The holiday season feels like it arrives more quickly every year — and for administrative professionals, that can mean a scramble to plan, buy and send company gifts. While you might welcome the break from your normal routine, gift-giving tasks can eat up valuable time that’s needed for other year-end projects.
How can you streamline the process — and maybe even have more fun while you’re at it? We asked your peers for their advice in a Staples poll, and here’s what they had to say.
Keep a Running List
Gather any notes you have on customers, partners and others you’ve given gifts to in previous years, along with the vendors you’ve ordered gifts from. Consolidate these details into a single file that you can reference and update as needed. This can help streamline what survey respondents called the “most time-intensive” part of the gift-giving process: figuring out who should get one.
Some of your peers take their lists a step further. “We also note the type of gifts sent, comments from the recipients and copies of notes sent with the gifts,” says one medical office manager. Adding those details can help keep you from falling into a gift-giving rut. It also shows what has proven popular and what didn’t get much response.
Ask for Input Early
If your gift list changes substantially from year to year, reach out to managers, sales reps or anyone else who has a say in it as early as possible. Set firm deadlines, since establishing cut-off dates can prompt fast responses.
“I send emails to the management team in early October asking for the names and mailing addresses of customers we’ll be sending gifts to,” says an administrative assistant at an ambulance company. “Then, I come up with three to five items for the team to pick from, and say that I need their responses within five days.”
Gathering input early lets you place gift orders well in advance, letting you avoid last-minute crunches.
Solicit Your Colleagues’ Help
Make the process collaborative — for example, by asking co-workers to help come up with gift ideas, or to box and wrap the gifts. Some of your peers recommend an assembly-style system for preparing gifts for sending: One person writes the cards; another assembles the gift boxes; someone else checks that all the gifts have been packed. Working as a team helps everyone get in the holiday spirit. One admin in the survey suggested playing festive music while you work on your assembly line. That can help make the effort feel like a party, rather than a chore.
Plan Ahead for Shipping
Unless your gift vendor ships directly to recipients, be sure to know your shippers’ holiday deadlines. For example, you can find UPS’s holiday schedule here. If you work with the U.S. Postal Service, ask your mail carrier for help deciding the best time to ship. Explore tools through the USPS website that let you prepare labels, create electronic postage stamps and pay electronically. Be sure you have packing materials, wrapping paper, trimmings and other necessities stocked ahead of time to speed up the final stages of the process.
Rethink Your Gifts
Depending on your relationship with recipients, you may be able to streamline the gift-giving process by opting to send gift cards. This won’t work for every company or recipient — it may seem too impersonal a choice for some. But, when appropriate, it can save a lot of time.
“Our gift-giving process is simple: It entails a trip to buy gift cards and holiday cards, and then it’s just signing, addressing and mailing them,” says an office and grants manager at a community organization. It’s a simple way to show appreciation — and the choice in how to spend them might appeal to recipients.
Try adapting these tips for your company’s needs, and continue to refine them as needed. You might find that just one or two adjustments clear the way for a smoother gift-giving process.