Save Time This Holiday Season

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This is the season when time seems to magically speed up — and to-do lists somehow grow longer every time we look at them. The holidays don’t have to be harried, though. Today, I’ve got tips to help you save time on shopping and other holiday chores. The goal is to give you more time for what’s really important: making memories with your loved ones and taking some restful, restorative time for you.

Productivity expert Maura Nevel Thomas shares ways to save time during the holiday season.

Another way to save time is to delegate some or all of your gift-shopping.

Do Some Delegating

Even Santa doesn’t do everything himself. Enlist your family members as your own elves for shopping, wrapping and decorating. Or hire some holiday helpers. Outsourcing some tasks doesn’t have to bust your budget. To get started, check out TaskRabbit and similar sites.

Go Homemade (Really!)

It might not sound like you’ll save time by making your own gifts, but you actually can. That’s especially true if you’re giving lots of smaller gifts (for example, to teachers, extended family members or service people). Block out an afternoon to whip up a big batch of a delicious treat, divide it into individual gifts and wrap them. You’ll cross a lot of people off your gift list at once. If you’re worried about dietary sensitivities or preferences, consider foaming hand soap, coffee syrup, or infused olive oils. Recipes for all of these abound online, and for containers, try your local Goodwill, the Container Store, or ask your neighbors for their empties using a site like NextDoor.

Save Time and Give Back

Donating to your recipient’s favorite charity isn’t just thoughtful and generous. It also means you don’t have to spend time searching for parking, battling crowds or hunting for deals online. Charity donations can even make fun, imagination-sparking gifts for children. A couple of ideas: “Adopt” a manatee for your favorite kids, or foster orphaned wild animals like giraffes, rhinos or elephants. For adults, give some thought to their areas of interest or something that’s meaningful to them, and donate to a related cause.

Organize Your Shopping Info

Shopping for gifts means wrangling lots of details. You have to track the people you’re buying for, what you’ve bought, what you still need to get … and on and on. You’ll shop more efficiently if all that information is at your fingertips. I always recommend using a personal productivity system you can access anywhere, even from your phone. You can keep your shopping lists and other details within that system. If you don’t yet use a personal productivity system, try out an app like Santa’s Bag to manage your shopping. Either way, you’ll save time. And you’ll have a head start on your gift list for next year.

Let Email Be Your Friend

One of my strategies about making the most of time off is extra-relevant during this busy time of year. When you set your out-of-office message on your work email, give yourself a little cushion. List your last day at work as one day before it actually is. This can buy you some breathing room to take care of last-minute tasks. And, to make it easier to catch up after the holidays, list your return date as one day later.

Give the Most Meaningful Gift

Finally, I want to leave you with a tip that’s not as extreme as it may sound. Most of us would say that the best part of the holiday season is the time we spend with our loved ones. Could you and your family or friends take the time you would have spent shopping for and wrapping gifts and instead spend it together? This removes the burden of shopping and wrapping altogether (which is also great for the environment), and I bet you’ll consider it time better spent.

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