holiday organizing tips

Making a list and checking it twice . . . that is my mantra for the holiday season and it’ll make a world of difference in your life, too!

Just like you’d never go on a road trip without looking at a map, smartphone or GPS device to guide you, the same goes for the holidays. “To do” lists seem to expand exponentially at this time of year with all the gift shopping, party hopping, tree topping and corks popping.

My secret? Making a list – and not just one, but lots of them! This strategy is based on the first step of the system endorsed by my favorite paper planner, the Planner Pad: categorize. This system is rock-solid in organizing your life as it super-charges your “to do” list by breaking it down into actionable steps so you can get everything done. By following the Planner Pad method, you will bid adieu to the frenetic feeling of being overwhelmed and overscheduled at this time of year. Let’s take a tour of how it works:



Create several “to do” lists for each holiday category that comes to you like gift giving, party planning and trip packing. After the initial brain dump, you will add more tasks to that respective “to do” list as and when ideas come to you.

prioritize your holiday tasks


Once your categorized “to do” lists are created, it’s time to prioritize: decide which tasks need to be done first, second, and so on. Is your office party this week? Are you celebrating Christmas with family in 3 weeks? Assign priorities according to deadlines, if necessary.

how to schedule your holiday tasks


Finally, it’s time to schedule your tasks. At this point, you will have a better perspective on when you’ll need to complete a task; now you can assign a day and time for doing just that. With this system in place, it’s quite exhilarating to check your tasks off as you go – and see yourself getting closer to the finish line!

Below are some general holiday “to do” lists that all have categories, priorities and scheduling to keep in mind:

how to plan for holiday cards

Holiday Cards

  • Content: Including a family photo on your card? Schedule haircuts, outfit shopping, and a photographer as soon as possible!
  • Card: Pick out card design, choose/upload photo, design card and place order.
  • Mailing: Address & mail cards to arrive by desired date – Christmas? In the New Year? Schedule accordingly.

organizing for holiday gift giving

Gift Giving

  • To whom? Make a list of everyone you need to gift this year: immediate family, extended family, friends, teachers, co-workers, etc.
  • When? Determine when gifts will be exchanged: in person on Christmas Day, by mail or at a company holiday party?
  • How? Create and prioritize your shopping based on the event date, as well as any shipping deadlines you need to keep in mind.

how to keep your holiday decorating organized

Holiday Decorating

  • Plan: Review holiday decorations and determine if you need to update your collection (if so, in with the new, box up the old and off to the donation center you go!). Survey areas around your home to see where you could add some holiday cheer. Schedule outside help to hang lights and install tree, if necessary.
  • Purchase: Get your tree, wreath and all the trimmings.
  • Decorate: Need everything done by a specific date for a holiday party or by the time overnight guests arrive? This is the fun part: schedule a time when you can do it as a family.

I hope these tips will inspire you to make a list, check it twice and then sit back to enjoy the holidays!

6 replies
  1. Jo Frances Greenlaw
    Jo Frances Greenlaw says:

    A lot to think about, so I’m starting my lists today. One “to do” is simple. Mailing lists – made each year from cards and notes as they arrive by cutting off the return addresses and taping them to a note pad in columns. Gifts – list the purchases made while traveling – gets me started. Cooking – try to do one freezeable or storable thing everyday around dinner preparation. I’m glad you have me thinking about in a more organized way!

    Cheers! Love your website.

    • Cary Prince
      Cary Prince says:

      Thanks so very much, Jo Frances! And I love all your ideas for mailing lists, gift lists and cooking prep. You are organized without even realizing it. Bravo!

  2. Daria
    Daria says:

    I agree that categorizing helps things get done in a timely manner-and with less stress! Instead of “I have a million things to do!!” it’s more like “I have 5 tasks until I complete holiday cards.” Great post!

    • Cary Prince
      Cary Prince says:

      Thanks so much, Daria, for your sweet comments! I also love your example: bucketing your “to do” list certainly makes it all seem less overwhelming, and actually more manageable. Now to conquer those holiday cards…alas, subject matter for a future post! 😉

  3. Olive Wagar
    Olive Wagar says:

    Great post & photos, Cary! I like to focus on just one thing for the week so that I don’t get overwhelmed with too many things to do. So I will choose a week to do all the decorating with different tasks each day. At the end of the week, I am done with decorating. The next week might be baking or preparing holiday cards. It has worked for me for many years. Your website looks great! I remember when we were both taking an Elizabeth Hagen class a few years ago.

    • Cary Prince
      Cary Prince says:

      Fantastic strategy for the holidays — or really, any day, Olive! I want to come over! And yes, I love that Elizabeth Hagen brought us all together in her circle of influence, inspiration and mutual support. Look what we have all accomplished since then! I am so impressed by your business, your many speaking engagements and your blogging. Bravo!


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