Allan Thomson, PPM Ambassador at AXELOS, shares his “Project Christmas” tips for tackling some of the main causes of stress.
- There’s too much going on before Christmas. How can I avoid the stress and enjoy this time of year?
Your diary can suddenly fill up with invitations to attend any number of festive occasions — both personal and professional. This should be the fun part of Christmas, but too many nights out can leave you exhausted.
Before you over-commit to everything, take a step back and think like a project manager. Is it your responsibility to be part of it? What would your role be? An invitation to a friend’s gathering is entirely different from a supplier’s huge corporate event, so be selective.
And remember if you are there as a guest, your role is to enjoy the event. You don’t have to play the host and there’s no obligation to stay longer than you want.
- I’m hosting my family for the first time this year. How do I plan our Christmas dinner?
Nobody wants to run out of food or disappoint your loved ones. Yet, the list of food, gifts and cards to organize can seem overwhelming, especially if you’ve never done it before.
Make a plan that links actions to each task. So rather than bulk buy from the supermarket in a blind panic, consider the requirements of the day then shop accordingly. Think about the food you want to prepare; how many guests will come (make sure to plan for one or two surprise guests – somebody might bring a new partner) and check if there are any specific dietary requirements.
If you plan a big dinner, make a proper schedule. You don’t want to find out that your main meal needs five hours to prepare and cook when the guests are just an hour away.
- I feel like I need to plan the whole day. How do I make sure everybody’s happy on Christmas Day?
This is the ultimate in project delivery. It involves many variables, people and risk factors, but there are huge rewards to gain from a successful outcome.
Breaking the day down into stages makes it appear much more manageable. Christmas Day may involve a morning of fizz and presents with the kids, followed by a trip to the pub with the in-laws, back home for the Queen’s speech and then Christmas dinner with extended family. Whatever your day looks like, the main thing is to plan well in advance and agree who is doing what.
Make sure to include the whole family if possible. If your children are old enough, they can be given some responsibility as well. The success of Christmas shouldn’t rest on one person’s shoulders.
- How can I make sure Christmas won’t be a disaster like last year?
Navigating the complexities of family and friends to avoid conflict can be a minefield. So, learn lessons from past Christmases and avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Before you plan any social gatherings, think about last year. What went wrong? What went right? Can you avoid re-creating the situation which led to the now-legendary family bust up on Boxing Day? A thorough review of past upsets can help prevent a re-run and significantly reduce stress levels.
Sometimes the solution can be an easy one. Don’t sit family members next to each other if you know there are tensions. Make sure people can’t help themselves to more wine if last year’s disaster was the result of overdoing it.
Or if the drama was because you bought the wrong presents, try to focus on the individual when shopping and don’t be distracted by random things that catch your eye. You might like them, but that doesn’t mean the recipient will.
- How can I avoid overspending?
It’s easy to get carried away with excitement, which is why it’s important to set yourself a budget and allocate what you can afford in a way that makes sense.
Think about how much money you want to spend on presents — and then add on a bit of wiggle room in case you find THE present for somebody. The same applies to Christmas dinner. Set yourself a budget and make sure you have a list of everything you need for your menu.
Remember, Project Christmas should be about sharing happy times with your nearest and dearest, so there’s no need to overspend
- We always produce so much waste around Christmas. How can I make sure we are more sustainable this year?
It’s more important than ever to consider the environment in your Christmas project plans. We all want to protect our festive traditions for many future generations to come.
Just taking the time to make small adjustments won’t impact your enjoyment and may not change the world overnight, but it’s an important start. So, choose recycled and recyclable wrapping paper, consider walking not driving and plan your Christmas dinner properly to avoid food waste. But if you do have leftovers, get creative in the kitchen to use them up – after all, some people prefer eating the leftovers to the actual Christmas dinner.