We've got seven tips that will help you take some stress out of the season.
Fam Pract Manag. 1999 Nov-Dec;6(10):68.
Remember when you were a child and couldn't wait for the holidays? As a busy physician with a waiting room of patients to see and a mountain of paperwork to scale, you probably still can't wait for the holidays — to be over, that is. But despite your busy schedule, you can still get organized and enjoy the holidays more.
The following tips will be more effective if you do one thing first: Imagine your ideal holiday season, one that would bring you the same kind of anticipation and excitement you had as a child, and let that image guide you as you set priorities. Once you can see this year's holiday clearly, you're ready to read further.
1. Question a routine or precedent. Over the years some holiday traditions can lose their meaning. Before you invest yourself in another year of making latkes or fruitcakes or in writing an annual holiday letter, reassess your holiday traditions. Perhaps there's a tradition that you're ready to retire or one you'd like to begin. One caveat: Take care that you don't discard some “bonding” traditions just because they're time-consuming. If they're important to you and your family, they're worth whatever time they take.
2. Set a deadline. Decide when you'll finish your holiday shopping and preparations, and plan how you will approach your holiday commitments. Do something every day to help you meet your deadline.
3. Carry your tape recorder. Put it in your pocket and use it to make a quick note to yourself when you hear someone say, “You know what I really would like?” or “You know what I really need?” A tape recorder is better than a notepad because there's less chance of misplacing it.
4. Give the gift of time. With some prior planning and rescheduling, you can quietly block off an afternoon's worth of appointments and surprise your staff by giving them the rest of the day off. You'll find that this unexpected bit of reprieve will spread a lot of good cheer. Another gift of time is to give the service of a personal assistant. The recipient can have the assistant run errands or, if you give it early in the season, do holiday shopping. Think of using an assistant yourself to take some of the stress out of your own holiday shopping. A gift certificate from a professional organizer is another good gift idea. It'll help someone get started on the road to efficiency in 2000. Look in the yellow pages to find personal assistants or organizers in your area.
5. Place your order. Use the Internet or your telephone to order presents and have them wrapped and sent. All you need is your credit card. It's the easiest way I know to send gifts to people who live out of town. And if you're traveling during the holidays, have the gifts sent to where you're going. That way you won't be burdened with packing and carrying the presents yourself, and both you and the gifts will arrive in better shape. But be forewarned. The Internet is not always the most efficient way to shop. If you don't know exactly what you want, you may spend a lot of time “surf-shopping.” Last year my friend and I conducted an experiment. She surf-shopped and I went shopping the old-fashioned way. I finished a day sooner.
6. Give a catalog. Place a catalog along with a gift certificate in a box and wrap it as you would any other present. Not sure whether a gift certificate shows much thought? Think about the last time you stood in line to return something after the holidays. Trust me. The gift-certificate recipient will thank you.
7. Shop late or go early. Stores are the least crowded during the dinner hour and when they open in the morning. Some stores (and order departments if you're using a catalog or the Internet to shop) are open 24 hours during the holidays. Try getting up in the middle of the night to get more done. Consider it a “house call” for yourself!
Finally, think ahead. Be on the lookout for gifts throughout the year. Buy a holiday gift at the same time you're shopping for the person's birthday. It's probably too late to be of much help in 1999, but just knowing that you're going to be more prepared next year may help ease some of this year's anxiety. Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season!
Pamela Vaccaro is owner of Designs on Time, a consulting firm specializing in time management and organization, and a member of the Family Practice Management Panel of Consultants.
Copyright © 1999 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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