Websites to increase productivity
• www.cozi.com: This online family calendar lets you get your life in order and then share it with other family members. It also features electronic to-do lists, reminders, shopping lists, meal planners and a journal.
• www.cardstore.com: This personalized card site lets you create cards with your own photos and text. You can choose to have the card(s) mailed directly to the recipients, and postage is included in card price. Or have cards mailed to you already addressed and stamped. Shipping is free.
• www.egreetings.com: If you prefer to send holiday greetings at no cost, you can send e-cards from this free site. You can schedule cards to be delivered up to a year in advance.
• www.rememberthemilk.com: This online to-do list site will help you get your tasks in order with a free tool that can be accessed from your smart phone.
For most, the holidays are a joyous time of year spent with family and friends, giving and receiving gifts, attending holiday get-togethers and enjoying great holiday meals. But with so much to get done, it’s easy to see why this ends up being a stressful time. Get ready to breeze through this holiday season, get a jump on the month and stay a few steps ahead of the game with these handy tips:
A planning we will go
Grab a 30-day calendar and start filling it up. Jot down every single event, party, appointment and activity that you will attend through New Year’s. Determine what dates you will need a baby sitter and schedule one now so you don’t have to find one at the last minute. Schedule time in advance for traditional family activities, such as decorating, caroling or viewing holiday lights. Once you have everything laid out, you will see where you have time to get things done. Post your calendar where you can view it daily, such as the refrigerator. Make to-do lists each night before you go to bed or use an online list service this month so you can be productive the next day.
Gifting from a distance
The last place you want to be this season is in line at the post office. If you must mail gifts this year, do it early. Lines will be shorter until about Dec. 10, so start working now on gifts you’ll need to mail. Better yet, avoid the post office altogether with the U.S. Postal Service’s “click-and-ship” service offered through the website, www.usps.com. You can pay for and print all your postage at home — at a small discount — and then schedule a free pickup from your home.
Handwriting personalized messages in holiday cards takes up a lot of time. I learned my lesson years ago and now type out a holiday message on my computer. I add some photos and print out multiple copies. Then all I have to do is sign the cards and fold the messages into the cards. Since I include information about events and accomplishments throughout the year, I save a copy to keep on file or for scrapbooking.
Cleaning up nice
You may have a number of events or parties to attend this month, so determine what you will wear now. Go through the family’s closets and preselect outfits for each member. Make sure that all items fit and check to see if garments are missing buttons or need alterations. Determine what needs to go to the dry cleaners and get items in ASAP. Don’t forget to check children’s footwear — kids’ feet grow fast, and last year’s dress shoes may not still fit. If you can’t find anything that fits or need to replace something, you’ll still have plenty of time to hit the mall.
Don’t be a slave to your kitchen
The holidays usually are filled with great meals, sweets and treats, but you don’t need to spend the whole month in the kitchen. Take advantage of weekends to make meals or treats ahead of time for special events and freeze them. Make batches of cookie dough, drop spoonfuls of uncooked dough on cookie sheets and freeze them. Once frozen, remove the cookies from the sheets, bag them up and keep them frozen until needed. Whenever you need a batch or two of cookies, pull the dough out, thaw it on cookie sheets and bake as usual.
Make ahead meals that can be thawed and cooked for nights when you have a lot going on and no time to cook. Plan a Christmas morning brunch, and make as much as you can the weekend before and freeze it. Take the meal components out of the freezer before going to bed Christmas Eve. By morning, everything will have thawed and all you’ll need to do is heat it. This will give you more time with family and less time slaving over a hot stove.