It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I think we can all agree that the holidays can get overwhelming at times, right? With all there is to do and see, a little bit of planning and organization can go a long way to making sure you enjoy the season, not just survive it.
If you have seen my advent calendar and Christmas bucket list of activities, you can see why I can feel overwhelmed on some days. Some days I feel like I am juggling flaming torches – when all of a sudden someone tosses me a sharp sword … and expects that I effortlessly incorporate it.
Like when someone has a meltdown in the middle of the line to see Santa, or my husband notifies me of a work party the night before and asks if I can “bake something”. Most days I do manage to make the juggling look effortless, although there are a few occasions where I might cut a finger, burn my hand, or both!
Paper vs Digital Planner
Over the years, I have found an organization and planning routine that works for me. I used to keep one of those beautiful (and expensive) planners, but they all had several problems:
- I sometimes need more or less space to write.
- Contain sections I don’t need or are missing some things that I desperately need.
- I don’t carry a bulky binder or large planner everywhere I go, thus I can’t add things conveniently – like that hint my husband dropped on a holiday gift idea while we were in the store.
With today’s smartphones, I have come up with a strategy to incorporate it all on my phone! Although I have a Samsung Galaxy S8, these tips and apps are available on both Android and Apple phones.
As someone who spent a great deal of my youth in disorganized chaos, it is a great feeling to have that perfect gift idea, dinner is planned out, and everything is merry and bright!
Family Organization Apps
This is my must-have family organization app. There is a central family calendar and everyone has their own password. I can set reminders to the whole family or just specific people. What I most love about it is the “lists” section. Say my husband notices we are out of ketchup. Rather than remind me (which I will certainly forget), he can add it to the grocery list in cozi and it syncs together with my list. I will be sure to get it on the next shopping trip. I can also add to the honey-do list in a snap (haha!). You can create all kinds of lists, meal plans and store recipes with it too.
All of my contacts are already in my phone so it’s easy to figure out Christmas card lists and gift lists.
For an app that tracks everything you’ve purchased so far on your Christmas list, the Giftster app is a solid choice. It tracks the amount of money and the gifts you’ve purchased for every person and your family can coordinate wish lists.
There are several apps for notepads to jote down ideas, reminders or even packing lists. I generally use the notepad app that comes with my phone, but there are several apps like Trello or Color Note that work well.
Get the Most Out Of Your Camera
I personally don’t want to carry around my bulky DSLR, so my phone is my go-to camera. The main tenant of organization for me is to keep everything convenient and in one place. So for family memories, I use my real camera and snapshots or everyday shots, I work a lot with my phone camera.
My favorite apps for editing photos quickly on my phone is Snapseed and Lightroom CC. Snapseed works great with professional looking tools but an easy interface and a few filters.
Personal Shopping Assistant
One of my favorite ways to use my camera is as a personal shopper. Don’t we all wish we had a personal assistant? My Samsung Galaxy S8 comes with Bixby. Bixby has many cool features that help out in a hurry. One of the coolest features is that I can price comparison fast and easy while shopping. Simply take a picture and Bixby will compare with online shopping prices to find you the best deal. Now that feels pretty awesome!
If you have an iOS phone, ShopSavy Barcode reader is also a pretty good comparison shopping app.
Lists and Lists
In order to really maximize productivity, I have a “Master Task List” which includes EVERYTHING I need to do. From paying my car insurance to baking cookies, its all on there -with no priority. From that master list, I prioritize by scanning the master list and then creating a daily list. For me, just before bed works well but others like to do it over their morning coffee. One last note – I don’t type this out, it is all voice to text which is much faster.
Here are some examples of lists that I keep for the holidays:
- Dinner Menu
- Grocery Shopping List (in cozi)
- Gift Lists (in Gifster)
- Decorating Ideas and Crafts
- Store Hours
- Christmas Card Contacts (not really a list but I know how many to get from my contact list)
- Master Task list and task list broken up for that day
Managing My Tasks
Usually in October, I lay out my entire calendar for the holiday season. I utilize an advent calendar for my tasks, and it’s a little bit different than many of the advent calendars you have seen before.
There are 3 categories for things that go in the calendar – “bucket list”, “mommy needs some time to herself”, and “free day”. “Bucket List” includes family activities such going to see Santa, trimming the tree, or shopping for presents for teachers or parents. You can see more of my bucket list activities for the holidays here. “Mommy needs some time for herself” are days I have something planned that I need done, so the advent calendar will include activities to keep the kids busy while I get something done. Watching a Christmas movie, a new board game, or a even a small book of facts works wonders around this house. Free days are generally days where I add a piece of candy or a dollar store toy in them. I don’t want, nor could I actually handle a real activity every day!
So how do I get started organizing everything? I usually start out by writing it on a paper calendar so I can see any conflicts and easily rearrange. Then I transfer everything to the calendar in my phone. That way I can always check the calendar on the go if something comes up. It also simple to set up alarms and reminders as needed. I even have multiple reminders for tasks like getting cards in the mail. Yes, it’s that simple and everything is in one place and always with me!
Looking for more ways to create some cheer this season? Check these out: