It seems everyone is busy these days.  

Between work, family obligations, trying to stay fit and maybe even having a hobby, it can be hard to find any extra time in the week.

Since working harder just sounds exhausting to someone who is already over-extended, what follows are party planning tips designed to make you smarter and save you time.  (Click here for the summary sheet.)

Here are 11 simple lightning fast party planning tips:

1. Put the Power of Intention to Work for You

A teacher of mine used to say, “Your attitude is everything.” He was right. 

How you approach party planning at the outset can make a world of difference in both results and your enjoyment of the activity.

If you start by thinking, “I am a role model of efficiency.  I can plan a great party in just a few hours,” you are far more likely to achieve your goal. 

Compare that to the much less helpful, “I don’t have time for a party! I’ll never get everything done. Last time, it took me hours just to set the table.”

2. Stay Focused on the Big Picture

Your goal in planning a party is to think about the overall impact of your efforts. 

Stay focused on the big picture and do not get overly concerned with any one detail.  Remember, the enemy of a great party is the desire for perfection. 

All of your forks don’t match?  Who cares. 

No one has ever said, “I had a great time.  Dinner was wonderful…but the person next to me had a different fork and I just couldn’t get past that.”

3. Prioritize What Matters Most to the Guest of Honor

If the party is in honor of someone, prioritize your efforts on what matters most to them.  It will make the experience more memorable and the focus will save you time.

(Though it’s common sense to do things that the person will like, this sometimes gets lost in the throes of party planning.)

If the person is crazy about sweets, consider serving an assortment of desserts.

If the person’s favorite spirit is gin, offer guests a gin-based cocktail.

As you only have a finite amount of time to plan the party, remember that prioritizing one thing means you have to de-prioritize another.  For real!

4. Save Time by Confidently Embracing Your First Choice 

Digital invitations have transformed how we gather.  Inviting guests over is as simple as selecting the invitation, plugging in a few details and then hitting the 'submit' button.

To save time, select the very first invitation you like. 

Sure, it’s fun to look at all the gorgeous designs…then go back through to short list your favorites…then get a second opinion from someone nearby on which one they like best…then discuss why your favorite is superior to their favorite…but that isn’t nearly as quick. 

Once you do make your selection, be confident in your choice. 

Ignore that little voice in your head that wonders, “Should have I looked for an invite that was more formal/festive/colorful/less colorful?”

Know that there is no such thing as a “perfect selection.”  By picking the first one you like, you have selected one in the perfect amount of time. 

5. Stay in the Party Planning Zone for Maximum Efficiency

You’ve likely heard about and probably even experienced being “in the zone.”  The zone is that wonderful place where effort comes easily, and everything just seems to flow. 

Help yourself by staying “in the zone” when planning your party.  Your goal is to complete each of the party planning tasks uninterrupted. 

For example, let’s say you want to invite 20 guests to your party using an Evite.

You enter the name and emails/phone numbers of the first 10 guests without a problem.  You enter the name of guest #11 and start to enter their email or phone number, only to realize you don’t have it. 

Though it is incredibly tempting to stop what you are doing and go in search of the contact information, do NOT take the bait.  Stay in the zone by setting aside guest #11 and moving on to guest #12, #13, #14…

By not interrupting your work flow, you can send out the invitation to 19 people far more quickly…and then go in search of guest #11’s missing contact information. 

The problem with going in search of guest #11’s contact info at the moment you realize it’s missing is that you are likely to get lost along the way. 

You might check your email to see if it’s hiding in there…as you’re looking, you realize that you didn’t reply to that email from your kid’s school…but you’re not sure if the date you’re about to volunteer for is the same day as your dentist appointment, so now you have to check your calendar…

Suddenly 20 minutes has gone by and no one has been invited to the party.  

6. Text Evites to Your Guests for a Quicker Response

If you want to get the quickest response from your guests, send the evite to their cellphone instead of their inbox.  People tend to reply much more quickly to texts than to emails. 

Any reminders that you ask Evite to send on your behalf will also go to their cellphone which may prompt quicker action than their inbox.

7. Spend 15 Minutes or Less Planning Your Menu

Deciding what to serve at your party opens up a world of possibilities---should you try that new chicken dish that Ina Garten swore would take a mere 30 minutes to prepare? What about making your hand-rolled tamales with the three varieties of roasted peppers that everyone always raves about?

No and no.

Speed is the name of the game, so now is not the time to test out a new recipe or even a beloved one that takes considerable time. 

For easy entertaining, select a menu of tried and true favorites that can be made with minimal effort.

8. Outsource Food Preparation as Much as Possible

Homemade food can be a wonderful thing, but if you don’t have the time to cook, outsource, outsource, outsource. 

Remember, people are coming to the party to celebrate the guest of honor, not to taste your homemade lasagna.

Local grocery stores and restaurants are good options to investigate.  Think about how you will serve the food as well, because some items require a lot more TLC to get on the table than others.

9. Realistically Estimate How Long Activities Will Take

When throwing a party, it’s natural to want to show off our best selves and make our homes as welcoming as possible.  

These special touches—whether it’s fresh flowers on the table or a favorite homemade dessert--may indeed be wonderful, but each one takes time to do.

Before starting to do any one of these things, estimate how much time it will take and determine whether there’s enough time in your schedule to do it.

Remember, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

10. Help Others Help You by Assigning Specific Tasks

Party planning need not be a solo activity.

Your friends and family know that you are not a caterer and don’t have a staff of employees.  They are glad you are the one hosting the party and want to help you, but probably don’t know what you need.

You can help them--and yourself! --by assigning specific tasks to people ahead of time. Provide as much direction as necessary and be crystal clear with any preferences. 

(Murphy’s Law dictates that if you don’t specify what you want, the person will choose the one you hate.) 

Make a list of any items you can delegate either before or during the party and assign to the person best suited to the task. People tend to take these responsibilities very seriously, so it’s a great way to make your time go further.

Easy items to delegate include asking someone to:

  • Get ice
  • Pick-up any food
  • Pick-up the cake
  • Select the music
  • Show guests where to put coats and purses
  • Offer guests a cocktail upon arrival
  • Set food on the table
  • Clear dishes
  • Make coffee
  • Light the candles on the birthday cake
  • Serve cake

11. Visualize the Party Beforehand to Help Things Go Seamlessly

Envision your guest walking through the door, setting down their purse or coat, getting a drink, having food...include them needing to your restroom and finding a place to seat.  

This virtual test run can help you avoid any pitfalls and save you time at the party ("Where is that extra roll of toilet paper? I was sure I bought some.")

The story of The Christmas Eve Dinner without Salad Tongs illustrates this point.

Once upon a time, I hosted close family friends for Christmas Eve dinner.

I was serving the Feast of 7 Fishes, a tradition in my family and a meal that requires the majority of the food to be prepared the hour prior to serving (because who wants fried cod to anything less than light and crispy?!).

I had just finished putting the last dish of fish on the table and went to grab the salad tongs before I sat down.  

Alas, they weren't there.  

They also weren't in the second or third place I looked.

Soon, I turned into Crazy Girl and before you knew it, I was rifling through every drawer in my kitchen.

Finally, some hungry person waved the white flag and we sat down to eat food that was, at best, lukewarm.

As I started to serve a cake for dessert, there were the #$%$^%$#% salad tongs, hidden out of view.

Lesson learned:  know where your salad tongs are before your guests arrive...and anything else you might need.

Lightning Fast Party Planning Tips Summary

Planning a party does require effort, but finding ways to create the maximum impact with the least amount of time can make it a whole lot easier.

Lightning Fast Party Planning Tips from Birthday Butler

10 Lightning Fast Party Tips-Birthday Butler