The Working Person’s Guide to Party Planning

Party planning can be a pain. Whether it’s a birthday party, a retirement party, a baby shower, or anything else you can dream up, there are a lot of moving parts that go into making that kind of get-together a smash hit. For those of us with busy lives, it can be difficult to figure out how to ensure things are as great as they can be without sacrificing a lot of time and energy we don’t have.

Planning for parties doesn’t have to be a hassle. With the right tools, a few tips, and a handful of tricks, anyone can plan a killer bash and still be home in time for dinner.

Let’s start with what may seem like the most obvious tool to use: lists. They can be your best friend or your worst enemy depending on how you use them. Some people are naturally more organized than others. For those kinds of people, a simple to-do list will keep them on track and remind them of what needs to get done when. And then there are some of us who do better with multiple lists. That setup can get overwhelming surprisingly quickly!

To combat the stress, try dividing things up by categories. “Things that need to be acquired for the party,” or “Things that need to be cleaned.” Breaking it up into stages and then making a schedule of when these things are going to get done can make things less stressful. It involves more steps, but they’re simpler. Smaller chunks that can be done quickly means less time taken out of a day and less to worry about when you’re working on other things.

Still not entirely sure where to start with your lists? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. The internet is a goldmine for useful (and good looking!) list templates and printables. Take a look at these planner guides for more adult parties. For kids’ parties and more general occasions, try one of these free printables. They’ll help you get started and some will even give you a timeline as to when things need to get done.

If you still find yourself with too much to do and not enough hours in the day to do it, it may be time to implement Plan H: Enlist Help.

No man is an island, and odds are you’re surrounded by people who would be willing to help if they were asked.

Family, friends, and co-workers are all people you can look to for a helping hand. Ask your sister to pick up the cake for Dad’s party. Maybe your spouse can take care of the kids for a night while you go out shopping. Tina over in Accounting may be able to handle decorations for Jim’s retirement party if you ask her.

Other people are an invaluable and often overlooked resource. Telling them you need a hand and asking if they’d be willing to help you (or the person that you’re throwing the party for) is an easy way to get some things off your plate. Remember–your initiative will almost always be rewarded. And the worst they can do is say no.

The most important thing you can do to make party planning easy is to be flexible.

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Maybe your entertainment falls through. Or Tina in Accounting gets the flu and suddenly you have no decorator for the office party. Life has a tendency to happen just when we don’t want it to. And when that happens, frustration is the usual reaction. Who wouldn’t be a little upset when all that planning gets thrown right out the second story window?

Frustration is normal. Take a moment to feel it, then remind yourself that you are flexible. You can work around whatever roadblock is in the way of your perfect party, and you can make new plans. Or maybe come up with a backup plan when you first start things, just in case. “Expect the unexpected,” is a bit of an oxymoron but reminding yourself of it can come in handy. You’ll end up with a better party, and a happier you, if you can roll with the punches.

When all’s said and done–when the cake has been eaten, the attendees have gone home, and everyone falls into their post-party food comas–you can relax and bask in the wonderful feeling of a job well done. At least until it’s time for the thank you notes to go out. But don’t worry! We’ve got you covered on that front too.

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