We learned a few years ago that our ability to get holiday cards out in time is consistently compromised by a) our need to create something complicated and labor-intenstive and b) our perennial procrastination. Curtailing (a) wasn’t an option—making things more complicated than they need to be is what makes us us—so we had to somehow work on (b). We’ve employed schedules, and while that’s helped, our biggest success was to redefine the goal entirely, and build in another week of prep time. Instead of holiday cards, we now send out New Year’s cards.
It’s the equivalent of setting one’s wristwatch ahead by a few minutes. (Or, as my mom did with the clock in her car, by twenty minutes. Still didn’t help.) We still aim to get things done in time for Christmas, but when we miss our deadline, as we inevitably do, there’s a cushion there to save us. It’s only when we get accustomed to this adjustment that the system will break down. Fortunately the eleven months that elapse until the next year’s project begins is long enough to keep us from getting wise about our own tricks.
This year, with an especially intricate card to produce, personalize and mail, we forced ourselves to draw up a timeline to make sure things got done when they needed to. It actually worked, for a while. Note for next year: don’t schedule the card-writing phase when you’re out on vacation. Whosever idea it was that we schlep blank cards around L.A. and fill them out in our free time—I need to speak with you privately.
The great thing about New Year’s cards is that even though it’s only one day, the zone in which it’s acceptable to wish someone “Happy New Year’s” is signficantly long. So even if the cards don’t get mailed until January 2nd, the recipients should get them well inside the acceptable window of relevance. And if, just for sake of example, some still don’t get mailed off until, say, January 7th (and counting), at least the recipient and cherished friend is likely to have not yet taken down their array of holiday cards from the mantle.
And if the cards are still sitting on the office desk, blank, several months into the new year, well, at least there’s some novelty in getting a New Year’s card in April. Can’t say we’re not original.