GTD, Planning for the Holidays Edition
Ester: So it is like for-real October now, which means it is Fall, which means we are in the midst of a slow inexorable decline into Winter. How are you feeling about that? What does The End of the Year hold for you?
Nicole: Well, first of all, it’s already dark by 7 p.m., which really makes me sad in terms of “not being able to enjoy sunlight after I’m done with work.” But in terms of the end of the year, I’ve been running a lot of financial projections and trying to guess exactly how much money I’m going to earn for 2014.
Ester: Because that will determine what costume you wear for Halloween? :)
Nicole: No, I’ve already decided that. I’m going as Julia Wicker from Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy, because the Halloween party is “come as your favorite literary character.” So … black wig, bunch of stars, binder labeled “spellbinder.”
Ester: Excellent! I hope that binder is full of women. #BinderCon
Nicole: That would be a hilarious joke and I should totally do that. I already know my costume’s going to be one of those costumes you have to explain to people. Those are the best costumes, the ones that nobody else understands.
Ester: Ha. Yeah, well, the ones that certain special people understand, like in your case Lev Grossman. But yeah. I haven’t been to a real-deal Halloween party in a long time, but I am excited to do some celebrating this year, now that Babygirl is sort of old enough to appreciate the holiday. Also it’s the last fun holiday before the holidays become a chore.
Nicole: *raises coffee mug in solidarity* I don’t know yet what kind of travel I’ll be doing for the holidays.
Ester: But you bought all of your tickets way in advance, right? That was on your GTD list in July?
Nicole: Despite the fact that “buy plane tickets” for a number of upcoming events is currently a series of action items on my GTD list, I am the worst at buying plane tickets on time. I nearly always do things last minute, because I never really know what my schedule is going to be like. I could know—I could say “I have bought plane tickets, these are my boundaries, you cannot have my time because it is already claimed”—but I always work the other way around.
Ester: Ah yes. That’s hard. But the holidays are generally fixed points for everyone, right? Like, no one’s going to schedule a meeting you have to be at for Thursday, Thanksgiving Day? Even if they did, it would be only natural for you to be like, “Sorry, mouth full of pie.”
Nicole: Sure, you already know when Thanksgiving is, but in the case of that Christmas/NYE week, it’s like “okay, I need to spend time with my family, I need to spend time working, and I’m sure my friends are going to be having some parties of their own, and maybe I want to throw a party too.” And I’m “lucky” in that I only have one set of parents to visit. I’m not combining in-laws or visiting stepfamilies or dividing time among multiple sets of relatives.
Ester: I have to deal with all of those variables. It’s awesome. But yeah, I hear you. When you do get down to buying the tickets themselves, do you maximize? How obsessive do you let yourself get about getting The Best Possible Flight (shortest travel time x most convenient x not having to get up too early / arrive too late + cheapest)?
Nicole: My folks live in a part of Iowa that is not super close to a big airport, so there is no Best Possible Flight. It is always an all-day experience to get there. I shoot for “cheapest option.” What about you?
Ester: It is always helpful to have fewer variables. There are ten thousand ways to get in or out of NYC; it’s a headache to sort through them and finesse the complex algorithm that ends up producing The Best Possible Flight. So I settle. It’s hard though to feel like you’re leaving something better on the table — to think, if only I had enough time / willpower / energy, I could find it, and I’d be Wonder Travel Woman!
Nicole: Well, and airlines are not particularly transparent about all of that. The aggregator sites don’t include all of the airlines, and even after you click on a flight they are all, “hey, here’s $100 in fees we didn’t tell you about before.”
Ester: Right. Basically travel is the worst and we should just stay home, which is our plan through January. We have an embargo in effect. No trips anywhere, not even for the holidays, not even just to DC where my mom and grandma are. Unless tragedy strikes, you will find us here. How is Christmas in Iowa? That sounds so picture-perfect. Like, if you’re going to celebrate Christmas, you should do it in the Midwest.
Nicole: Sometimes there is so much wind and snow that you can’t really get out to see the picture-perfect part of it! I remember one year I was like “I want to go outside and feel the winter air,” so I bundled up and tried to walk briskly around the block, and it was a super-disaster.
Ester: Oh no, why?
Nicole: Well, you’ve got, like, sleet blowing in your face and you’re slogging through snowdrifts and ice patches, and you’re thinking to yourself, “This is a really terrible idea, why did I put on all of these scarves?” But other times, when the snow is not so much “blowing into your eyes,” we take walks to the lake, and there is ice and everything is calm and it is beautiful.
Ester: The lake? There is a lake? That sounds lovely. Maybe I’ll spend Christmas with your parents. We can swap houses like in The Holiday, which I never saw, but I’ll be Kate Winslet and you can be Cameron Diaz.
Nicole: I suspect my folks would really love that! They’d be sad to miss me, but it would be fun to have new guests in the house. Especially guests with a Babygirl.
Ester: Maybe everyone should switch houses for the holidays and enjoy the novelty of arguing with other people’s relatives for a change. Also with strangers around people will be on good behavior. They’d even maybe pretend to be excited by whatever presents you show up with! PRESENTS: THE WORST PART OF THE HOLIDAYS.
Nicole: You ever think we’re going to be the last generation that does presents? Like, we were the last generation that did trick-or-treating as a door-to-door thing, don’t most kids do organized Candy Events now? And we were the last generation that did birthday parties where everyone brought gifts, now it’s like “bring a used book for charity, please do not bring my child a Spiderman toy.”
Ester: Oh wow, really? I had no idea! From now on, everyone will just Venmo money to each other with the memo: “Xmas present, enjoy”?
Nicole: Especially for adults, who can buy anything they want with a single click and have it sent to them via Amazon drone. Kids will still get presents, because they don’t have purchasing power and because it’s easier economically to create an artificial reason why they can’t have new toys except for two or three designated times during the year. #cynic AND ALSO BECAUSE PEOPLE LIKE GIVING KIDS PRESENTS BECAUSE THAT IS AWESOME
Ester: Yes, yes. But people brought presents to Babygirl’s 2nd birthday party even though we said on the invite “please don’t” and we’ve had to spend like two weeks a) returning/exchanging them, and b) feeling guilty for not writing thank you notes yet, so … it can be a little complicated. Some were good, though! Someone gave us Babygirl’s first Legos/Duplos, and those are awesome. Someone sent colored pencils. Can’t have enough of those.
Nicole: Gifts by their very nature are complicated. But Legos/Duplos are excellent, and so are colored pencils.
Ester: Anything creative. All right. Well, good luck getting tickets! I hope that situation figures itself out favorably soon.
Nicole: What I really need to do is put a different action item on my GTD list: “call family re: holiday plans.” So … DONE.
Ester: “I always say, if you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” High five!