29 ways to destress

There are only 3 days left before we can enjoy a day of rest (and possibly too much murukku). It’s only 68 days before the long weekend during Christmas this year and the ensuing three working days before the New Year, when everyone is at their desk but no one wants to do any work. Another 42 days to filing corporate annual tax returns. And another 26 days before children are free to roam the shopping malls downtown and prowl the science centre, zoo, and bird park.

In order that we don’t burn ourselves out to survive another fast-paced year in the corporate jungle, we can innoculate ourselves against stress. Here’s some things to try:

Coffee and Cookie Beneath Large Cork Noteboard

29. Do you precrastinate?
We can feel stressed out by our “to do” list, which more often than not gets longer as the day yawns on. Sometimes we get so stressed that the last thing that’s added to our list, is also the first thing we tackle, even when we’re in the middle of doing something else. Choosing to reply to a new email (precrastination) gets it off our list but may be counterproductive. It could be more efficient to let emails accumulate and reply to all of them at the end of the day.

 Don't disturb

28. Go away!
A 2014 study argues that multiple interruptions reduce quality of work produced. It may be a good idea to put your phone on “do not disturb” (only important calls will get through) and stop your email client from running in the background.

breakfast

27. Indulge in a short break at the office
A 2014 study found that employees who took breaks while at work reported more satisfaction at work. But the study also showed that these were usually employees who had a physical job, or those who had jobs with a lot of face-to-face interactions, and needed to decompress with “alone time”. But breaks don’t have to be “workplace internet leisure browsing“; they can be time well-spent filling up at the water cooler or having breakfast!

Facebook

26. Facebook at the office
According to this 2014 study, taking a 5-minute break to browse non-work-related websites helps younger employees stay focused at work. Using company internet to surf Facebook for 5 minutes was a more effective break than a similar duration spent comparing online insurance policies, doing nothing, or not taking a break. But it’s not for those aged 30 and up…

Have a cuppa

25. Smartphone breaks (and tea breaks) can be helpful 
We’re better at paying attention to a task which requires constant vigilance (think air traffic controllers) when we’re allowed brief breaks. A 2014 study observed that employees, who spent time playing a game, checking Facebook, or posting on Twitter while at work, had higher levels of mental well-being at the end of the day. The microbreaks help by allowing us to destress in between tasks. Though those in organizations where smartphones are not allowed, will probably need to do it the old-fashioned way — talking to co-workers in person or taking a tea break in another part of the building.

Video Game Competition

24. When TV is bad for you…
Apparently it’s hard to relax by watching TV or playing computer or video games. A recent study suggests that when we use TV and gaming as a distraction to escape more pressing tasks, we fail to be destressed from watching TV or from playing a computer or video game. Instead, we feel guilty for procrastinating on the pressing tasks. That’s not to say TV is not an effective way to destress. It is, but only if we’re not using it as a means to escape from a problem. If you’re not escaping, then go ahead…watch TV (skip to #13 and #14).

Walking the dog

23. If you must procrastinate…
Then choose something that you have to do. If you’re at home, that could be the laundry, dishes, ironing, walking the dog, or dinner prep. If you’re at the office, that could be clearing out your inbox, tidying up your desk, backing up your data, or sorting out your filing. At least you’ll feel accomplished at the end of the day.

MP900341511

22. Get those creative juices flowing
A recent study has found that employees with creative pursuits outside work are more productive than their peers who don’t have such interests. Even being an audience member at a dance or musical performance or a visitor to an art gallery or museum exhibition can bestow benefits which include improved mental wellbeing and mood. It may be that creative hobbies help us relax during our downtime, which in turn boosts our effectiveness when we’re on the job in the work week.

Woman listening to music.

21. Enjoy your time at work and at home
Although not all tasks are suited to being accompanied by music, music can be helpful in boosting productivity. And putting up the bass can make one feel empowered. So, put on those headphones and turn up the bass before that all-important client meeting, business negociation, or employee performance review.

oregon coast

20. Channel your spending towards friends and family
Spending on things which provide us opportunities for social interactions (e.g., meals, theatre shows) makes us happy. Relative to spending on things which are only appreciated by us. Research also shows that we’re happier when we spend on others rather than ourselves. And we’re most happy about charity donations when these further a cause supported by friends or family. What all this tells us is that we value social experiences. By that reasoning, we should expect to be ecstatic about making a home-made picnic for friends and family at Marina Barrage. Or a potluck get-together with all your office BFFs.

working like a dog

19. The magic of delegation
Some of the things that we do don’t need to be done by us. But giving responsibilities away takes practice. It helps if we also prepare by finding out ahead of time whom we can give the tasks away to. Here are some tips and a how-to guide.

yes - notepad & pen

18. Give it away, give it away now
There’s a difference between something which is important but not urgent, and something which is urgent but not important. It’s tough deciding which to do first. Here’s a step-by-step guide on what to do.

List of things to do

17. Say no (or else…)
Much easier said that done. But since we don’t have superpowers, we need to know what we do want to do and don’t want to do. It’s not just about finding ways to do things more efficiently (though that helps). We can do things which fit into the time available. Here’s how to go about doing it and a useful fact sheet. If not, you can appoint someone to remind you to say no.

Don't fill your diary with unimportant things to do

16. Be assertive, not passive-aggressive
Part of “learning to say no” is learning to be assertive. Being assertive means saying what your needs and feelings are, with the right body language. This helps you manage your stress, particularly if we have difficulty turning down more work responsibilities. And prevent you from “vaguebooking” and “posting statuses for attention” for the next two hours, when you should be working!

Low angle view of a young woman playing basketball

15. Look into ways to improve yourself
Key competencies for employees in today’s workplace include awareness of one’s emotions, ability to manage one’s emotions, ability to motivate oneself, empathy, and the ability to manage relationships with others. You can’t change others; you can only change yourself. It’s an important part of stress management. Find out about yourself here.

Find the silver lining

14. Laugh it off
Laughter alleviates stress and protects against heart disease (read this article). It’s not just common sense. Laughter is the best medicine: Patients were found to cope better when their long-term chronic illnesses were explained with cartoons. Seeing the funny side of things helps us cope when life gets stressful (here’s the science behind it). Now you have an excuse to read Sherman’s lagoon. Or view some self-deprecating thoughts.

BFFs

13. Have a good cry (and a friend to hold your hand)

Some argue that crying has a stress-reducing effect, but it appears that the benefits of a good cry may depend on who’s doing the crying and who they’re with at the time of their crying. Findings from a 2008 study suggests that having emotional support in the form of friends and family produces positive outcomes from the crying episode. So, station your social support network on your sofa, get ready the tissues, and turn on the K-drama channel…

Laughter is the best medicine

12. Watch a funny movie
A recent study found that watching films with a stressful scene (heart surgery in the film Vertical Limit) makes our heart beat faster. And not in a good way. In contrast, watching a funny movie reduces anxiety levels. A 1991 study showed that we’re better at solving a problem when we’re experiencing a positive emotion than a negative one. It appears that we are more apt to think of possible solutions when we’re feeling happy.

Anticipating is just as good

11. Ready, steady, laugh!
In fact, just knowing that we’re about to laugh relieves stress. Anticipating a funny movie lowered stress hormones (cortisol) and two other mood-regulating hormones (adrenalin and a dopamine-related brain chemical). Amazing. Time to self-medicate with Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me 2!

Education

10. Spend time on your financial health
When we have money problems at home, we spend time at work solving these problems or worrying about them. All this worrying can lead us to destressing in less than healthy ways. So it pays to keep tabs on your spending, saving, and investing (here are some tips for getting started).

Boy Photographing Man

9. Spend time with your kids
Toddler tantrums and preschool meltdowns are unlikely to be your idea of a restful weekend. Odd as it may sound, children can behave in much more predictable ways when they spend more time with their parents. And if parents engage in warm and consistent parenting, focusing on rewarding desirable behaviour and understanding their young children’s needs and feelings.

Frustrated Mother and Daughter

8. Spend time with your older kids too
Respectful communication is easier when you spend time doing day-to-day things with your teenagers. You may want to try a problem-solving approach when addressing a testy topic. Or assess the various sources of stress that your children are facing before tackling disagreeable topics.

DJ with Gear

7. Defend your ears
A study which found that elevated traffic noise produced higher blood pressure and heart rate, and higher levels of stress hormone, also showed that even low-level noise elicited a stress response, resulting in reduced motivation. Aside from sleep disturbances which in turn affect our ability to cope with stress, traffic noise is also thought to contribute to stress-related health problems such as stroke and heart disease. There are solutions being proposed in dense cities, but ear plugs are a good short-term solution in the meantime.

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6. Greener is better
The participants of a large scale study reported better mental wellbeing as soon as they moved to a greener neighbourhood and this improvement was sustained for as long as 3 years after the move. In another study, residents in a neighbourhood with more trees and vegetation had fewer symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress. Remarkable.

mid section view of a woman cutting vegetables

5. Popeye was right
Investing in a plant-based diet, as well as physical activity as part of one’s daily routine, a strong social support network, and a purpose-driven life, is one of the secrets to getting older with good mental and physical health.

Tall Green Tree

4. Increase your sunshine vitamin
Nurses were more alert and experienced improved mood when they spent more time with daylight than artificial light (read about the study here). Blue light, which is more available from the morning sun than evening sun, regulates our sleep patterns, which in turn affects our ability to pay attention and solve problems during our working hours. Besides that, sunlight also provides us with vitamin D, which boosts your immune system and facilitates calcium absorption. Time to get make hay while the sun shines!

Woman Stretching in Bed with a Man Sleeping Beside Her

3. Get some zzz!
Whether it’s from disrupted sleep or a lack of sleep, poor quality sleep compromises our ability to remember things and impacts our mood. Studies also show that sleep deprivation puts adolescents at risk of depression and children at risk of obesity. The less we sleep, the faster we age. And here’s the really bad news: lack of sleep makes us crave junk food! Sleep is definitely a must-have.

Head to Head

2. Mindfulness
Studies show that spending a small amount of time a day focusing on breathing helps to lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, alleviating stress and reduces burnout. Other benefits include improvements in other domains such as attentiondecision-makingimmune health, and emotion regulation. Mindfulness is not for everyone so similar techniques including yoga and tai chi are other alternatives. Yoga has been shown to improve brain function and psychological mood, lessen anxiety, lower inflammation, and alleviate stress. Relaxation is the cornerstone in managing stress.

Group of People Playing Volleyball on the Beach

1. Keep exercising!
Being physically active means having better physical wellbeing, brain function, and memory capacity. Exercise is not only effective in treating depression but prevents the onset of depression and reduces anxiety levels. Long-term physical activity has anti-aging properties, while exercise has been shown to suppress chronic inflammation. No pain, no gain.

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Maybe work isn’t your happy place

Maybe work isn't your happy place

Not long ago, a study reported that a substantial number of people were found to have lower levels of stress hormone while at the office than when at home. This finding downplays the stress at the workplace. To be more precise, men were the ones more likely to experience stress at the office than home.

But it doesn’t discount the fact that people still experience stress at the workplace. As many as 20% of those polled in a 2013 HPB survey reported high levels of job stress. That’s 2 in every 10 employees. And almost half of those polled in a separate survey (comprising at least 400 employees per country) reported a lack of job satisfaction. More disturbing is the finding that over half of those polled in a recent LinkedIn survey would consider sacrificing a workplace friendship for promotion. That spells for a happy workplace. Not.

Although job stress often surfaces from employees managing heavy workloads, there are many other factors which impact employee engagement. Things which managers and supervisors play an enormous role in shaping. Things like team dynamics, personality clashes, and leadership styles.

Here are 10 ways line managers can help:

1. Social support
A Gallup poll found that engaged employees were more likely to have friends at the workplace. Line managers play a role in cultivating a work culture which encourages friendships. Look here for tips.

2. Work-life balance
Employees are more likely to be engaged and productive when their leaders value sustainable ways of working, which includes supporting work-life balance. A HBR survey reveals that it’s important for leaders to practice what they preach. It’s a tune that’s getting more airtime these days.

3. Find ways to get active
We all know why we should invest in moderate to vigorous exercise three times a week and incorporate fruits, veggies, and whole grains in our daily diet. It does wonders for our cardiovascular health. It protects against dementia and certain types of cancer. But workplace health programmes may not always stress a key benefit (no pun intended). Exercise is the key to managing stress levels. Here’s an incentive for line managers to support the Get Fit programme at the office!

4. Find time to relax
Research supports the view that engaging in relaxation activities helps us manage our stress. A recent INSEAD study shows that spending just 15 minutes focused on breathing enabled people to make better decisions. Another recent study shows that creative pursuits are an effective way to recharge and destress. Daily practice of a relaxation method resets the threshold at which we get angry (Goleman, 1998). Findings that extroverts relax more easily than introverts suggests that we need to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all way to relax. 

5. Assertive communication
Exercise is an excellent way to get back into a good mood. But we’re probably not going to be running a treadmill or smashing a ball against the wall when given extra responsibilities at work. There are no appropriate moment to go “en garde”. Or signal for us to put on the boxing gloves. We can however learn to say no. Line managers have the responsibility to encourage staff to practice assertive communication.

6. Sleep is underrated
Sleep is not just for those who party hard. It’s for those who want to learn, solve problems, remember things, and make good decisions (here’s the science). What’s more, sleep is the anti-aging treatment. But you’ve heard this many times over. But did you know that exposure to blue light which your smart devices emit in large quantities makes it more difficult to get to sleep quickly or to get good quality sleep? It’s time to tell your staff to switch off their devices and get more REM and deep sleep – essential for enhancing job performance (tips at the end of this article).

7. Use your Employee Assistance Programme!
Family conflict affects relationships at the office, not just at home. A recent study shows that conflict at the home causes employees to react negatively to co-workers and to use fewer adaptive strategies (e.g., social support, assertiveness) at work. Another study shows that mood affects productivity. Those coping with a difficult life event (e.g., bereavement, illness in the family) make more mistakes when adding two numbers together than those not experiencing such an event. Those coping with life events also report lower happiness and productivity ratings than their peers. Managers in organizations with an EAP can encourage staff to use their EAP to tackle work-related and/or personal problems. Recent research indicates that “organizational support programs, which aim to improve employee well-being, are not being used by the employees who need them most”.

8. Training evaluation
A 1997 study showed that an in-house time management training programme, which enhanced employee’s capacity for impulse control and for regulating their own emotions, had a 1989% return in a 3-week period. It’s noteworthy that employees were not given generic, practical tips but instead encouraged to manage their emotions. Most importantly, the organization measured outcomes in terms of employee performance (e.g., rated by co-workers, line managers) not satisfaction with the training programme.

9. Organizational structure
It’s not hard to see how workplace harrassment can negatively impact employee well-being and physical health, in turn affecting productivity and employee engagement. But a recent review of the literature indicates that workplace harrassment does not arise from just personality clashes alone. The way an organization is structured may make it easier for bullying to take place. So it’s ever more important now than before that senior management explicitly supports respectful behaviour.

10. Self-care
Fair bosses are the best! They produce engaged employees and productive companies. But they’re prone to burn out (evidence here). So self-care is imperative for managers and supervisors. That is, doing all the above themselves. This includes: “getting sufficient sleep, taking short mental breaks during the workday, adhering to a healthy diet and detaching from work completely when outside of the office”

Bosses, take note!

No time to eat right?

Why not cook your own meals?

Eight meals a week were eaten at a hawker centre, food court, or restaurant in 2010 (figures reported from a HPB survey in this article: ST, 1 Dec 2010), not far away from the 2004 median of 7 meals (more details in a 2004 HPB report). Even those who have fresh produce readily available haven’t got time to make healthy meals, as this report suggests: “Kale, Kale Everywhere, But Only Cheetos To Eat” (Huffington Post, 9 Jan 2014).

There’s research evidence that eating at home is not only a way to eat more healthily—as the findings from a 2012 10-year follow-up study on 1,888 participants from Taiwan indicate (“Eating at home could give you a longer life“, Yahoo! News, 23 May 2012).

But it’s so hard to find time to cook, you say. Actually…slow food need not be slow to cook. The website for the author of the fast recipes Rachel Ray offers a zillion fast recipes. Okay, not a zillion, but there are certainly a lot of things that can be done in no time at all. Here are some more from the foodnetwork and food and wine.

And then, there’s no time to do grocery shopping. NTUC does free deliveries with the OCBC Plus! card, and the delivery charge is only $7 if purchases amount to more than $60. Cold storage and Sheng Siong have online grocery shopping and delivery options. Giant offers free deliveries for purchases above $200 (or $100 if shopping at Sembawang). There’s even wet market e-shopping.

And with supermarkets staying open till 10pm and 11pm (and many NTUCs are open 24 hours), grocery shopping can be a breeze without the crowds obscuring all that produce from your view, grocery carts in the aisle, and queues at the checkout counter. In any case, the speedy option of self-checkout are common at NTUC, Giant and Cold Storage outlets. Apparently quite a few people don’t really like this self-checkout and pack-it-yourself malarkey: But think about all those calories you’d be burning by doing all the packing yourself. And all those plastic bags you’d be saving on with your own grocery bags. Anyway, you can use the force: Delegate away!

Then the problem, you say, all this ang mo chiak is not really you. So cook a batch and freeze it. Take it out in the morning and defrost it in the fridge. By the time you’re home to have dinner, you can zap it in your favourite kitchen appliance. Soups, fried rice and mee goreng, rendangs and stews all survive wonderfully the process of being nuked. Or if you’re into slow food in no time, marinade your chicken or fish fillets in the fridge before you go to work, and watch it cook in the oven when you get back. Pressure cookers and crockpots were invented to make one-dish meals (less washing, hooray!). Let the rice cooker do its thing. Voila! Amazing dinner.

Oh yes, washing the dishes. There’s this invention called the dishwasher. But also you can always fall back on the force: Delegate (the kids will thank you when they’re all grown up later; other grateful recipients of your delicious dinner can be reminded about the calories they will burn from washing up pots and pans).

Have no one to share your amazing cooking with? Invite your friends and extended family over. Posting all your lovely food on facebook regularly should get them coming over in droves and falling over themselves to wash the dishes for you. Emphasizing the healthiness of your meals should scores some points with them (of course, attractive food goes along way). Or you can make your healthful food cute.

The only drawback here is that cleaning up the kitchen surfaces fall squarely on you. But look on the bright side: kitchen cleaning and dish washing (should you have mostly free riders) help you fulfil your weekly 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity. And if you can’t delegate, there are ways to do this efficiently.

Such a lot of effort lei, says the small voice in your head. Cooking and thinking up different things to make for dinner does take up brain power. But after doing it a few times, it will become a more automated process. Anyway, it’s good for fending off dementia. And if you’re too tired to do any of the above, it might time to review the stressors in your work and home life.

Why bother? Well, there’s a good reason for getting into cooking. Research suggests that interest in cooking as well as gardening cultivates healthy food habits and food consciousness. Yao et al. (2013) found that those given the recipe for a whole- grain-pasta-and-chicken dish to try at home after sampling it, perceived whole grains more positively than those not offered the same opportunity. A cooking and gardening programme in Los Angeles (LA Sprouts) also resulted in healthier BMI among 10- and 11-year-olds. Similarly, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden project Green Reach produced more food conscious youngsters (Libman, 2007).

Lots of ways to eat right, right?

7 Ways to Working Smart

Working smart at work

It may be the case that we all want to have Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of effective people and the 8 habits of highly effective (Google) managers. And if we can’t remember all those, at least we could try doing the quandrant thing to sift out the important and urgent stuff we need to attend to (“The only thing you need to remember about the seven habits of highly effective people”, Forbes, 24 July 2012).

Those are all good to have. But perhaps you may be thinking, I don’t have time! You may also be thinking, I don’t have time to learn new things! But spending a little bit of time initially can save you time in the long run.

Here are a few ideas to chew on:

1. Save your work

It seems like time spent on nothing and extra work but saving your important files on an external device will save you a lot of time later when things go wrong. It takes only a few minutes to back up your computer on a external hard drive if you plug it in regularly and if you use backup software which will back up your files additively. If you don’t happen to have the hard drive with you every other day, it’s also a good idea to copy your latest version of a file you’ve been working on for the last sleepless 3 days to your Google drive, cloud or Dropbox. In the unlikely event that your thumb drive and hard drive both fail, you will still have a version to work off from your G drive!

2. Use hotkeys

Once you have discovered keyboard shortcuts, you’ll never want to go back to not using them! The keyboard shortcuts  for Windows 7, even if you only learn to use Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V (copy-paste functions), will save you time switching from keyboard to mouse and back again. The only hitch is that once you swap keyboards between desktop and laptop, you might find your usual keys not in the usual place. But it’s a small price to pay for a huge saving in time. For people switching from Windows to a Mac O/S, hotkeys aren’t very different: ⌘+C and ⌘+V get your stuff copied and pasted in a jiffy. There’s of course more to learn for the enthusiast…

In Word, Excel and other office programs, you have the option of creating a macro or customized keyboard shortcut for an action that you do regularly and have to repeat. Instead of using the mouse, you can set up your own keyboard shortcut and use that instead. Setting up your own Word or Powerpoint template can also be useful in the long run.

3. Keep a folder of bookmarks

Do you work in an organization for which the intranet contains so much information that you can never find the form you need to download or the documentation manual and guide on specific company policies? And even if you work for an organization which has the most amazing website where everything is efficiently catalogued, you’ll probably have to toggle other websites in which there is too much information and not enough order in their menus and submenus. The answer to the problem is bookmarks! It’s an essential survival tool. Not only will you be able to download the forms you need to declare lots of things on, you’ll be able to do it in one click (after typing your username and password), while everyone else navigates the maze to retrieve their cheese.

4. Wear headphones and hang a “don’t disturb” sign

Listening to music can be a useful way to cut out the background conversations. Assuming we’re doing something in which music doesn’t interfere with our cognitions. But wearing headphones does help everyone observe the “don’t disturb” sign that you’ve posted loudly and clearly on your desk and on your forehead. Asking people to talk to you during designated times such as lunch and mid-morning coffee breaks will help you create blocks of uninterrupted work time. So take time out to make your sign and buy earbuds!

5. Make time to socialise and network

Have lunch with your team and colleagues. In addition to helping you increase the number of steps you’ve walked in a day and improve your mood by staying socially integrated at your workplace, it’ll save you time from writing small emails which go back and forth faster than a table tennis rally. Mid-morning coffee breaks in which the whole office or team participates have been found to be useful strategies for helping team members communicate effectively about a task they’d like to request another team member’s help with.

6. Schedule your email replies

One useful tip is to not to start the day by checking mail, as suggested in this Forbes article. Rather than checking mail when we first start our work day (which might be the morning for the larks among us), it is more efficient use of our cognitive resources to reply to emails when we’re not as alert. That saves us our brain for real work.

The reason why this tip works is that if our main work is not replying emails, we are less likely to get caught up replying to an email that just arrived (and spending the next hour shuffling the right words into sentences) and sorting out the mail to find the one that does require a response from us.

And when we do read our mail (which we’ll do sparingly in the day as we have real work to do), we can compose our response offline and schedule the response to leave our outbox at a specific time (perhaps at the time when we next read our email). Most email clients offer this function: Try it to step up your efficiency!

7. Use email filters

Getting lots of unimportant emails (often from others inside the same organization) is a common problem faced by many employees. The bigger the organization, the more emails we seem to receive. There are many events, activities, meetings, and bazaars which appear to arrive in our inbox whether we want them or not. Instead of manually moving these emails to folders, we can automate this process by setting up a filter to do it either when the mail arrives or when we click a button to “run filter”.

We can either select unimportant or non-urgent emails to filter by telling the email client to send mails from a specific someone (using their name or exact email address) or key words in the subject line or body automatically to a local folder, which we can browse leisurely, when our brain is sending out the “20% battery: Please recharge your brain now” signals. Most email clients like Outlook, Thunderbird, Windows Live, Gmail, all have this function. There’s no excuse for not setting one (or 50) up.

Getting organized for Chinese New Year!

Getting ready for festivities

Getting ready for New Year celebrations need not be a stressful experience. Staying organized with this “To Do” list will keep you keep your cool as you prepare for this big occasion. That should leave you with plenty for time for rejuvenating, celebrating, and relaxing!

Six weeks before (before Christmas)

  • Think about what you’ll wear on New Year’s Day!
  • Clean up and clear out the clutter so you’ll have less to clean.
  • Donate unwanted but still useable things to the Salvation Army or thrift shop.

One month before (before New Year’s Eve)

  • Discuss and delegate “spring-cleaning” duties amongst members of the family.
  • Clear out your freezer in preparation of all the foods to be stored for the reunion dinner.
  • Make table reservations (if not having reunion dinner at home).
  • Start collecting uncreased notes for red packets.

2 weeks before

  • Buy cleaning detergents you’ll need.
  • Replenish the canned and dried goods and other household items that you’ll need for the coming weeks.
  • Stock up on fizzy and packet drinks for guests.
  • Buy all the foods which can be frozen for the reunion dinner if you’re making it at home.
  • Buy your Chinese New Year cookies, bak gua, melon and pumpkin seeds, and persimmon.
  • Make your pineapple jam and bake your cookies!
  • Mail your Chinese New Year greeting cards.

1 week before

  • Time to activate your “spring-cleaning” team.
  • Discuss New Year Day’s visit plans with the (extended) family.
  • Buy your plants and decorations.
  • Buy oranges!

Three days before

  • Prepare your red packets.
  • Pull out your game consoles, karaoke DVDs, movies, children’s puzzles and books, card games, majong table, and chess pieces.

Two days before

  • Buy fresh flowers and fruits.
  • Buy fresh produce for the reunion dinner (if you’re cooking it!).
  • Iron out your New Year Day’s fineries.
  • Pack your oranges into bags.

The Eve

  • Start your cookathon.
  • Sweep your floors and tidy your bins.
  • Get the family to help set the table.
  • Charge your camera batteries.
  • Sit down and enjoy your reunion dinner with your family!