The holiday season arrives so quickly. The pressure of Thanksgiving and Christmas planning starts to build shortly after I pick through my kids’ Halloween candy. And then the chaos hits: It’s time to plan family dinners, brainstorm gift ideas, sort through a two-page wish list of every Lego set ever built, buy presents for teachers, and send holiday cards all inside of eight weeks.
What does any good project manager do with chaos? Approach the season like any other project: get a plan, build out a schedule and create tasks. My tool of choice happens to be LiquidPlanner.
Here are 4 steps to survive the holiday chaos using LiquidPlanner’s task management features.
1. Create a project for your personal to-do list
In your LiquidPlanner workspace, add a personal to-do project. I created a separate project in my workspace so the tasks don’t mingle with my actual work tasks.
I’m only planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas so this project will end on 12/25/2013. (Someone else can plan the New Year’s Eve party)
2. Create sub-folders and tasks for each holiday event
Next, create sub-folders for the major holiday events you’re planning. These will live in your To-do list project folder.
In this example, I created a Thanksgiving Prep folder to capture all the tasks to prepare a family feast, including the frequently debated topic over who will host the dinner. In my extended family everyone brings a side dish, but we rotate houses to see who can cook the best turkey.
Once the folders are created, keep adding tasks to the sub-folders. I even included a task to set up the Christmas tree following Thanksgiving day since that is a family tradition.
I set the entire project to on-hold status (the black-and-white pause icons to the left of each task) since I’m sharing the workspace with my real work. I don’t want my holiday tasks to actually be scheduled across my work day.
Besides, I’d probably get kicked out of my own Thanksgiving dinner if I showed up with a Gantt Chart for the holidays.
3. Email the holiday gift ideas to your LiquidPlanner Inbox
Gift ideas rarely strike me when I’m sitting at a computer. Holiday inspiration hits when I’m out and about at stores in search of a meaningful gift. Using LiquidPlanner’s email integration feature, I can snap a photo of a few gift ideas, email them to my LiquidPlanner account and organize them by family member.
(OK, so in the example above, I may have found a holiday gift for me.)
Once the task reaches my LiquidPlanner Inbox, I can drag it under the proper family member’s folder. My kids have a never-ending wish list so for my immediate family members, I set up a folder to contain the multiple gift ideas. If I’m only going to buy one gift for a person, I’ll set up that person as a task rather than a folder. When the shopping is complete, I mark the task done and refresh my list.
4. Create checklists for holiday dinners
Another feature I like to use is LiquidPlanner’s checklist. If I need to plan an entire menu I can use the checklist feature to identify who is bringing a specific dish.
For a dinner menu, I create a checklist item and assign an owner. Technically, I could create virtual team members but for the sake of a one-time dinner, I just put their name in parenthesis next to the item.
Don’t forget to plan for a chaotic level of uncertainty. Between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, you’ll fight for parking spaces, visit the same grocery store three times in a single day and finish cleaning the kitchen just as the guests arrive. Don’t forget to take a moment between courses and amongst the pile of wrapping paper to look around and reflect on the family and friends that surround you.
These are your most important stakeholders . . .
. . . even if they show up on an occasional “issues list” during the year!
Hit us with your best holiday planning tip in Comments.