Do you hate that sinking feeling you experience when you realize you missed your best friend's kid's birthday again?
Do you imagine that one day you'll get it together? You'll get the card out in time so that you can quit shopping from the 'belated' section of the card aisle?
Well, guess what? It won't happen. Not if you keep pushing it off to one day.
It will happen only if you make the decision here and now to align your actions with your values, to do the thing that represents who you want to be in the world.
I want to be the person who remembers birthdays and anniversaries, and sends a simple card (we're talking a short, but thoughtful message) to her people when they're celebrating their special days.
How do I do this?
After years and years of paper calendars (I'm an analog person at heart), I've finally made the transition to electronic (I can pull it up when I'm in those card aisles at Target and/or add special dates when I realize I never wrote down my best friend's kid's birthday in the first place!). I've created a separate Google calendar just for birthdays and anniversaries, which I review at the start of every month. (I can also turn it off when my calendar looks too chaotic and I need to see some white space.)
How do I make sure I get those cards out?
Well, it takes a little bit of effort, but you had to know I wasn't going to say I snap my fingers and it's done. 😉
When I review my birthday/anniversary calendar at the start of the month, I make a note of all the special dates that fall in the coming weeks (as well as into the first week or two of the following month). This takes no more than two minutes.
Next, I go through my stationery collection (yes, I have one—it's composed of paper I've loved, cards I've picked up because they reminded me of someone or because I knew I'd have a future need for them, boxed sets of whimsical designs with blank insides, etc.) and I grab a card for each person who has an upcoming birthday or anniversary. This takes between five and 10 minutes.
Obviously if you had a lot of time and/or resources, you could go a number of ways:
Money not an issue? While waiting for your prescription to be filled at the pharmacy counter, you could shop the card aisles and find something for everyone on your list, sparing no expense.
Time not of the essence? You could spread out a few sheets of watercolor paper and go to town with an abstract design, then cut up the paper into individual notecards and scrounge up some loose envelopes.
But my method of collecting pieces of stationery as I go, then raiding my supply each month for my loved ones' occasions, works really well for me. It helps me use the stuff I already have, and it also allows me to buy ahead when something strikes my fancy (or when it's November and I find the perfect card for my goddaughter's July birthday).
After I've picked out a card from my stash for each person, I grab my pack of colorful felt-tip pens and bundle it up with the cards (giant rubber bands work great for this, but really just grouping the stuff together in a small pile is sufficient), then park it on the coffee table, where I can see it when I'm resting later in the day and can scribble my loving sentiments, one at a time
Since I've taken all the pressure off of myself to write something clever or perfect (after all, the fact that I'm getting a card out at all is epic! Why would I make it any harder on myself?!), picking up the pen to finish the job is far more enjoyable than it is a burden. Message scribbling takes a max of 15 minutes for, say, a bundle of five cards. That's three minutes a piece. Easy-peasy.
Stamps and my address book come next. And usually, by the time I've written the message, I'm fired up and wanting to get these notes in the mail ASAP, before they get covered by incoming mail and other house detritus, and then lost for months on end—so, it's pretty easy to get myself to address and post and be done with it.
If you're someone who does gifts in addition to cards, you're on your own.
Nah, just kidding. 😉
My recommendation there would be to remember the whole reason for the gift-giving in the first place.
If it's become a real burden to you, or something you just don't ever make ample time for, I'd say it's time to reconsider your efforts. Would a FaceTime call be more enjoyable for you and your person? Does it make more sense to plan a time to get together in person for ice cream and a heart-to-heart? Do you need to set up some personal boundaries around gift-giving?
An example from my own life: I buy books for kids. That's it.
Every kid in my life gets a book for his or her birthday, and another book at Christmas. I don't do toys, mainly because I don't feel like keeping up with what's cool and/or what the kid already owns. Also, I'm a big believer in reading as a totally worthwhile kid activity, so I practice what I preach by making books my go-to kid present.
As for the adults in my life, I give gifts on an at-whim basis; if, when I'm out and about, I see something that's just perfect for a particular someone, I'll buy it and save it for the nearest occasion. If I don't, I don't. This way, no one's getting crap for the sake of my handing them something on their special day, and I'm not forcing myself to go hunting for gifts for my loved ones all month, every month.
Your gifting philosophy might be different from mine, and that's a-okay. The important bit is that you're living out your values, not someone else's—and that you're aligning your actions with what's most important to you.
Card-sending and gift-giving not at all important to you? No problem! That doesn't mean you don't care about your people and it certainly doesn't make you a bad person. We all have our things, our ways of staying connected to the people in our lives, so take a moment to consider yours.