The Part Time Job Called ChristmasThe Part Time Job Called Christmas

Here we are in December and I feel like I have taken on a part time job to go with my full time job and all my other responsibilities. Of course, I am talking about getting ready for Christmas. I'm talking about decorating the house and tree, sending Christmas cards, buying and wrapping gifts, baking cookies and other goodies, extra social engagements, church activities, and all the other activities and responsibilities that seem to come with Christmas. I'm sure you know exactly what I mean and that you are also wondering how you are going to find time for it all?

The Pareto principle states that 80% of our greatest benefit comes from 20% of our efforts. At this time of year especially we have to trim our schedule and decrease the number of activities that fall into the 80% that are not contributing to our greatest benefit. Granted, deciding what these activities are can be difficult to say the least.

Consider your activities according to these five categories and focus mostly on the first two :

• Important and Urgent- if you don't get gas right now you may end up sitting by the side of the road with an empty tank and you have a child waiting to be picked up after school at 5PM.

• Important and Not Urgent- sleeping, spending time with your family, eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep.

• Urgent but Not Important-the telephone rings right when you are in the middle of something, the dog runs across the kitchen floor with muddy feet.

• Busy Work- checking and answering e-mails, making sure you do things perfectly, not delegating easy tasks that could easily be delegated.

• Wasted Time-too much socializing around the water cooler or on the telephone, too much social networking, too much television, perfectionism.

To find enough time to get ready for and enjoy your Christmas, you must start with a plan. Start by listing all your Christmas activities, then consider the importance of each. Do you bake dozens of carefully decorated Christmas cookies because it is something you have always done? Do you participate in a Christmas cookie exchange or a church gift exchange for the same reason? What if you skipped the cookies or made drop cookies instead of iced cookies this year? Or maybe ordered cookies from a bakery? What if you skipped the church gift exchange and spent that time focused on family gifts? What if your family agreed to buy gifts for the children only and not for the adults? Or maybe draw names for the family gift exchange? Which social activities and parties are important to YOU and which do you attend just because you always have or someone else expects you to? Which activities might you be able to delegate? Maybe hire a high school neighbor child to wrap gifts for you or put up the outside decorations? What time wasters and unimportant tasks and activities can you eliminate this month?

"Efficiency is doing things right, but effectiveness is doing the right things." ~Peter Drucker~

Perfectionism is another time waster! There is a big difference is doing things correctly, doing a good job and trying to do things perfectly. Of course, some activities need to be done better than others. If you are driving you will want to strive for a higher level of excellence than if you are gift wrapping. Driving is a life or death activity and getting the bows perfect on your gifts is not. Parkinson's law states that work expands to fill the time available. You can always do an activity a little bit better, a little bit fancier, a little bit bigger. The cure for this is to schedule a reasonable but specific amount of time for a task, set a timer, and then be done with that task when the timer goes off.

It has been found that multitasking also wastes time. Your concentration is divided and each interruption requires you to refocus and reconcentrate. You get much more accomplished when you block out a period of time to work uninterrupted on your task or project. A British study found that workers who were interrupted by phone calls, text messages, and e-mails suffered a greater loss of IQ than if they were smoking marijuana. Sleep deprivation also lowers your effectiveness so shortchanging yourself on sleep to get the extra tasks of Christmas completed is usually a mistake. One thing to remember when blocking out time, after two or three hours your brain becomes fatigued and efficiency decreases significantly so it is best to set your schedule to change activities every two or three hours.

One final thought regarding getting is all done this month relates to organization. Wasting time finding things you have misplaced occurs when you are surrounded by clutter. Keep surfaces cleared and put things away where they belong so you can find them quickly the next time you need them. Another reason for having desk and counters clear is that having a jumble of things in your view is distracting. Only have what you are working on in front of you and you will concentrate better and finish your activity more quickly and accurately.

I hope these ideas will help you make your Christmas the best ever, full of what is important to YOU and free of everything that does not matter to YOU.

by Sharon Ball
References and Bibliography
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