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