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Getting ready for the holidays

It may not have happened yet — but I suspect it will. Here is what occurs. Every year about this time, I'll conclude I've done a goodly amount of holiday pre-planning, and the appropriate numbers of gifts have been purchased. I determine I am "ready."

There have been times I've envisioned myself so totally on top of things I could sit idly by a roaring fire sipping low-fat eggnog, with every item on my to-do list accomplished. (An aside — if you're having eggnog, go for the real thing. Just drink it out of a smaller cup. But I digress).

The fact is that we are never completely ready, and "adapting may be more important than planning." That's one conclusion in an article called "Getting Things Done" by Francis Heylighen and Clement Vidal.

These authors propose several approaches. My favorite is "the four criteria model." The first consideration is "context." The idea is to recognize you cannot perform the same actions at your desk as you can when you are walking on the street, so classifying your "to-dos" is helpful. Put your list in sections like "at home" and "when I am at the mall." You already do that? Good.

The next consideration is "time available." Short on time? First do those things you absolutely know will not take very long. Sounds like common sense doesn't it? But then how many times have you had a few minutes and you thought you would wrap a couple packages and you couldn't find the scotch tape or any gift tags and it was really frustrating — not at all productive. One year I misplaced a gift for my granddaughter by doing that. Never found it.

The third consideration is "energy available." The authors suggest adapting your energy level to the action needed. If you're feeling physically (or mentally) bereft, it's not the moment to put up the Christmas tree — or decorate 12 dozen reindeer cookies.

The final consideration is "priority." The authors use an airplane analogy, calling some things "runway" activities (undertake immediately) and categorizes the others in 10,000-foot increments up to the 50,000 foot level (which they call "purpose in life").

Wait a minute here. "Purpose in life" should not be on a list — it's in our heart and soul, especially at this time of year.

What was I thinking? I should not be writing about actionable items, but instead about good will and glad tidings.

I'm going to think about it this way: What's most important? It's different of each of us. For me it's doing more of those things that make a difference to others. This year I suspect I will feel the best and the most thoughtfully purposeful after a smile-in-my voice call to a home-bound friend or if I take a neighbor to a Christmas Eve church service.

For all of us, I think the warmest holiday feelings come when we contribute time, money or talent to a pressing problem in the community. Food donations are particularly important this year. There are so many needs — let's consider them "runway activities."

You choose what to do. No list required. Are you ready? Good.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.