In just over two weeks the holiday season is officially here!  

For some, that's a reason to smile warmly, book a flight and look forward to all the new memories that will be made with friends and family, with someone else doing the lion's share of the work.  For the rest of us, knowing we have less than a month to pull off an apparently effortless and memorable Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, brings on a sweat, coupled with a quickened heartbeat, while our minds swirl with rapid fire thoughts of all the details and demands that this festive season will add to our "to do" list.  

Yes, the very potential for holiday bliss, the quest to get it all picture perfect and the attempt to meet everyone's needs, on time and in budget, can drive you mad and can silence the jingle in "Jingle Bells".

 So, what to do?  We can't cancel Christmas, but we can make a plan, a plan that will allow us to stay sane, enjoy some moments and allow us to sit down and sip some egg nog for a change.  

While it's a wonderfully warm image when we see well-intending gift givers huddled around the fireplace on Christmas Eve wrapping gifts, that only works, if, it's in the plan and not thrust upon these hard working, do-gooders after another long and frazzling day of work followed by a dizzying list of "do or die" errands that require criss-crossing the town before stores shut down for the holiday.

 The latter household sounds like they might be perfect candidates for Murphy's Law taking the last inches of tape after only the first of 30 gifts have been wrapped.  A nightmare before Christmas for sure.  A plan can save us from such harrowing moments.  Let's take a look at the calendar.  It holds the key, showing us just how much and how little time we have to get it all done, right there in black and white.

There are some 45 days from now (with 2 days off for Thanksgiving) to make and execute a holiday, calendar plan that will allow you to put in what you want, and extract the scurry and stress and overspending that you don't want and enjoy the season.

Consider how you can balance all of the holiday demands.  It starts in the mind, at the veritable drawing board:

1.Decide what you want to ensure is a part of this year's holiday season that you may have missed doing last year, i.e., visiting a certain relative, attending Kwanzaa festivities, organizing caroling in your neighborhood, volunteering and or attending a few choice events. Pencil in when and where you can make this happen because likely you cannot comfortably attend every event to which you are invited.

2. Decide how much you can afford to spend on gifts, decorations other holiday related expenses and offset that with how much money you think is wise to spend this year and         write it down.

3. Decide who you are buying gifts for this year.  Write it down.

4. Decide when you will do your holiday shopping, so you are not plagued with constant impulsive runs to the mall or your neighborhood stores.  Pencil that in on your calendar.

5.Decide when you will do your gift wrapping.  It may have to be broken up into different days.  Pencil it in.

6.Decide how much you want to give to charity.

7. Make your menu for Thanksgiving and any other holiday you are celebrating and make a list of the ingredients you will need.  Decide when you will do a pantry search for those ingredients only used once a year before you go to the store and buy things you already have.

8. Decide when you might need help with some things as well.  Ask for the help and plan ahead and lock them into a schedule early.

9. Decide if you will be sending holiday cards.  Mark on your calendar when you will fill them out and when you will put them in the mail.

10.Decide if you will be decorating inside and or outside your house, which means marking your calendar for finding, inspecting and updating the decorations, if need be, and then mark another day for putting all the decorations up.
       
Whew!

 It's a maddening list of holiday related tasks that can be a burden if you don't have a plan and possibly some help.  Take control of these holiday duties that have become obligatory, for better or worse.  Take control of your holiday experience like Santa taking the reigns of his sleigh.  A plan on paper can help you manage everything you want to achieve, so that you can bring in the new year feeling accomplished because you aren't overly taxed, you are in budget and you made lasting memories because the entire holiday didn't buzz by you in a chaotic flurry of work and stress.

A plan should allow you more time to look around and remember what life and the holiday season are all about and it should allow you that leisure cup of egg nog, with your feet up and a festive gleam in your eye.

Which brings me to another thing ... we'll talk about that one next time.