. When I manage my Christmas stuff appropriately, it’s then that I do see/hear/feel my real reason for Christmas. Be well. Danny

  2. Good for you! I’ve tried very hard this year myself, and I made some tough decisions – like canceling a trip to visit my sister two states away, and choosing to spend less money on gifts while sacrificing a weekend (this one) to make cookies and ornaments to give as gifts to teachers and family. Every year it’s such a balance between enjoying myself and wanting to crawl into bed and suck my thumb. :)

  3. Mom_Of_2 says:

    Enjoyed this essay. Thank you! One of the lessons I’ve learned since committing to GTD is that a large project/event like Christmas doesn’t have to seem like a lot of work, as long as I plan properly and review my sub-projects and next actions regularly.

  4. April Perry says:

    Thanks for your comments! Danny, I am absolutely with you. This “business-like” approach makes the season so much more meaningful because it eliminates the stress. Susannah, I hope your cookies and ornaments turned out great. I think it’s wonderful that you’ve wisely managed your time and money this season. I think that enables us to enter the new year on the right foot. And Mom of 2, I totally agree. Managing next actions well makes Christmas a joy–not just a lot of work. Merry Christmas everyone!

  5. Lise Waring says:

    Another great contribution April! I would also point out that another reason to treat this as a project starting in August or September – you can spread the expense across several months. I did a batch of my Christmas shopping while on a trip in August.

    In addition, if you know you are going to be doing a lot of crafting projects like the button bracelets on ribbon that my daughter likes to make, you need to plans these early enough so that you have time to complete your sewing/stitching.

  6. April Perry says:

    Great point, Lise. I’ll make a trigger for that on my August calendar. :)

    My mother-in-law likes to shop throughout the year, as well. She buys things at the after-Christmas sales for the next year, and whenever she goes by a Clearance rack, she picks up great buys.

    Our children LIVE for her packages–all filled with toys and games purchased for a fraction of the price. GTD really helps us avoid procrastination.

  7. Sean Hesler says:

    I enjoyed your post, April. Like you, I have found that using GTD is an excellent way to stay on top of all the holiday actions and projects.

    Last year, my wife and I decided to not do something holiday-related, but with a twist. We always wanted to send holiday cards, but it was never a high enough priority for us, with all the other things we had or wanted to do. This inspired us to begin a new tradition, though. Instead of sending a holiday card around Christmas time, we do it for Groundhog Day. It’s unique, a lot less stressful, and people seem to like it; we’ve received a few holiday cards this year in which people comment that they’re looking forward to the Groundhog Day card.

    We still get to have a tradition, but with a bit of a twist.

  8. April Perry says:

    I LOVE that! I absolutely want to send a Groundhog Day card this year. Thanks for the great idea.

  9. Ron says:

    Thanks for this post. Helped a lot.

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