Are You Ready For The Holidays?

christmas-simple-traditions-memoriesThe holidays always seem to just come at me with full force each year.  It’s not a slow process, it’s fast and furious.  We start out fall with back to school and two birthdays in our immediate family.  We follow that up with many additional birthdays in our extended families lasting until early December.  Then, of course, we have Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas mixed in there as well.  It’s busy to say the least. 

Each year I tell myself to start thinking of birthday and Christmas gifts in August because as organized as I am, I still am running around much later than I intend to be. 

This year my focus is on doing more with less.   I want to spend less on presents, but give more.  I want to stress less and enjoy more, and I want to eat less and savor more.  Those are my goals for this holiday season and here are some ways I intend to do  just that:

1.  Give more by buying less.  I recently read a blog post on Matt Jab’s site, DebtFreeAdventure, where he talks about buying less stuff and giving more from your heart.   Click here to read the post.

2.  Send free e-cards.  I discovered Smilebox a few months ago.  It is a site that is owned by Hallmark I believe, and you can send free photo e-cards using the free software that you download from their site.  They have a ton of different designs and you can attach one photo or an assortment of photos.   Some of the cards include a slide show and there are even newsletter cards.  You can send a family letter with an assortment of pictures, all for free!  This is of course only via email, which uses less paper and postage.  A plus.  I am going to combine this with actual cards that I’ll be sending to close family and friends.  However, instead of sending out 50-75 cards, I am going to send a lot of folks on our list the e-cards.   It’s free and it saves time.  Bonus.

3. Decorate less.  In our attempts to continue to minimize our belongings I have sold and given away a lot of my holiday decorations and I am in the process of selling more.   My husband is not a fan of a ton of decorations that just sort of clutter up the house.  He’s not a Scrooge by any means, he just likes simplicity and I do too.  This year we will get a smaller tree, and maybe a real wreath.  I’ll hang our stockings and maybe a few other very special decorations, but that’s really it.  This not only saves me time and energy, but looks better too.  It’s simple yet still festive.   The Christmas holiday is about a lot more than just a bunch of decorations, so instead of focusing on decorations, I want to focus more on the meaning.

4.  Stress Less Over Meals.  I want to enjoy the holidays with good simple food, family and friends.  I will be looking for classic, easy recipes and not trying to be Martha Stewart. 

I found a great website that has a lot of great ideas, recipes, tips, etc.  It is called Organized Christmas (love the name), and the tag line is: “Simplify Your Holidays and Celebrate the Season!”  Perfectly said.  I couldn’t agree more.  That is what I plan on doing.  Check out the site when you get a chance.

Let me know if you have any time-saving or money-saving ideas that can help us to enjoy the meaning behind the season rather than getting caught up in too much stuff!

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Proper Planning

blog1I’ve always loved to make lists.  Whenever I have a lot to do, I feel the strong urge to sit down with a pen and paper and create a list.  It’s just part of who I am. 

You’ve heard the saying….”Plan your work, and work your plan”, right?  Well planning is very important, but it is only 50% of the entire task.  You must put your plan into action for it to work.

I have made a lot of lists in my life.   However, at times, I have not followed through on all the items on the list.  This is where it causes a problem.  A list is great, but it means nothing if you do not act out what is on the list. 

The same is true for acting without a plan.  Acting without a plan is like going on a road trip without a map.  You’ll either get lost, or end up somewhere you did not intend to be.  Sound familiar?  For a good portion of my young adult life, I was in this state.  I was on a life road trip without a map.   I would make a list of to-do’s, of groceries needed, of projects due, Christmas presents, etc.  What I did not make lists of, were the more important things.  Life goals, work goals, priorities, etc.  This allowed life to lead me, instead of me leading my life (with God of course). 

It’s not only important to make a plan, it’s extremely important to make the right plan.  You must have God involved in all of your plans and you must move each plan to action.  If you engage God, plan early and often, and follow through…..you will be on your way to a proactive life lived out intentionally. 

Here are my steps to successful planning (and action):

  1. Start with God – Each day spend time with God.  Read your Bible, pray, and listen (really listen) to what it is you hear God telling you or leading you to do.  Keep a journal of what you hear God tell you, and any thoughts you have after spending time with Him.  It’s great to look back over your journal and see where He has been leading you over time.
  2. Create a Life Plan – Prepare a list of the goals you have for your life. You need this as the ultimate guide to keep you focused on the most important things in your life.  You can create a Life Plan which is very helpful.  Click here to read about it on Michael Hyatt’s blog. 
  3. Check Your To-Do’s & Commitments –  Avoid planning activities or making commitments that do not in some way promote one of your goals.  Even resting can be one of your goals.   Sunday can be a planned day of rest.  That is still a life goal.  They do not all have to be related to activity.  Resting is Biblical and even God rested on the seventh day. 
  4. Break It Down – Start with a yearly list, then a monthly list, then a weekly list, and then finally break out your plan into daily to-do’s. 
  5. Modify Regularly – Once you start planning, continue to tweak and alter the plan as needed.  New goals may appear and changes will need to take place.  Life changes and so must your plans.  Remember you are creating a plan of action for your life,  but your guide is God.  If He decides a different route needs to be taken, then you must plan and follow accordingly. 
  6. Work the Plan – This is so crucial to any of this working.  If God is leading you somewhere, then follow.   To follow you must act.  You must put your plan into action and work hard!  Do not forget this part, without it you get nowhere.  Not working your plan or putting it into action is like going on a road trip with your map in hand, but no car, bus pass or airplane tickets.  You will go nowhere.  You can have the best plans, but they mean nothing without action. 
  7. Stay on Course – Continuing to stay focused on your plan, God’s leading and any changes that need to be made will help you stay on course.  Keep working at it…and you will get where God intended you to be.  It will be where you were meant to be.  Not lost somewhere without a map, or worse, without any way to get there.