Sundays tend to be planning days for me. Not the whole day, but it’s the day of the week I anticipate what’s coming, determine what I need to do to be prepared for what’s on my plate and make lists to be sure I stay on top of my responsibilities and commitments. It’s a great day for tip five!

Tip Five: Have a Plan

This is where you apply your answers from the framework laid out in “The 3 M’s of a Merry Christmas” to this year’s schedule. (If you haven’t had a chance to read that blog, click over to The Laundry Moms to give it a read. We’ll be here when you get back.)

Let’s go ahead and start building your plan or building on to it if you’ve already started.

  1. What is most important to you and what have you determined to give the highest priority?

This has to do with your values: what do you and your family value most? Don’t let the devil fill your moments and days with distractions. Stay focused on what really means the most to you and let other things go.

Based on your values, what activities, expenses and commitments will you give your time and money? Identify them and plan for them either on your calendar or in your budget or both. Think each thing through in its preparation (time and tasks), the actual time or money required, and any follow-up or recovery time you might need as well. For example, if you’re going to travel to see family, what preparations are needed in advance: airline tickets, driving directions, travel expenses, hotel, meals, advanced cooking or gift buying, pet care, the time required for you to be gone, etc.? What’s on your plate the minute you get home? Have you planned time to settle back in, buy groceries and get your feet planted back at home before you’re off running again? This is all part of having a plan. Same goes for parties, shopping, menu planning, cooking, cleaning and the like.

  1. Have you started using a calendar and set a budget?

When you see what THEY SAY you have time and money for, this becomes an indispensible part of your plan. Do your calendar and budget match your values and priorities? Cross reference these items regularly and let them hold you accountable. which leads me to another suggestion: be sure to continually look at what’s leading up to a scheduled commitment and what’s after it. In my marriage, I am not allowed to commit to back-to-back events, no matter how worthy or enticing. It’s simply an automatic no, so I have to carefully watch for that. If something is important enough to ask, I’ll show James our existing commitments and where the new commitment will fall and ask him if he’s on board. If not, I drop it and give my no.

  1. What traditions will you continue?

Once you answer this, schedule them on your calendar, and if they involve any expenses, make sure you budget for them. Get important traditions on the calendar FIRST and plan around them. If another option interferes or would make our family life too crazy, I already know my answer.

I’ve already shared one tradition that’s a must this year, and that’s our girl’s outing to The Nutcracker ballet. In fact, today, I need to find out show times, coordinate with my girls and purchase these tickets. It needs to be on my calendar and factored into my budget. A second non-negotiable tradition is serving the homeless a hot Christmas Eve meal with Love Out Loud in Houston. When I identify a tradition that’s a yes, I need to go through one and two above. Are we inviting other families we’d love to serve alongside? Have I extended an invitation? Have I let Love Out Loud know we’re coming? Will we be giving financially to the event? Is that factored into my budget? Will we go out for lunch together afterward? Later in the day, we have ham and turkey and our evening Christmas Eve traditions of the Lord’s Supper, the Jesus stocking (see Set a Budget for a Meaningful, Manageable & Memorable Christmas) and we each open one gift. When am I shopping for the ham and turkey? What else is on the menu that evening? Have I put juice and bread on the grocery list for the Lord’s Supper? Do I have pens and 3×5 cards ready to record our gifts to Jesus? By having a plan, I am MAKING time for what truly is most important to us and I’m hopefully preventing the stress of last minute preparations, interruptions, embarrassment and stress because I forgot something.

Let your plan work for you. Let it give you the answers that are sometimes hard to come up with on our own because we want to be all things to all people. If you think it through ahead of time, you’re less likely to make knee-jerk, emotional decisions you’ll later regret.

Tomorrow, we’ll follow up today’s tip with Tip Six: Plan Ahead for a Meaningful, Manageable & Memorable Christmas. If these tips are helping you, will you share them?

See you here tomorrow!

This series of tips is filling in the framework of The 3 M’s of a Merry Christmas. If you’ve missed a few tips along the way, you’ll find all ten here: 10 Tips for Making Christmas Meaningful, Manageable & Memorable.