The holiday season is officially in full swing, and if you’re like me, you’re thinking about all you want to get done in the next four (yes, four!) weeks. One thing on many people’s to-do list is the annual holiday card mailing, and anyone who’s ever done it knows it can be a time-consuming undertaking. Here are three pointers and a checklist to help you efficiently get those cards in the mail by December 18 for delivery before December 25.
1. Set a realistic timeline. It's not a one-day job.
I used to just scribble “send xmas cards” on my to-do list as if it were something I could get done in an hour or two -- and then get almost paralyzed by the overwhelm of the whole thing. I have since come to realize that sending holiday cards is really a project that must be broken down into smaller tasks and steps, many of which are contingent on one another. In fact, I have a “project plan” I refer to every year to remind me of what I need to do, when, and in what order. In that plan, I have time estimates of how long each step, or task, will take so that I can plan accordingly. For example, I have to find the spreadsheet that has the addresses of all of the holiday card recipients, make any changes or additions, and then have my husband review it for any address changes from his friends. I know from experience, that I have to plan 24-48 hours for that step, because realistically, that’s how long it takes for me to remind him several times, have him do it, and get the revised list back!
Other tasks that might require more time than you expect might include taking the photo for the card (remember you will have to round up the kids, remind yourself how to operate the self-timer, get the photos off your camera or phone and onto a computer, choose the picture and then edit it) or just selecting photos from those you’ve already taken. How long, realistically, will it take you to go through all of your summer photos to find the best one? Fifteen minutes? An hour? Be sure to set aside enough time so that you don’t feel stressed out.
2. Make it a family affair.
It doesn’t all have to fall on your shoulders -- don't hesitate to enlist family members along the way. As I mentioned above, I have my husband check the list. Other ways you could enlist a spouse to help is having them pick up stamps at the post office, or helping add handwritten personal notes to the cards if that’s something you do. Kids can help with stuffing, stamping, and sticking-on of return address labels. Put on some holiday tunes and have a sing-along. The task wraps up faster when everyone’s cheerful and pitches in.
3. Automate what you can
There are many ways to convey your holiday greetings and save time. Some may work for you; others may not. But here are some places where using automating will definitely give you an upper hand:
If you don’t already have your address list in a spreadsheet, do it now. Even if you hand address your holiday cards, it’s a neat, easy, scalable, and share-able (with the spouse) way to keep track of address changes and revisions. It helps to have separate columns for Name, Address, City, State, and Zip.
Use a self-inking rubber stamp for your return address. I’ve been happy with stamps I’ve ordered from The Stamp Maker. Plus, younger kids love doing the stamping! If you have a very young helper, have them stamp the back of the envelopes – they don’t have to be as precise when placing the return address.
If you’re looking to save time, some photo card printing services will even stuff, address, stamp, and mail your cards for you. The services that will do this for you (as of Nov 2017) include Shutterfly and Tiny Prints.
If your favorite family photo is on your mobile phone, check out Sincerely, Inc.’s Ink app. Available for both tablets and phones, Android and iOS, you can personalize each card before having them sent for you. And they have apps for tablets so you won't drive yourself crazy with the tiny keyboard on your phone.
Finally, if you’re really pressed for time, you can do everything electronically. Paperless Post has hundreds of holiday card themes and layouts to choose from, and visually their greetings are as close as you can get to the real thing.
Regardless of how much you automate the steps in your holiday-card-mailing project, remember to break it down into steps with realistic time estimates, then tackle each step one at a time with the help of the whole family. Even if you haven’t taken your holiday card photo yet (neither have I, if I’m being honest!), there’s still time to have the cards stamped, addressed, and delivered to the post office by December 18.
I've created a one-page checklist and timeline to help you stay on track to get your holiday greetings delivered by December 25. To get the download, please enter your email address below:
I’d love to hear from you if you plan to implement any of these suggestions or have any tips of your own for sending the annual photo card with joy and ease.