Blogger: Mary Keeley
This week my daughter emailed a photo of our dear grandchildren forming the dough for our family’s most cherished Christmas cookies. My first thought when I saw it was, Really . . . you’re that on top of things? As if I hadn’t begun to feel the seasonal stress rise up the back of my neck already. I suspect it’s creeping up on you too. Time for a checklist—a plan—and then let the juggling begin between now and the end of the year.
Juggling is a perfect word picture, suggested by a client. When you’re juggling successfully, all three balls (or for our purposes, to-dos) stay in the air, continually in motion. I’ll identify them as our career ball, our ministry ball, and our family ball. A checklist for each one will help us to personalize and manage our individual to-do items to keep that ball from dropping.
- Polish proposal to send to agent before Thanksgiving.
- Finish and/or organize research for next book; begin to map out chapters.
- Continue personal interaction with social media and followers; post a heartfelt thank-you on Thanksgiving or greeting close to Christmas.
- Send a Thanksgiving and/or Christmas eCard to everyone on email list.
- Finish filling in marketing form for publisher; ask about scheduling marketing conference call with marketing team; find out when agent is available to participate.
- Stay connected with industry by visiting industry, agency, and author blogs as much as time permits.
- Visit agency and publisher websites and do a spreadsheet listing each one’s submission guidelines.
- Organize desk and files, hard copy and electronic; archive old material.
- Update industry contact information.
- Purchase a craft book, novel or nonfiction book, and a classic to read in quiet moments over the holidays.
- Visit a soup kitchen or homeless shelter; serve, bring cheer and interact with others. Learn about others’ lives in the process. Go home and record observations and insights for possible use in a future book.
- Make list of commitments made to bring treats to church, adult and children’s Sunday school classes, book groups, etc.
- Stay connected to writer friends, offering encouragement, challenge, and supporting them; help another writer promote his or her new book release; offer to critique a new writer’s proposal…free, as a friend.
Family and Friends
- Identify the most meaningful way you can show your love and personal connection with each of your family members and start implementing them.
- Organize and route shopping trips and place online orders early to get gift buying out of the way early.
- Load in baking supplies to be ready to bake a batch of cookies whenever a break from work is needed. Purchase freezer containers, if necessary.
- Plan social activities with family and friends; post list of every family member’s church, school, and sports schedule on refrigerator; review daily.
- Establish an attitude of flexibility starting now, to be available when family and friends need you—for whatever.
- Decorate to create a warm, festive, memory-making, family tradition.
- Get extra sleep in order to accomplish all the above.
And we who are doing the juggling need to keep our hands and arms fit and agile by feeding and refreshing our souls. In all the busyness, let’s not neglect time in God’s Word. He’s what we’re all about. Stay connected.
Which to-do ball needs your extra attention right now? Which items do you need to modify to personalize them for yourself? What have I missed?
Do you have suggestions for any of the items or and additional one that have been special time-savers for you?
Manage seasonal stress juggling writing, ministry, and family commitments with these checklists. Click to Tweet.
Carol McAdams Moore
Yes! This post reflects my heart (and my commitments). Here are two things I would add. 1- Plan time to write promised blog posts and articles. 2- Evaluate the list and create a holiday routine.
I know that I function best with a routine. I accomplish more and feel less stress. The busy holiday season calls for a new routine that includes the extra activities without planning to do too much.
And working on that next proposal? It sure is in my holiday routine!
Carol, those are excellent additions to the checklist. I’m going to incorporate them myself. Thanks.
And I thought I was tired while trying to organize before!
I’m leading a six week IVPress Bible study by Cindy Bunch on Advent. It goes to Epiphany.
This is what stood out to me: “Advent is not a season to get through; it’s a season to celebrate.”
We start with a Thanksgiving family reunion next week and then explode with activities. I’ve decided to do one new thing, suggested by Bunch. Light a candle for 5 minutes each day and sit quietly with my heart open to Jesus.
For five minutes the rest–and it’s a mountain–will just have to take care of itself!
Blessings to you all this Advent!
Michelle, you surely don’t waste any minutes in your day. It’s interesting that you bring up the idea of sitting quietly for 5 minutes each day with your heart open to Jesus. A Moody Bible Institute professor just finished a series in our Sunday school class on spending a few minutes at least several times a week for complete silence before the Lord. I agree, it’s precious, meaningful time spent.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Wow! You guys are crazy busy. I have to get up at 4:00am in order to write over Christmas break, so the day belongs to my family. We put up a tree and I got an advent wreath this year to decorate. My sons 6,9,and 11 do the tree themselves. Hey it looks funny, but it gets done and that is what counts. I make cookies, I buy a few presents and volunteer at AWANA and the boys school. But in general I try to keep to my hermit ways and stay home as much as possible. I’m very impressed and even more convinced to stay hidden. You know, introvert writer here.
Kristen, you are a disciplined, committed writer getting up at 4am to get your writing time in. And putting your family first is top priority. These are the makings of a lower stress holiday season.
The first thing on my to-do list is prayer.
Funny, that’s the last thing, too.
Most powerfully on my mind, as the seasonal festivities get underway and the temperatures drop, is the knowledge that there are those who really have little to celebrate. They’re on the outside looking in, as we prepare feasts that strain the table and beltline, and train to claw each other bloody on Black Friday.
Our holiday balls go to them, the best way we can, with humility.
Everything else can really take care of itself.
Begin and end with prayer … yes, yes, yes!
Prayer, definitely – both of thanksgiving, and something else I can’t define. Maybe someone else can.
I’ve been lucky. While I’m terribly ill, and never free of pain and other things, I have a roof over my head, enough to eat, and a wife who cares about me.
There are literally millions of others who face far worse trials, with none of these things…and in the face of a culture that absolves itself of responsibility by claiming “they chose it, through substance abuse, or by dint of mental illness”.
The fact is that we tolerate and enshrine substance abuse as entertainment (remember “Cheech and Chong?), excusing it for those who please us through entertainment. “Rehab” is now in the dictionary.
And we have allowed the mentally ill to slip through the cracks, because…well, because maybe we see that there isn’t that much difference between us and ‘them’.
I apologize for stridency, but I am wondering if Advent should really be the Season of Recognized Responsibility.
We’re all sinners, and the worst sin is to turn away. No lights, no application of tinsel can ever fully cover the abyss we’ve left.
Andrew, your thoughts are a conviction and inspiration for our purposeful ministering this season. Where I have only lightly touched on it in the checklist, you have fleshed it out into full bloom. Thank you.
Yes, Andrew … we need to love. Thank you.
Andrew, you mention those who have little to celebrate. We have a family member who has little time to celebrate. His liver and lungs are cancer ridden and he’s been given three months…
It makes this season with him poignant. I don’t want to wait until he’s gone to recollect memories and laud his life. I’m determined to do it now.
What a bittersweet Christmas. If I may, I’ll pray that God grants all of you the strength and grace to make this of all seasons smooth and straight, with nothing to interfere with making those memories.
And that they will become a beacon for you, of light and love and life, until you’re reunited again in an eternal dawn, by God’s side.
Oh how I need this post today, Mary! With one of my kid’s birthdays this weekend, two rounds of out-of-town family coming in the next week, and Thanksgiving travels, I’ve been looking at my to-do list…wondering how on earth I’ll find time to work on my new book ideas.
I love your comment about taking all our life experiences to feed our writing brain (and making notes when we have the chance). I have a feeling that will be my modus operandi for the next two weeks.
Oh, and before my schedule unravels, let me take this chance to say – HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!! 🙂
Sarah, at least you don’t have to wonder how to split your time for the next two weeks. Family is your priority, and that can help you organized your to-dos. And who knows, you might get some valuable insights to use in your new book ideas.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!
Happy Thanksgiving, Mary!
It only takes a death in your family to remember what matters most (animals are included in our family).
I’m wrapping up an article, and I plan to rest and play through the holiday. I haven’t played Uno in a bit. 🙂
That sounds like a great plan, Shelli. Make a family memory.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
What items on the list need extra attention?
Umm, all of them.
I just wrote a LONNNNNG comment, then deleted it. It was too angst inducing to write, let alone bore everyone with.
I have two antiques to varnish and re-build before next Friday.That includes 3 days drying time on the varnish. Our daughter’s birthday is on the 5th, and there’s Christmas shopping.
Oh, and…my husband and I leave on the 13th of December for our son’s graduation. That’s 12 days before Christmas.
We get home on the 16th. Yes, 8 days before Christmas.
Did I mention baking?
And choir rehearsals for Christmas Eve services?concerts?
Did I mention the vertigo-like symptoms I’ve been feeling since yesterday?
Cue the cello music from Jaws.
I hear the music! 🙂 But you’ll get it done, Jennifer, because you are amazing that way!
Jennifer, those antiques are a part of your ministry life. And the rest…well they all are joy-filled events you know you’ll take care of somehow because of love for family. Just stay well.
I realized I have a new checklist this year: Kids Commitments. Two different Christmas programs (church and pre-school) and their own little Christmas parties and teacher’s gifts. OH MY! 🙂
My planner is color coded with my tasks and to-dos. It helps a ton to do that. That way I can even itemize blocks of my day by category. Work, Church, Writing, Family (good heavens, not in that order).
BIG goal this year, is to do Ann Voskamp’s color Christmas ornaments each day with the kids. I desperately need to center myself in Christ this season. I’m feeling that deep hunger to KNOW Him more intimately and impart that to my children.
Thanks for a fantastic post, Mary!! <3
Color coding the master calendar is an excellent idea, Jaime. So true that when kids get into school, the calendar is full for the next couple of decades. Life can get so crazy busy that we have to stay close to Jesus to see things clearly.
Mary, you just gave me an idea, with color-coding…
Color-coding the dogs. Then I don’t have to remember all those names.
Now, who makes 26 distinct colors of spray paint…
(Sound of dogs removing Andrew from the computer desk, and locking him in the closet.)
Mary, such a wonderful post and what a great checklist! I’m sharing!
It’s a poignant season for our family. It’s the first holiday season without my father-in-law so our celebrations will seem rather off this year. We take comfort in knowing he’s having the celebration to end all celebrations!
Some things going on over my way:
*Food drive and Samaritan’s Purse ministry at our church
*Holiday grocery shopping/prep (I make a list of the stores I want to hit according to bargains and geographic proximity to save on gas…though currently ours is 2.52 a gallon! Yay!)
*Over the weekend, we’ll make our annual sausage balls, cookies, pumpkin bread, and this year I’m trying a chocolate cheesecake. And I’m hosting this year, so I’m trying some new recipes. 🙂
*Lining up my stash of favorite old movie classics for our family fun nights.
*I’m treating myself to a new craft book. I haven’t decided which one yet, but I’m thinking The Emotion Thesaurus: The Writer’s Guide to Character Expression looks fun.
*Trying to decide on a new Bible study for women. I find that offsets holiday stress. Suggestions, anyone?
*In the busyness, remembering to give thanks for both the big and little.
Happy Thanksgiving, Mary, and Books & Such friends!
Cynthia, the Emotion Thesaurus is a great choice.
Cynthia, you have all three balls covered and up in the air. It sounds like your plans and preps will create a heartwarming family holiday, even though you’ll be missing an important member. After ministering to family and others, you can enjoy sitting awhile with your new craft book. Sounds like a delightful holiday weekend.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
I love that you actually put extra sleep on the list, Mary. I wonder how many of us need that extra sleep just to get our sleep amounts up to an adequate level. It is so necessary as we work through our lists and yet so often the most neglected. Now to figure out how to fit it in….
Meghan, I know what you mean about the struggle to get enough sleep this time of year. Speaking to myself too, we have to discipline ourselves to get to bed at a reasonable hour each night. Late night working hours often aren’t very productive anyway. It’s either using discipline or exhaustion will force sleep to happen, which also may end up causing us to be sick over the holidays .
don and rascal
I’m too busy to read this posting but it’s on my: “List of things to do before I die.”
Janet Ann Collins
Sorry. I don’t have time to list everything I need to do and still do any of it! Gotta hurry and get to work. (Pant, pant.)