Tip #1: Dump All the Ideas
That’s right. Dump them. Onto paper or online, but get them out of your head. All those spinning plates and random thoughts only contribute to a mounting sense of anxiety. Let a web of written (or typed) thoughts manage those instead. While brain dumps come in a variety of forms, you should know that whatever works for you is your best option. For the creative type, an old fashion brainstorm or idea web will work perfectly. Start with your event circled in the center and simply jot down all the random things associated with it. Don’t worry about order or priority, simply get them out. If you want to amp up your game, jot the ideas down on Post-Its so that you can prioritize and organize later. Type A folks would do well with lists that can later be numbered and rewritten. Trello is an excellent (and FREE) online app that helps you manage all those ideas as they process from to-do into to-done!
Tip #2: Break It Down
Once you begin to free up some RAM within your brain, you’ll realize that each idea you jotted down requires multiple actions. Now that you’ve got the big ideas out, go ahead and task analyze each. If your event is Thanksgiving, one of those big ideas will be the menu. Begin to break that down. What’s your main course? How many sides, appetizers, and desserts do you want to serve? What will those be? How long will those take? Who will be responsible for each? Are there food allergies/aversions to consider for your guests? Breaking down your tasks into manageable, achievable chunks will help you to feel successful before you’ve even taken your first action step. You’ll also REALLY enjoy crossing all those things off!
Tip #3: Do What You Can, NOW!
There will be items on your brain dump that can be taken care of within the next week even though we’re WEEKS away from any big holiday parties. Send an email to guests asking about allergies/aversions. Shop for the dry goods and pantry supplies you’ll need on-hand once the cooking is underway. (I hate getting caught without enough butter….that just ruins everything! So stock up now…before everyone else is shopping for the same thing!)
Tip #4: Work Backwards
Review the tasks that need to be completed closer to the event. How long will each task take? Assign a minute value to each. If we’re talking about when to put the turkey in the oven for Thanksgiving, we need to know how long it will cook. Once you’ve given it a time estimate, start with your intended time to SERVE the food and start working backwards. If the turkey needs to be on the table at 4pm, it needs to be out of the oven by 3:30pm, which means it needs to be in the oven at 10am, and that you’ll need to preheat the oven at 9:45am. You’ll also need to start stuffing that bird by 9:15am so that it goes in on time. Working backwards helps you to know when you MUST begin. Late starts and delays cause some of the most undue stress! Don’t get caught in that trap.
Tip #5: Make Time for the Unexpected
Let’s go back to the bird in the oven illustration. There will be certain non-negotiables; things you can’t fudge on without throwing off the entire schedule. That’s inevitable in any event. However, it’s good to think through those things….like what if someone didn’t start thawing the bird 2 days prior? What if the store is out of lemons and you need a different stuffing or rub recipe? Creating space for mistakes, interruptions, or oven fires will enable you to feel calm even when crazy comes knocking at the door.
As your events approach, take a deep breath and get organized so that you’ll look and feel like a pro on the big day!
This post originally appeared on The Good Life.