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Holiday Prep Without High Drama

Whether you're an over-achiever, the queen of procrastination or somewhere in between, the holiday season can bring out the best – and worst – in all of us. While the super-organized mom types are literally wrapping things up by now, the rest of us are caught somewhere between slacker and supermom, trying to find the time and motivation to get our endless list of tasks done.

What's the biggest difference between those of us who struggle and those who see success year-after-year? I realized the answer… is a plan. Moms like Tsh, of Simple Mom have a schedule they stick to. By the beginning of November, Tsh has already hit her deadlines of creating a budget, organizing mailing addresses and making a holiday calendar.

In fact, Simple Mom's 8 Ways to Find Motivation (which includes creating a schedule, routine and boundaries) was so helpful to me, that it sparked an idea of my own. Based on her plan, as well as the systems of other motivated moms, here are seven tips for getting holiday prep all done this year without losing your mind.

Start Where You Are Now

Comparing yourself to others is counter-productive, so accept where you are and move on. So maybe you're not like Angelica, who says: "My secret is the memos I keep. I have a file for everyone and through the year when they mention they wish they had something, I add it in."

But you can still sit down TODAY and get your thoughts on paper. If you're able to make a list of recipients and think of an idea or two that is sparked by their true personality, you're well on your way.

Leave Little up to Chance.

Cathy, a mother of two from Massachusetts says, "This year, my sister and I have made wish lists at Toys R Us for our kids so that our family will know what the kids want." Jenny, a California mom of one agrees. "I have been emailing the grandparents with links to stuff the kids have been wanting. That way the kids get exactly what they want and the grandparents don't keep bugging me for ideas."

Hint: If that's what works for your family, why not start a wish list for adults too? Not many people really want to return that gift from you, and let's be honest, in this economy, do you really want to spend your money on something they don't love?

Use Your Own Strengths

Mother of two Donna F says, "I make up a chart of everyone I need to buy a gift. It's in table format so I have a column for the recipient's name, a column with my name at the top and a column with my hubby's name at the top and so on for anyone else I might be shopping for. As I order things, I fill in the square with the items."

Hint: If the thought of Excel sends you into a cold sweat, don't force yourself. Try putting the goal of buying one gift per day on your calendar. Breaking things down into digestible nuggets is a great way to get it all done without getting overwhelmed.

Take it to the Web

By now, most of us have used the Internet to shop. But if you're still holding back, instead of opting to shop, wrap, pack and ship, you could be wasting valuable time, energy and money. Shopping online can be done 24/7, allows you to compare prices, saves on wrapping, and oftentimes, offers FREE shipping, putting money back in your pocket and keeping you from those endless post office lines.

Hint: If you feel like you need to see the gift first, you can still go check it out in person before you buy online. There's a chance you'll find it cheaper online and not have to wait in those long lines.

Wrap 'Em if You Got 'Em.

There's nothing worse than missing the festivities or a Christmas Eve that lasts until 3 a.m. because you're still tying bows. Donna M. a New Hampshire mother of two, suggests, "Wrapping gifts as you get them is a great way to actually get some sleep on Christmas Eve."

Embrace the Big Chill

How many of us have spent an entire day baking, cooling, packing, delivering… sucking the fun out of sharing our mad baking skills in the kitchen? Christine, a mom from CA, doesn't wait until the last minute to get those cookies in the oven. "We bake a few weeks out and freeze those baked goods that freeze well."

Hint: Order tins with your kid photos or have the kids decorate inexpensive tins and you've got the perfect homemade gift.

Feast on This

Before you start prepping for that enormous holiday dinner, Donna F's got suggestions. "I have menu plans made up (which I keep from year to year) for each event. This includes things like my Mother's stuffing recipe and my raspberry Jello recipe that are must-haves for my family. I also mark down what serving piece I will use for that item: big pink bowl, large silver tray, etc. so I am sure I don't have to improvise at the last minute. I also have grocery shopping lists to fill each menu. I pull the grocery list, mark off what's already in the cupboard and send my husband to the market for the rest of the list!"

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