Does it have to be you who decorates the house, buys the presents, then wraps them, plans the menu and rises at dawn to put the bird in the oven? If you find yourself doing everything, then try these tips to master the tricky art of successful delegating.
WHAT’S STOPPING YOU?
Start by addressing the reasons why Christmas has crept into a one-woman show in your household. Lots of us end up doing nearly everything because it seems quicker and easier than asking for help – which may be true in the short-term, but if you establish new habits and distribute responsibilities, you’ll be saving time and energy in the future. In fact, your family might like the chance to be more involved in the Christmas preparations – especially if it saves you from transforming into a harried harpy by Boxing day.
If it’s your perfectionist tendencies that have led you to take the lion’s share of the work, try and recognise them. Accepting a few flaws at Christmas time is crucial to up the enjoyment level and down the stress level. These are the facts: the Christmas tree will shed its needles (whoever chooses it). Someone won’t eat the Brussels sprouts (even organic ones, tossed with bacon). There will be some rows, mess and a few disappointments. Accepting this from the start will help you to stop putting yourself under pressure to produce the perfect Christmas.
THINK LIKE A MANAGER
Get everyone together early (though not too early. Men in particular find it difficult to engage with Christmas if it’s not December). Explain that you’d like help this year and list what needs doing.
Don’t hog all the best tasks and delegate the boring ones – but equally, don’t play martyr and lumber yourself with the donkey work. Look at your team – the more you get the
“strength fit” right, with everyone doing the things they will be good at and enjoy, the better. A teen with a level of IT literacy you can only dream of could design a Christmas card with a funny family photo or distribute a message using a video sharing app, such as Vine, in place of cards. Your daughter may have more energy when it comes to shopping – and newer, fresher ideas for presents for Aunty Sheila. Teenagers may love the novelty of stuffing a turkey, sourcing crackers or creating a dessert (Nutella pudding may not be seasonal but it will probably create more pleasure than Christmas Cake).
EXPLAIN WHY IT MATTERS
Accept the fact that you may actually care more than your other “team members”. Christmas may be special to you but your partner could see it as a commercial event to be endured. Details you view as crucial – the height of the tree, the colour of the lights – may seem trivial to him.
Remember that neither of you is right or wrong: you’re just different. It’s unreasonable to expect him to buy into your fantasy – but you can increase the possibility if you can calmly explain how important Christmas is to you and why. To reduce your own stress levels, build in contingency time in areas where you know you’re pernickety so you can finish off yourself if necessary. (Part delegation is better than no delegation.)
Don’t forget guests.
Whether they’re coming for lunch or staying the week, guests are potential team members too. Think in advance, so that when one asks “Is there anything I can bring/do?” you’re ready with a positive response. Again, match strengths to tasks where possible: the wine buff who not only chooses/brings the wine but is sommelier for the day; the extrovert who can bring a stack of party games. Ask someone to bring a starter or dessert. Is there someone who is happiest behind the scenes clearing up?
Don’t feel awkward. People come for the occasion and conversation – not to be waited on.
Delegate the task, not how it’s done. Beware micromanagement and don’t enforce your methods.
When you’ve agreed the details (the budget, the deadlines, the end result), leave well alone and get on with what’s left to you. Expect a few bleeps along the way. It’s part of the learning curve. Be patient – and appreciative too. You’re setting up a new system – which will be smoother and easier every year.
CONNECTION NOT PERFECTION
Don’t mistake pleasure for happiness– the instant gratification of presents and food is wonderful of course, but using Christmas as a chance to connect will create more meaning and precious memories. Write your children a letter, explaining what they’ve done this year that makes you proud. Go into their world: if your teenage daughter likes watching Youtube beauty tutorials, ask her to do your make-up on Christmas day; if your teenage son rolls his eyes when you suggest a game of cards, ask him to teach you the magic of FIFA 16 instead. Christmas is our chance to take time to be together. It won’t be perfect. Make it precious instead.
3 STICKING POINTS…UNSTUCK
WRAPPING…It always takes twice as long as imagined, starts with pleasure and ends with exhaustion and something vital
(tape/paper/ribbon/ tags) running out.
TACTICS: Make wrapping the first not last thing you buy, don’t skimp on quality or quantity and earmark a morning when you have the house to yourself.
CHILDREN’S GIFTS…Spending the same amount on each is a parent’s preoccupation. This leads to frenzied last-minute present redistribution, panic buying and even cash in envelopes.
TACTIC: Because a gift for one costs a little extra doesn’t mean you love one any more than the other. You know that. They know that. Stay calm… and solvent.
Attempting to visit your in-laws, your sister (who’s hosting Mum and Dad) and still find time to see friends on the same day is just physically not possible.
TACTIC: Don’t drive yourself (and your family) mad in an attempt to keep everyone else happy. Decide what you want to do and what must be done. Everything else is optional.