NEW YEAR ALREADY???
It's the same thing every year. The months fly by and before we know it, the holidays are upon us. We find ourselves going to parties, buying gifts, mailing out cards, rushing around for those last minute items.
Now that it's January again I know it's the last thing we want to think about but it's never too early to think about the holidays 2004. Yes, you heard right--start planning for the end of THIS year! And it's not only important to think ahead to the holidays but also about all of those important dates that come up throughout the year.
There are small things you can do in advance during the year that will help you in a big way when special occasions and holidays come around. Let's focus on reminders and gift giving and at least you will never find yourself missing a special occasion or running around at the last minute for that card or gift.
STEP #1 - PLAN AHEAD
Most everyone uses some sort of planner these days. Whether it be the Day Runner or the Palm Pilot, these items were designed to help us get more organized. There it is before you; that clean slate for the New Year. Why not use it to its full advantage? It will only take a short amount of time to enter all of your entries for the year and will save you so much stress down the road. It is well worth the sacrifice of a little bit of your free time to get this task done.
STEP #2 - MAKE A MASTER LIST
Make a list on your computer of every occasion that is important to you. Go month by month and write down birthdays, anniversaries, etc. This will create a master list for you to work off of each year.
I like to use Microsoft Excel for this task because working with the columns makes it easy but you can do it on MS Word, too, or whatever program you have available. Make one column for the month, one for the date, one for the person's name, one for the occasion and one for a gift idea. This way as you think of gifts throughout the year, you can enter them on this master list (more on that later).
STEP #3 - MAKE YOUR ENTRIES
After you are finished with your master list, now it is time to transfer the information into your date book or onto your Palm or whatever system you use. I like to use a different color pen, such as red. Something that stands out.
STEP #4 - REMINDERS
While entering the special occasions is an important part of this procedure, the most important thing is a reminder system so you don't forget these occasions.
For anyone that you are buying a gift or card for, put a reminder in your system three to four weeks before the occasion date. By setting a reminder this far in advance, you allow yourself extra time to shop for these items. This will be very helpful if you don't know what to get for the person whose birthday or anniversary is coming up.
If you need to mail the card or item to this person, enter another reminder for yourself on the date you would like to send the item in the mail. For domestic mail, I generally allow 3 - 5 days and for international, at least one week.
USING THE INTERNET
I have found that a great idea for reminders is using your computer. Most hosting systems (AOL, MSN, etc.) already come with this reminder system. Or you can use a website such as birthdayalarm.com. Whatever you choose, you set it up one time and reminders will be e-mailed to you. The great thing about it is that you can set recurring reminders so you only have to do this one time and the reminders can be sent to you automatically year after year.
I use this system as my main source of being reminded who I have to shop for and when I have to mail the items. Then when I receive the e-mail, I just transfer the information on to my To Do list or into my planner.
It's also a great way to remind yourself of appointments or phone calls you need to make or follow up items. Or things that you have to do year after year such as spring cleaning or month after month such as administering flea and tick medication on your pets.
Coming up with gift ideas year after year can be difficult. That is why keeping a master list of people you need to shop for is so useful. If your friend or family member mentions something they like, write it down on your list so you will remember when the time comes to buy them a gift.
One of my favorite gift ideas is a gift certificate. Especially for something such as a massage or facial. This is something people usually do not do for themselves and will always appreciate. Spafinder.com offers gift certificates that are accepted at spas nationwide so the recipient can choose whichever spa and spa treatment they like from the list of participating spas.
Plus, the best part of giving a gift like this is that is something that will not add to the clutter of anyone's home. Who really needs another vase or knick knack to collect dust on their shelves? So not only will you be giving a gift that they will enjoy, you will also help them to avoid getting too cluttered!
Another great idea is to encourage your friends and family to create Wish Lists on their favorite websites. Those of you familiar with Amazon.com may know this well. On some sites you can even access other people's wish lists so you can purchase exactly what they are looking for. It may also give other people incentive to shop off of your wish list as well!
BUYING IN ADVANCE
One thing I like to do is always have birthday or anniversary cards on hand. I only purchase these cards one or two times a year so that I always have them available. And you can find great discount cards on line at such sites like CurrentCatalog.com. You will never have to run to the store last minute again to find a card you need. However, if you have your reminder system set up properly, you will always be allowing yourself extra time to pick up cards if you prefer to get more personal cards.
Another item I like to keep on hand are "Happy Birthday" stamps that you can find at any post office. They come in 37 cent value and add a great finishing touch to your birthday cards.
Just like any other aspect of organizing, advance planning is key when it comes to remembering special occasions and creating less stressful holiday shopping. Why not get this task taken care of now so you can enjoy a year of stress free gift giving and card mailing? You will never forget another important date again and all of your friends will wonder how you do it!
I wish you all a happy and prosperous and organized 2004!!