Prepare For Next Year's Holidays With A List Of Regrets

Photo: The Journal Garden | Vera Bitterer, Unsplash

No matter how you spent the holidays this year, it’s unlikely that everything went to plan. Tempting as it may be, immediately repressing memories of a disastrous cross-country flight or an accidentally under-cooked turkey only sets you up to do the same thing next year. You owe it to yourself to write down everything you wish you’d done differently while it’s still fresh in your mind.

Obsessively re-running scenarios in your head is rarely helpful, but hindsight can make your life easier if you harness it responsibly. Rather than stewing in year-end regrets, use them for good: look back on those holiday tasks or projects that are just complicated enough to be annoying and make yourself a “Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda” list. Any of these are prime candidates:

  • Travelling: Whether you wrangled a kid through airport security for the first time or tried flying instead of driving to visit family, take the time to recap any major missteps — and ruthlessly audit your packing list — so next year’s trip is less of a headache.

  • Hosting: If you were on the receiving end of family visits this year, gather your household for a post-mortem on what worked and what didn’t. Do you need more pillows? Could the airport pick-up and drop-off plan be improved? Is it finally time to replace your ancient sleeper sofa? You’ll be very glad you asked these questions before the next crop of houseguests arrives.

  • Entertaining: Successfully hosting large meals takes lots of practice. Write down any changes you’d make to seating arrangements, decor, table settings, and serving strategy so you know what not to do next year. Also, regardless of their intent to actually make them, people love to ask for recipes; have a list of links and cookbooks at the ready.

How you record your thoughts matters less than accessibility; you need to be able to reference this list at a moment’s notice long after you’ve written it. Google Docs, Slack, and to-do apps make this super easy, but if you’re a paper notebook person, label relevant pages as clearly and obviously as you can.

Either way, set a calendar reminder so you check in on your list with time to spare. Your future self will be endlessly grateful.


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