Use your Management Skills to Build a Stress-Free Christmas

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The mantra in today’s uncertain economy is to build a repertoire of transferable skills, to be flexible in changing times, to work well with others no matter what the project.

The same abilities can be applied to Christmas challenges as well. When you get to feeling overwhelmed in the weeks to come, sit back for a minute and reflect on what you already know that can help.

For example:

    • Anticipate: It helps prevent problems at work and it applies to the holidays as well. I used to snicker at those folks who put up theirs on that long Thanksgiving weekend. Now I am starting to see some sense in it all. You don’t have to connect the tinsel and the Santa, but hanging from the eaves to string the lights is a lot easier when the snow isn’t flying and the days are a little warmer.
    • Delegate: Just as you can get a lot more done when you delegate at work, review what you can delegate in your personal life as well. For instance, Amazon has a great deal called Prime where they will wrap your packages AND ship them, at no extra charge. Calculate: how many hours standing in line at the post office, how many hours putting on those bows…
    • Work on off-hours: When in a bind, I get the most accomplished arriving at work early that hour before the phones start ringing and other folks show up. A lot of executives that I know do the same thing.

      OK, reverse the process at the end of your day. Consider taking advantage of those longer hours the retailers are offering. You don’t find too many older folks with slow carts or moms with cranky toddlers in tow at 10PM.

    • Multi-task: You do it at work – it operates at home, too. There’s no better combination than a good football game, a blaze in the fireplace, snow falling outside, and…Christmas cards to address or packages to wrap. You can do it!
    • Just-in-time inventory: Go stock up at Costco or Sam’s Club on off hours (see above). Buy some of those big family size freezer packs of hors d’oeuvres: the baby tarts, pigs in blankets, cheeses, you name it. Comes in handy when the gang drops over.
    • The customer is always right: Yeah, I know they aren’t, either. But if you are cheerful and positive, they go away feeling good about you and the product. Try the same attitude when you stand in line at the check-out counter. Joke with the clerks. Make small talk with others waiting in line. You’ll get better service (trust me, you will) and everybody’s mood lightens.
    • A project always takes three times longer than you anticipate. So plan shopping trips, drives to the store, getting the family ready to go to the party. If you build in an extra 15 (or 30!) minutes of lead time, that heavier-than-usual traffic will not tip you over into road rage and ruin your holiday spirit.
    • Accept less than perfection: You know when you’re working on that special report and you reach the point when you say, “OK, that’s it. That’s all they get.” The same thing applies to Christmas presents. Accept that there is no perfect one.
      In your heart you know that the odds are whatever you give might be the wrong color. Or not the exact shade of the right color. One size too small. One size too big. If your objective is to be perfect, you set yourself up for failure. Aim for that golden mean, give your gift with a big smile and a hug and enjoy life.
    • Use the leverage of fixed overhead. Remember your accounting classes? After you cover the fixed overhead, everything else is pure profit. OK, go back to Costco (no I don’t own shares!), get the BIG, economy size of gourmet coffee, candy, popcorn, or other seasonal treats.
      Then go over to the ceramics section and buy that special set of bowls, dishes, mugs, etc. Combine the goodies, put into the containers, and split into half a dozen different gifts. Wrap with special paper. You got it! For a nominal fixed overhead, you’ve got some really great gifts, and not a Hickory Farms bloated summer sausage among ’em.
  • Finally, remember the corollary to Murphy’s Law: “Murphy was an optimist.” In the holiday season, as in the business world, if something can go wrong, it will.

    People will be cranky. The wrong person will show up on your doorstep at the right time. The Internet fails you and you can’t find this year’s equivalent of Tickle me Elmo or the Cabbage Patch dolls anywhere, not even on eBay at twice the price.

Work to be flexible. Repeat after me: There is always next year. Stop, breathe, smell the holly, and you can savor this very special time in your life.

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