Count backwards, this is a really helpful thought process when planning any event. If your New Year's celebration starts at 19.00, see yourself at that time, everything is prepared exactly as you want it and you are calm and satisfied. What is the last thing you need to do? How long time does it take to do it? Write down the answer. Repeat.
Say you've invited friends over for dinner. Last thing you do is turn on the outdoor lighting so they can find their way in. Takes less than 5 mins, but it's cold and you need to put on extra clothes so estimate 5 mins. Before that you need to use the bathroom for final touchups to makeup etc. (incl. necessities), 10 mins. Before that you prepare horderves, dinner, desert, snacks for later and drinks throughout the night. Takes you about 1,5h, but as you think through the making of food you realize you'll need to clean up the mess too, because the kitchen is visible from the dining room table. At least the most messy things... So you add 10 mins at end for cleaning (you clean some while cooking) and then another 5 mins for plating (you always stress out about finding that flat plate you love, but only use once a year so it ends up hidden) and 5 mins at start to get all the ingredients out (got somethings in the fridge in the basement). Before dinner prep you need to get cleaned up and dressed,1h, and tidy the house and set the table, which in your case takes 1h.
5m + 10m + 1,5h + 10m + 5m + 5m + 1h + 1h = 4h 5m
If you are prepping all on your own, that is the time you need. You can of course use this thought process to list everything you do in a bulleted list and time stamp each step. This also gives you a valuable overview to improve. See example:
14.55 Tidy house and set table
15.55 Clean up and get dressed
16.55 Get ingredients
17.00 Cook and prep drinks
18.45 Bathroom touchup
18.55 Light outdoor lighting
Already you can see that plating food 20 mins before guests arrive will make it cold, and guests tend to be fashionably late so it will get even colder. Can you leave the food in the oven on low to keep warm and plate when they arrive? Can you choose food that can be left on stove on low a while at the end? Change and improve the plan. But don't forget to find the plates before so you don't end up stressing out looking for them while your guests are there.
With this overview you also see that some of it can be delegated and done the day before. You can share the work with family and room mates if you have them or hire a cleaning person to support you. You can share some of the work with your guests, maybe someone can be responsible for drinks while you handle the food? You can find the flat plates the day before.
We hope this tips helps you in these festive times.
Please share your best planning tips for parties and new year celebrations!