I know, you’re not ready to hear about how many days there are until Christmas, but here we are in November and it’s time to face reality: The next few weeks of 2016 are going to fly by. Are you ready? Of course you’re not. You’re still stealing Halloween candy out of your kids’ trick-or-treat buckets (don’t worry, I won’t tell) and you’re thinking you have plenty of time to worry about the holidays and things like writing resolutions and winterizing your house.
I don’t want to take the edge off your sugar high, but there are a bunch of things you should be thinking about now. Yes, now. Today. This week. Before you buy the Thanksgiving turkey and canned cranberry sauce. So pop another fun-sized Snickers bar and start making your to-do list. I swear, if you start now it won’t be nearly as painful as you think.
1. Make your holiday shopping list.
You know it’s going to sneak up on you before you know it. Time to start making that list of what you’re going to buy the kids for Christmas and which kid-crafted gift you’re going to send the in-laws. Don’t forget all of the support people in your life—without them, you’d be a blubbering puddle.
2. Schedule your annual exams.
You may not even know when it’s supposed to be. When was the last time you saw your general practitioner, your gynecologist, your optometrist, your dentist? If you can’t remember, time to schedule some appointments. Taking care of your family starts with self-care. Do it.
3. Think about your kids’ education.
I’m not just talking which elementary school they’ll be attending (though you should know that), but farther down the road. Are you thinking about college? Do you have a savings plan? Don’t rely on those lottery scratch off tickets (or the grandparents). Make an appointment with a financial planner now so that in 10 or 15 years you’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relieve.
4. Prepare for the cold weather.
Winter is coming. Get your winter coats cleaned and check for fit. Make sure everyone in the family has at least one hat and one set of mittens or gloves. Put weather stripping on your windows, get your HVAC system and chimney checked and cleaned as necessary and lay in a good supply of tissues, cold medicine, tea and easy-to-prepare comfort foods.
5. Declutter the closets.
As the weather turns colder, now is the best time to tackle those closets. Before the kids get a hundred new toys, get rid of the ones they no longer play with. Before you hit the winter clothing sales, clear out the things you no longer want. Get your closets organized now, before the end of the year, and you’ll have less to do in the spring.
6. Start organizing your tax information.
You don’t have to wait until after the new year to start thinking about your taxes. If you don’t have a folder or envelope to collect everything tax-related, now is a good time to start one. It’ll make life easier in January if you already have a central location to store your W-2s and receipts for any deductions.
7. Input your appointments now.
If you haven’t gone digital, now is the time to buy your date book. Take the time to transfer important dates now, like birthdays and all of those annual appointments you’ve made, rather than writing them down as they happen after the new year. Make sure you include your spouse’s important dates (work travel, appointments, etc.) and the kids’ school events, as well. For those who function solely on digital calendars, make sure your appointments, school meetings and holidays are all in for 2017.
8. Tie up the loose ends of 2016.
Is there something nagging you—a thing you were supposed to do this year, but didn’t get around to it? A relationship that seems to be suffering but you haven’t addressed it? A goal that you haven’t committed to that you still want to accomplish? Take a look at your year so far and focus your attention on one thing—really, just one—that you’d like to say you completed this year. And then do it. This isn’t the time to tackle the 16 things you wanted to do in 2016, but finishing one important item will make you feel accomplished, and that’s absolutely how you should start a new year: feeling accomplished and ready to tackle the world.
9. Write one resolution for 2017.
You don’t need “17 Resolutions for '17,” but it doesn’t hurt to write down one (or two) big goals for the new year. Thinking about it now, when there are still a few weeks left in 2016, it will help you get the new year started off right. So whatever your goal—to go back to school, to find a new job, to plan that family reunion you’ve been talking about—put it down on paper now.