Zen Christmas1

Are you feeling your stress level rise as you get closer to the holiday season? Do you feel that the crunch is on as you look at the calendar and realize that it is December 1st and the holiday season is upon us? The trick to staying centered and balanced during the holiday season is through proper “planning.” Use your Project Management skills to turn your situation around. Don’t procrastinate – start now.

Project Scope

It is easy to get overwhelmed during the holiday season trying to do too much. We have all heard the stories of those who have decided to embark on the romantic idea of homemade gifts, baking or crafts, only to realize the stress on the eve of the big day that doing things last minute is the wrong time to be working on mammoth projects that require huge amounts of time and effort. This is the biggest risk that faces all of us during the holiday season – the risk of taking on too much. Define how much you feel is reasonable for you to take on before you begin. Do you plan to shop for or make gifts? Are you planning to host any celebrations? Do you spend time baking or decorating or mailing out cards? Are you planning any fun holiday outings to ski, skate or snowboard? To help you determine the scope of the work, use our helpful Holiday Planner, to help you define those items you will commit to this year.

Project Team

The process for holiday planning is usually not a solitary exercise. Packed within a short 4 week window of time, there are many tasks that need to get done. Identify which family members or friends you may be able to work with to tackle your holiday activities. Include them in the process of determining the scope of what you will do. This will help reduce stress as everyone becomes clear about each other’s holiday expectations. As the team reviews the Holiday Planner, it should become very evident what can be realistically accomplished and what might have to be left as an activity to do for next year. Planning a big formal holiday bash takes time to organize and to have a high quality event that is well attended. You may realize as a team that you have run out of time and all agree to scale it down to a more informal gathering of family only.

Project Planning

In any project, once the team has decided on the scope of work then they develop their “Work Breakdown Structure”. The Holiday Planner lists all the typical activities surrounding the holiday season. Review the Holiday Planner and add or remove tasks as necessary. Make sure to identify the person who will be responsible for the task in the Resources column. Once a person has been allocated to a task, they need to estimate the duration for their tasks and indicate on the Holiday Planner when they will be doing the task.

Your Work Breakdown Structure may include everything from buying stamps and holiday cards, to gift giving, attending events such as office parties and concerts, hair appointments, food, decorations, family/friend celebrations and exercise. If you know that you will not stay away from the dessert table and all of the treats this season, it is a good idea to include in your Holiday plan the days you will work out and do exercise. This will ensure that you stay healthy and will help your stress level also stay low.

As well, determine your budget for gift giving, celebrations, decorations and foods. For large formal events, you may find it easier to create your Work Breakdown Structure using our helpful Project Planning Tools. These individual sticky notes are a great tool for listing the myriad of individual things that need to be done for each area of planning during the holiday season.

Project Execution & Risk Management

Once your plan is developed you will have a clear idea of what you need to do. You may run into some risk along the way-perhaps the gift you were planning to give for someone was not available or exceeded your budget? Assessing at the planning stages those items that have high risk associated with them is important for Risk Management.

It is a good idea to determine a back-up plan during the Project Planning so that if you need to, you can implement it during the Project Execution stage. All projects are subjected to risk and the best defence is recognizing this and monitoring to ensure that your Holiday Project Plan stays on track.

Project Close

Once your holidays are over, review your planning experience and make a note of what worked and what did not. This “close-out” exercise will make next year even easier!

Enjoy this Holiday Plan Template to get yourself organized!

Janet Williams

Janet Williams, associate of Business Improvement Architects, is an experienced Business Consultant, Project Manager and Instructor. Janet specializes in Project Management and Business Process Improvement and has worked for the Public and Private Sector, including non-profit organizations. In her consulting and project management work Janet's focus has been to help organizations navigate and manage change as they implement their strategic objectives. She assists organizations with strategic assessments, analyzing problems and providing recommendations for corrective actions. Based on the needs of the organization, Janet provides project leadership and project team support. Throughout the project life cycle Janet builds and manages effective project teams, creates solid project plans and ensures communication reaches all levels of the organization.