« Note to Millennials: You Aren’t Workforce Royalty Yet | Home | The Hardest Part they Never Tell you about Blogging »

The Secret to Less Stress, More Productivity: Life Lessons from Planning a Wedding

By Tiffany Monhollon

Days away from the wedding now, and I’m at the point where I need about two minutes of productivity for every minute I have. Work, life, and dealing with all the last minute things is more than enough to keep me going nonstop, about 20 hours a day. 18 if I’m lucky.

So when people come up to me with the customary smiles of, “How are plans going,” or “Are you ready,” it’s kind of hard to convey that really, I’m doing great. I’m the type of person who tends to wear my heart on my sleeve and my stress on my face. And apparently, despite my best efforts at fasting stress up until the wedding, some of it just creeps in despite my best efforts. I realized this when a few weeks ago, after a wedding shower thrown by my best friends and attendants, someone approached me to apologize about the shower, because I looked upset – which shocked me, because I couldn’t have been more pleased by their heartfelt, low-key, intimate event. I explained that what I really looked like was stress and lack of sleep incarnate, and for all the world, I wished I could re-wind the time and take that moment back so that they all knew that in my heart, I was as happy as could be.

But that’s just the thing. I can’t rewind and have these moments back. And there’s literally more to be done than there is time to be awake.

So, what’s a bride-to-be to do? What’s anybody to do when the pressure’s on and time is running out? Here are my survival secrets that are keeping me coping when it’s down to the wire.

1) Calculate opportunity costs. Despite my best efforts a few weeks ago of typing out checklists for each day, unforseen things keep popping up. Where the heck is my swimsuit, for example, and is it a better use of my time and resources (and limited brain power) to search boxes strewn about my house for it, spend the time shopping for a new one, or pick one up on location? I know now why the wedding industry is so huge. Because when it comes down to it, you get to the point where there simply is no more time, and monetary cost becomes less and less of a consideration.

Life lesson: Whether you’re planning a wedding or trying to get more done in life, at work, etc., learn to consider opportunity costs. This is an easy way to clarify priorities and help you decide which of a myriad of plans will be the best option.

2) Plan to delegate. I’m very much a DIY kind of girl. And I love planning events. Heck, I’ve been a maid of honor twice, so I’ve got much of this wedding thing down. But I have to say, days out, now I understand why people spend so much paying other people to plan these things. Because it’s very easy to get way over your head and too involved when it’s your own big event.

Luckily for me, I have a team of wonderful supporters offering to lend a hand. Unluckily for me, I should have planned better to have help. Because when it comes to big things like your own wedding, you care about the details. But when it comes down choosing “do I want to make time to pick out what color of ribbon will be on the cake?” or “do I want to make time to go get my marriage license with my fiance?” your priorities become clear.

Life lesson: Make plans that include what you can delegate and what you need to do yourself. Then, delegate things as soon as possible. Choose people who you trust, and make time to communicate with them. A follow-up call with a friend buying ribbon takes a lot less time than trudging to the store yourself.

3) Pay for help. When it comes down to it, there are just some times when you need to pay for help to make sure you are sane. And since the people you trust are busy doing the things you want to do yourself but don’t have time for, buying help you can trust is well worth it when you’re in crunch time. Even though it hurts when money is tight, spending $50 for a few things at an excellent dry cleaner is a load off the mind that’s worth its weight in gold. Another $60 to get my dress steamed (again) after a lovely romp across the botanical gardens for my bridal portraits this weekend seems ridiculous, but the peace of mind that I won’t be standing in a designer gown with a crumpled train is priceless.

Life lesson: Career and productivity experts say investing in help is worth it. They’re right. It’s up to you to decide how often and to what extent you want to pay other people to help you, but it’s an option worth considering, especially if your only other option is to stop sleeping.

4) Say no. Planning, making lists, writing timelines, trying to stay on top of everything that has to be done has the funny side effect of also making you add more things to those lists, plans and timelines. Some of those things are necessary (Note to self: check on catastrophic insurance coverage tomorrow for soon-to-be hubby.) Other things are not. They have bookstores in the airport, so my impulse to hit Barnes and Noble after a long day of errands, though relaxing, should have stayed in the idea pile.

Life lesson: Delete things off your to-do list. Cancel appointments that don’t matter. Avoid new responsibilities. When it’s down to the wire, your ability to say no (especially to yourself!) and refuse to take on more will be priceless.

5) Say yes. There’s something you’re particularly aware of in these intense times in life - and that’s time. Most often, the ridiculous lack thereof. Moments seem to slip by without notice. Months slip into weeks, then into days, hours… it’s hard to keep track of the moments as they pass. But it’s the most important thing. Sitting in the car on the way to get our marriage license today, I had the distinct desire to be present, in the moment, moved. To say yes to the moment.

This is actually the hardest part of this whole thing. Being in the moment. Sometimes, this makes you do things that seem just a little bit crazy. Why, for example, am I choosing to blog when there’s laundry to do and phone calls to make? Jewelry to finish and gifts to wrap? Why will I make time to go to yoga tomorrow night regardless of whether or not I’m finished packing? My answer to myself is that anything I can do to live within, to capture, to say yes to the moments - fleeting as they are - is well worth its time.

Life lesson: It sounds like the most utterly trite thing I can think of, but it’s true. Even when stress is high, don’t forget to do things you love, to be who you are, to revel in the moment, to be alive.

In the end, that’s what this is anyway. Not a rush to a deadline. Not a series of endless tasks. It’s your life. Every day. So live it as well as you can.

By Tiffany Monhollon | April 24, 2008

Topics: Learning, Life, Success, Time Management |

6 Responses to “The Secret to Less Stress, More Productivity: Life Lessons from Planning a Wedding”

  1. Michael Henreckson Says:
    April 24th, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Right on Tiffany. I particularly like your closer because that’s something I struggle with all the time. It can be really hard to remember that the present is your life and not just a list of tasks that you need to get out of the way before you really start living. If you’re not going to live in the present, when are you going to live?

  2. Glenn Says:
    April 25th, 2008 at 8:49 am

    Tiffany,

    I found your productivity suggestions particularly helpful if for no other reason than the fact that you seem to be legitimately benefiting by following your own advice. It is one thing to publish a list of ideas that sound really, really good on paper — and quite another to find (and effectively describe) strategies that you have implemented into your daily life. For me, living in the moment, being able to accept the present and say yes and enjoy that point in life for what it is and not what it might bring, that is one of the hardest but most rewarding things that I can do.

    By the way, I am still looking forward to your extended response/ follow-up post to your Workplace Royalty bit — but I certainly understand that time is a rather valuable resource at the moment. Best of luck to you.

  3. Tiffany Monhollon Says:
    April 25th, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    @ Glenn - I’m looking forward to that post too! I actually drafted it up that day but haven’t found time to finalize it yet - as you can imagine, things are a bit crazy for me right now!

    Thanks for your support and kind remarks. I think that as with most advice giving, the hardest part of it is following it yourself. The good thing is, it’s also usually the most rewarding.

  4. Kate Torrens Says:
    June 13th, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    The sincerity of your post moved me so deeply. The tips may be useful for me, my friends family….. Thank you, TIffany. Your posts are brilliant!

  5. Cat Says:
    July 3rd, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    I’ve enjoyed reading all your link building posts.

  6. Wedding Photographers Says:
    February 9th, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Great tips!

Comments