Add a little life to last-minute lists

I made a list of the things I needed to do before Christmas yesterday. As I wrote it all down, my anxiety began to rise. I’d already been working full-time the last few days on various projects and gifts and planning for the holiday events. But the list seemed ominous, a monster under the bed with those scary musical chords that suggest something bad is about to happen playing in the background of my mind.

So I dealt with it then and ther. I slayed the monster.

First I remembered old Chuck Winchester III. One thing a time

Next, I added to the list.

Check it out. Here’s the first list:

– Ship packages

– Finish DIY presents

– Finish Christmas cookies

– Wrap DIY and cookies and mail

– Mail out Christmas cards (yes, I know, they’ll be late… )

– Make and hang burlap curtains

– Decorate house

– Get tree (don’t ask… I just didn’t get to it this year yet)

– Decorate tree

– Find Xmas CDs

– Make Peanut Butter for Test Kitchen

– Make Peanut Butter-based test recipes

– Plan holiday week menus

– Shop for groceries

– Clean house

– Make stockings for new family members

– Get some actual work done (good luck with that one…)

Here are the modifications I made to the list:

Watch 3- hour Eagles documentary (which led to add on: write blog about Eagles documentary). So cool. Stayed up a bit too late and slept not enough, but it was worth it.

– Ship packages – I left this at the top because the clock was ticking. Once I did this and scheduled the postal pick-up, my stress level went down… way down. So that’s something I do with lists, attack the hard stuff, the procrasting stuff first. As M. Scott Peck wrote in The Road Less Traveled, do it first. Shove it to the top. Once you cross it off, the momentum is like riding a bike downhill.

– Finish DIY presents

Plan menus – I like planning menus and after the shipping and the projects, I needed a break. This turned into a fun Sunday break.

Go for a run, end at grocery store and shop- It’s easy to let yourself go when you’re trippin’ on stress. By forcing myself to do something healthy, I felt better about the day.  I worked in the shopping to still get a key item done. The one downside I didn’t fully plan for was carrying $80 of groceries up this hill:

2013-12-06 14.57.34

Lift weights- bonus round. My arms and shoulders and calves felt blown out once I got the groceries home.

– Finish Christmas cookies- satisfied with my workout, I turned on a football game and baked cookies. An agenda item turned into a pleasant afternoon. I added an impromptu item to the to-do list:

Facebook your Seahawks loving nephew and punk him about the loss… at home no less! (Check that one off right away. tee hee… tee hee…)

– Wrap DIY and cookies and mail – I really don’t like wrapping presents. I’m not that great at it and you never really know how much there is to do until you start in. Typically I’d wait until Christmas Eve, turn on It’s a Wonderful Life, and wrap presents for the the whole three-hour movie and then still not be done at the end. I’d be wiped out Christmas morning. This year I want to be awake. So instead I watched The Big Lebowski and wrapped most of my gifts early. I have only about six more to do on Christmas Eve, which will be a pleasant tradition now as I watch Donna Reed (I’ve always had a big crush on her) and leisurely wrap a few presents. Not to mention “The Dudeness” was so stupidly funny, I had a good time. Besides the sugar high from tasting some of the cookies amped me up a bit and I ended up cleaning the living room. Bonus.

– Mail out Christmas cards (yes, I know, they’ll be late… )  I told myself to let it go. Who knew the little photo cards would take more than a week to ship? The cards are ready, addressed and stamped. They’ll get there late, but they are nice and its done, so for now, this will have to do. (Family members reading from home… this is my excuse. Ok? Save the hostile emails for the Test Kitchen.)

– Make and hang burlap curtains – One of those projects that sounded great on paper… now… eh? I know it’s going to be a lot of work, so I’ll tackle this first thing Monday morning (after I write this blog of course). Just like shipping yesterday, I’m knocking off the hardest thing first.

– Decorate house – No biggie. I’m no longer the nutty guy in Christmas Vacation with all the lights. I used to be, I confess. I used to be…. now, this won’t take thirty minutes.

– Get tree (don’t ask… I just didn’t get to it this year yet)- Still 50/50 on this. If I don’t have time, at this late date, we’ll just do without. My daughters will give me shit. They’ll get over it. I’m sure I’ll buckle under, but right now it doesn’t seem too important. Besides, how am I going to tie a tree to my bike? We’ll see. I’m giving myself permission to skip it so, I’m moving it down with get some work done and as the optional part of this list.

– Decorate tree- Hey, two for the price of one! This too moves to the bottom of the list.

Yoga– the run made such a difference yesterday both physically and mentally that I want to follow it up with yoga this morning. I already feel my head telling me I don’t have time, which is precisely why I’ll do it. This little diversion will pay benefits all day long. 

– Find Xmas CDs- Already found them when looking for shipping boxes! Cross that baby off

– Make Peanut Butter for Test Kitchen – Afternoon activities

– Make Peanut Butter-based test recipes

– Plan holiday week menus- check, see above

– Shop for groceries- check, check… who hoo! 

– Clean house – I’ve been taking a room at a time. I’m almost half done without even trying. Tuesday I’ll do a once over that will take about a third of the time I envisioned when I wrote the list.

Watch 49ers game on Monday Night Football.- This little bonus is the payoff for finishing the burlap. Once I know that’s done, I can relax tonight, so I’ll watch the game and while I watch I’ll: 

– Make stockings for new family members – another chore turned into a fun evening. 

– Get some actual work done (good luck with that one…) Yeah, we’ll see about that… maybe once the tree is up, or maybe instead of the tree. 

The point is, if there is one, that lists can so consumed us with the future we miss the present. The obligation of all these things — most of which I took on because they are fun and show my love for my family and friends — threatened to not only take away the joy of the present but make me miss the Holiday season altogether. A few modifications, a few add-ons, a lot more in-the-moment living instead of future trippin, and the dread turned to experiences I welcome and have enjoyed. 

My whole outlook has changed and I will be in much better shape to thoroughly enjoy the holidays with my family now then I was 24 hours ago.

Make time for what matters. It really is as simple as that.


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