Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Holiday Cards - Party On

It’s fun to receive holiday cards. Their color and cheer add to the holiday spirit. And I love having tangible correspondence that connects me to friends and family in ways that social media can’t. But sending out cards – well that can be a task - a dreaded task at that. For a lot of people the shear volume of the work involved in sending out cards causes them to procrastinate. Rather than get caught up in the dread, let’s look at how sending cards can be more approachable by improving motivation and simplifying the process.

I like to start by talking about motivation. A lot of folks come to the job of sending out cards like it’s an insurmountable task. True there is a lot of work involved. But what if sending out cards was a party? Let the holiday music blast, the holiday scented candles burn, the hot chocolate poured, and the holiday treats be laid out. Not enough for you? Call in a few friends for a card-a-thon. Come dressed in holiday sweaters and celebrate the last card being sealed with a movie or a ride to see holiday decorations.
If a card-a-thon is out-of-the question, then consider spreading the job over the course of a week by working a little bit each day. Keep track of your progress so you know how much you’ve done and how much is left. Draw a “yardstick” with the increments representing the preliminary steps and the number of cards done. Hang it where you can see it. The top measure is the total number of cards you need to send out. So if you have 200 cards to send out, you might have twenty increments of ten cards plus a few increments at the bottom that represent the preliminary steps. Visuals are really helpful in keeping focus sharpened. Buddy up with a friend for progress checks.
 Of course, simplifying the process diminishes the amount of motivation that is needed to complete holiday cards. There are a few things that you can do to make things easier for yourself.
1)    Centralize your contacts.  Ideally, put everyone in Contacts (Windows), Outlook or Address Book (Mac).  Although you might spend more time doing this the first time, it will save you lots of time in the future.
2)    Create a holiday card group in your contact software. The group enables you to select specific people you want to send cards to because most people do not want to send cards to every single contact. Card for best friend – yes; card for plumber –no.
3)    Add people to the holiday card group. The exact mechanics depends on which software you use, but the “help” function will give you specific step-by-step instructions. I can tell you that it is pretty simple to include contacts in a group and it does not require information re-entry.
4)    Address the envelopes.  Personally I like creating address labels to spare my hand from writer’s fatigue. You might prefer the personal touch of a hand-written address. If you think you’d enjoy the speed and legibility of address labels but are not sure how to create them, be comforted by the fact that search engines can bring you to instructions that will work for your computer. For instance, I Googled “how do you create mail labels” and this is one of the links that was returned: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/make-labels-for-a-mass-mailing-HA101854798.aspx.
5)    Use return address labels or a stamp. Your hand muscles will thank you. By the way, you can create your own return address labels using a similar process that you used to create the recipient address labels. Label manufacturers, like Avery, have all sorts of cute holiday templates.
6)    Check your postage requirements early. You now know how many cards you will send. You may want to take one card over to the Post Office to see how much postage is required. Large cards, tiny cards, and cards made of heavy stock may require extra postage. Cards going overseas will definitely require extra postage. Pick up the stamps you need in the design you want. Here’s a little good news: most of the holiday stamps are forever stamps (thank you USPS).
7)    Get comfortable and write the cards. Put the stack of addressed envelopes in front of you. Write a card for the first envelope and put the card into the envelope immediately so you won’t send a note intended for Aunt Harriett to Aunt Ida. Stack the stuffed envelope in a box and start the next card.
8)    After the cards are written and the envelopes stuffed, seal the envelopes. As it turns out the Lung Association is out of Christmas Seals for 2013. Office stores like Staples carries foil letter seals though. The beauty of a seal is it saves your tongue from paper cuts and bad-tasting glue. Of course if you’re channeling Dickens and you have the time, you may want to consider sealing wax pressed with your personalized stamp.
9)    Pop over to the Post Office and mail the cards. Happy dance after mailing is optional.
Now that you have finished sending the cards it’s time to enjoy reading the cards you have received. Take a moment to appreciate how good it feels to have finished the job.  Often we rush through our to-do list without taking the time to celebrate our accomplishments, and I think this is a mistake. I believe failure to celebrate leads to increased dread in the beginning of a job.  Whether or not you agree with me, congratulations on finishing your cards. Enjoy the holidays.
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