The Christmas Timetable
Last year I had a friend say to me, "I love Christmas but there’s so much going on I get really stressed and then find I don’t enjoy it as much." The road to Christmas can sometimes feel like being stuck in traffic jam - you give up finding your own route and end up just following the flow of traffic!
We’re all guilty sometimes of wanting to cram too much into a day and then feeling deflated when we don’t achieve everything we wanted to. In the Christmas season this just seems to get exaggerated and feels even worse. It’s totally ridiculous, even simple tasks like trying to get out the door or even coming back home can takes a few extra minutes as we tackle hats, scarves and gloves in the cold weather. That's not even mentioning when you’re just about running on time and then you realise the car windows are frozen over and now you’re late. Is it any wonder we can very often feel like there's not enough hours in the day?!
So how do you find the time to do everything at Christmas and enjoy yourself? A few years ago I discovered the secret and today I’m going to share it with you.
The best way to enjoy yourself at Christmas I have found is to simply let go of doing everything. Yes that’s right don’t do it!
It’s taken me many years to get to this point, I am by nature a person who says yes to everything but I’ve learnt that I need to say yes to myself more and that means saying no to others! I’m not saying don’t do anything but pick the bits that you like to do, things that make you happy. Forget the rest and be brave about saying no to things that don’t work for you!
It sounds almost scrooge like but how many things do we do at Christmas because we feel like we should? How many times have you spoken to someone and said ‘Oh yes, we must get together and do something at Christmas’? What about the rest of the year? Are friendships not an all year round thing?! Instead I like catching up with people after Christmas when all of the rush is over.
It’s not that I don’t want to see people but I now refuse to book up so much that I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. Gone are the days where I needed 3 Christmas party outfits because I was at 3 different Christmas parties 3 nights in a row. I’m not anti-social but I’m not afraid to say that nowadays after having my children my idea of a good night is sitting in my PJs watching some good telly with a cup of tea and nice tin of Christmas biscuits! It's what I enjoy and that’s the key to having a happy season, to do what you enjoy with as little guilt as possible.
So here's my few tips on how to have a relaxed and festive season. It's not anything complicated but it's my tried and tested routine that gives me the space I need to find happiness at a real busy time of year.
Start by making a list of all the things that you do at Christmas time, include everything; places to visit, people to see, even down to the smallest things like baking a Christmas cake.
Does your list look like this?
It can go on and on and on….well you get the picture! All this is even before I got to the things that I really want to do like watching a Christmas film, popping corn with the Coffee Beans, doing a jigsaw puzzle or watching re-runs of Delia’s Christmas programmes on the numerous food channels - no seriously this is like a guilty pleasure of mine, the old ones just make me giggle!
Once you’ve made the list, evaluate it. You could try cutting the tasks into individual pieces so that you can move them around into groups or colour coding it with highlighters. Do what ever works for you but try and put each thing into a category.
* What is necessary? Like really necessary!
* What could I tick off early and do beforehand? I make advent calendars but I do them in September (July!).
* What are the handful of traditions that really work, that I enjoy and I intend on keeping?
* What are the handful of things that I enjoy doing the most?
If things don’t fit into these categories, then the last category you need is ‘The bin’ yep bin it! If it's not in the necessary pile, you don’t appear to enjoy it, you can’t get it done and out the way early and it’s not working for you, you probably don’t need it!
After you’ve evaluated what you really want from the Christmas period make a timetable. It may seem like this is being a bit too over organised but it’s not. It’s the key to making sure you keep it simple. When I look at our timetable for Christmas I can tell at a glance if its hitting its ‘too full’ stage just by the amount of text that’s on the page!
I actually keep a timetable for each month of the year, I only used to do this at Christmas but now I have children it's the only way I keep track of what’s going on. I say timetable it's actually just a table on a word document that I have created that has each day of the month at an easy glance. It’s really a diary but I do it on the computer for one very good reason. I can’t cope with lots of crossing out on a paper copy when things inevitably change and I don’t have time to keep rewriting paper copies. If something needs to move I simply cut and paste it and if we don’t get something done (which is quite often) I move it to the next weekend. It’s kind of half list and half diary but it really works for me.
Don’t just do the month of December do a couple of weeks previous in November and a couple of weeks into January, this way you can also account for any overspill. Then it’s just a case of filling it in. If all this sounds like a good idea I have added a blank template at the bottom of the blog.
Start with any dates that you know (work times / kids school holidays / any appointments you have booked) and then add in any engagements that you have organised already like work Christmas parties. After that I add in all the nitty gritty bits, like when I’m going to take the turkey out defrost or make a trifle. I’m sad to say this part is probably the most exciting part for me! In my defence though it is these bits that makes you know Christmas is really on its way, when I write take the turkey out to defrost I know that the big day is not far away and now I can actually get excited with the rest of the country rather than just on my own in the middle of July!
I put in everything on this timetable. I make a last minute Christmas cake - I don’t like fruit cake really but the first time I made this Mr OMC and myself argued over who was going to have the last piece and it's been on the menu every year since! As it’s last minute you have to boil the dried fruit in whisky and stout and then leave it to cool so this is like a 2 day process and if I only wrote make Christmas cake I would come to it on the day and realise that I hadn’t got the fruit prepped for it (I know this from experience!) so quite literally everything goes onto my timetable.
Once all these bits are written down you can see how much time you have and where you can fit in everything else. I don’t timetable in when I’m going to watch a Christmas film or anything quite that specific but I find the timetable gives me space to be able to do these things. I also sometimes don’t specify dates for some things instead I just write on a Monday what I want to achieve that week.
There's one more trick too that I have up my sleeve to have a relaxing stress free Christmas. My last thing is I always keep one weekend day free. If we are visiting or doing something on the Saturday we don’t book anything in for the Sunday or visa vera. We are still a family at the end of the day, we still need to produce meals for through the week, catch up on the washing or do any one of those number of everyday jobs you have to cram into the weekend. When these don’t get done for me that’s when the pressure mounts and the stress starts to creep in so we still make sure we have time to do them by keeping a day.
To anyone reading this who knows me…when you ask can we meet up in December and I say we’re busy, it's not that I don’t love seeing you but it's just that I value my family time!
We have learnt that what we want the most out of our Christmas (especially whilst our Coffee Beans are young) is to make some lasting memories of being a family. They’re not all singing all dancing and expensive costing memories but they’re the ones that you hold close to your heart as you grow up; the family time spent doing a jigsaw altogether or watching Polar express with some popcorn and a hot chocolate. xx
Downloadable Christmas timetable