Stressful Preparations

Preparations for anything can be stressful: parties, tests, vacations, interviews, beginning of the school year, weddings, guests over for dinner etc. They all require you to meet deadlines, deal with the unexpected, change routines and fund extra cost at the same time.  Any one of these can be stressful in themselves. Combine them all at once and it's no wonder preparing for an event is stressful. What can you do to minimize the stress of preparations? Here are some of my tried and true suggestions.

1. Start planning early: I'll discuss making a plan next, but I really need to begin with how important it is to start planning as soon as possible. Giving yourself enough time to accomplish all the needed tasks is a huge stress reliever. Even if your time frame is short, such as an upcoming test or interview, start getting ready right away instead of waiting until the last minute. When something unexpected happens during the planning process, you will have extra time to deal with it because you aren't doing everything else at the same time. I recently hosted a 3-day conference at work for outside attendees and I began planning in January. I really had no stress until the morning of the conference when we had to bring in food and get everyone settled.

2. Make a plan: Start a list of all the things that need to be done and make a timeline of when to do them. You will add to this timeline as you think of more things, or find out something is not what you thought it would be, so leave room between tasks for additions. Right after I booked airfare for a vacation, I made a list of when we would need to obtain passports, purchase ground transportation, pick up our daughter from school, and leave for the airport among other things.

Your list should also include everything you have to purchase for the event. Some things can be purchased well in advance, while others need to wait such as fresh food. Definitely include time to purchase these items on your time line.

3. Try to keep a routine in place, especially with children: Be conscious of work schedules, and children's schedules. My mother-in-law always insisted on having holiday meals at 3pm which was right in the middle of our children's nap times. It was always a struggle to decide on an early nap or skipping a nap. It seemed either situation caused for grumpy children. I also made sure we ate lunch before we left, another routine that helps keep things easier. Even on vacation, try to stick to routine meal times, nap times and bedtimes when possible.

4. Define your costs early: When I host Christmas, I begin meal planning at the beginning of December and then buy a little each week. While I probably spend the same amount, it seems more manageable if I purchase a little each week instead of all at once. Additionally, I make sure I buy the popular items for the season early in the month. Grocery stores sell out of certain items right before holidaya. I used the same strategy with school supplies/clothing.

Don't be too frugal. Trying to make absolutely everything yourself can be very stressful. Scout out prices on items that are labor intensive, and enlist the help of those who offer.

5. Save ahead for the event: It is much easier to put aside $50 a month for a year for Christmas presents than to come up with $600 at Christmas time. We also have a vacation fund that helps dictate where we are going to go. Our savings need to cover the entire vacation, food and entertainment included, before we leave. If it is not enough to cover airline tickets, then we find a place to drive to. Really try to stick within the budget you have made.

6. Lower your expectations: Our wedding costed under $3000. My sister-in-law's wedding the very next year costed closer to $10,000. Did prices go up that much in a year? No, we were just very reasonable about what we needed in a wedding. You don't have to have the most glamorous party, the most expensive champagne, nor every tiny detail that is available. Your event can be just as enjoyable with less. Paper plates are high on my list for reducing clean up time. I buy the nice sturdy ones and have always enjoyed the time saved during clean up.

7. Avoid situations that are so stressful, there is no getting around it. For example, my mother always hosted Thanksgiving until they moved. Since then, I refuse to invite people over for Thanksgiving because I can not for the life of me cook a turkey. I have tried five times, with lots of advice, and I fail every. single. time. Thus, I will not host Thanksgiving.

8. Know your comfort level: Are you OK with 50 people in your house, overflowing the basement, yard, garage? Do you like to cook while guests are in the kitchen with you? Or would you rather have almost everything prepared ahead of time to minimize time in the kitchen.  Our children hated being in a crowd and never wanted to go to Disneyland. A beach house on the ocean was their ideal vacation.

9. Include some back up plans: Weather is unpredictable, someone getting sick is also. What if there is a last minute guest that shows up? Plan for these in advance so you are better able to handle them when they happen. On the first day of school, the bus was inevitably late every year. Discussing this with my children ahead of time and having something to do at the bus stop while waiting (just in case it was on time) always helped.

10. Delegate some duties if you can so you can relax and enjoy the event. Think of these before hand so if someone offers to help, you have a task they can easily do.

The goal of the above steps is two fold, one is to reduce stress and the other is to enable you to find time to enjoy the event! If you aren't enjoying the event, you will experience even more stress thinking "Why did I bother to do this." Look through this list before your next event and see if a few of the tips can help you feel less stress.