(BPT) - The holidays can be a stressful time, and that’s likely going to be heightened this year as ongoing supply chain challenges and inflation, which is at the highest it’s been over the past 13 years, make it difficult to find unbeatable deals on the most coveted items.

New research is showing that many families are preparing by shopping early. Seventy-one percent of moms start buying their holiday gifts as early as possible, according to a new study commissioned by Seattle-based online retailer Zulily. That research also shows that there may be other benefits of planning ahead than checking items off holiday wish lists.

The “Brain of the Planner” research — a first-of-its-kind pilot study conducted by third-party researcher Engine — used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyze human emotions through facial and linguistic expressions to understand what motivates moms to plan and what benefits they experience as a result. This research found that having a planful mindset can reduce stress and anxiety, allow for more leisure and social time, and help moms create healthier relationships and more stability — and importantly, that these positive behaviors can be learned over time.

“We know it’s not always possible to plan ahead, but there are tips that can help even natural procrastinators start to adopt planning behaviors to experience many of these same benefits,” said Luca Cazzanti, director of data science at Zulily. “We talked to moms directly, as they are largely responsible for planning as the heads of households and primary decision-makers for their families, to understand what small habits are most helpful to form when it comes to becoming a better planner.”

Here are five simple tips to plan ahead this holiday season and beyond:

1. Use lists, phone calendar apps and paper calendars. Lists are a constant visual reminder to stay on track and can help you make the most of the holiday season. Both paper and digital calendars are useful tools to keep track of your schedule, prioritize and set boundaries so you can achieve your goals in the time you have, like checking off your gift lists or decorating your home. Write out what needs to be done and digitally slot it in to maximize your day, every day.

2. Get others involved to help you stay motivated. Family, friends and peers can motivate you to achieve your goals and help you get the job done — you can’t, and shouldn’t, do everything yourself. By delegating certain tasks, you can use your time more productively. When it comes to the holidays, assign tasks to partners, kids and even in-laws who may be in town for the occasion.

3. Break large tasks into smaller parts. Big tasks can feel impossible to complete and inhibit your ability to focus. If the task is too large or overwhelming, create smaller, more manageable tasks that lead up to accomplishing the big task. If you’re shopping for an entire family for the holidays, start with one person and tick each off your list, one at a time.

4. Set an artificial deadline ahead of the real deadline. If you need to accomplish a task on Thursday, tell yourself the deadline is Tuesday. Self-constructed deadlines help you get ahead of your schedule and reduce the stress of leaving things to the very last minute. For the holiday season, make Halloween the new Thanksgiving deadline.

5. Shop for big seasonal moments weeks or even months in advance. Make note of the big moments throughout the year (like the holidays or back-to-school season) when it’s likely other families will be shopping for similar items. Do your research to get ahead, and consider shopping at least two or three months in advance for more peace of mind when that season arrives.

This year, getting ahead is especially important when it comes to toys. Experts predict that many of the most-wanted toys of the year are expected to sell out quickly. To help moms plan ahead, Zulily has named its 25 Top Toys for Holiday, which includes toys that develop fine motor and problem-solving skills, and includes toys that invite imagination and spark creativity.

The top 10 toys from this year’s list are:

1. Barbie Three-In-One Dreamcamper

2. PicassoTiles 101-Piece 3D Magnetic Building Tile Play Set

3. Fisher-Price Giant Rock-a-Stack Toy

4. Joybay Sky Blue Premium LED Swing Car

5. LEGO Marvel Studios The Guardians’ Ship

6. Barbie House Doll Play Set

7. Barbie Holiday Doll

8. PicassoTiles 61-Piece 3D Magnetic Building Tile Play Set

9. Barbie Art Teacher & Student Doll

10. PicassoTiles Marble Run 71-Piece Magnetic Building Blocks

But once it’s gone, it’s gone, so make sure to shop early. New items are added every day, so you can check back often to find what you’re looking for.

For the full list of toys and other holiday items, visit www.Zulily.com.

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