Before you send e-cards, consider this.
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I recently survived a rather taxing ordeal: the annual photo shoot for my family’s holiday card. With four small kids, getting a shot where all of us are facing the camera, smiling, and (OK, to be honest) my hair looks decent is no small thing.

Then, of course, writing notes and addressing dozens of cards takes plenty of time. In an era when it’s possible to email thousands of people a greeting with the same effort it takes to handwrite one card, it’s easy to wonder if it’s worth it.

My answer? Yes.

Sending holiday cards is a great way to renew social ties. As someone who specializes in making the most of our time, for me it’s also a reminder of this broader truth of time management: People are a good use of time. If anything, we should spend more time sending cards and less time deleting emails and all the other things we’d do with the time saved.

There are many reasons to keep holiday cards on your annual to-do list, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas (New Year’s cards are a great secular option). First, December is that rare month when it’s actually exciting to open the mailbox. The rest of the year it’s bills and ads from your local gutter cleaning service. For about thirty days, though, any given day brings photos of cute kids and pets and personal notes. The more cards you send, the more you’ll get.

Sure, some people phone it in, mailing a card without even a signature. But that’s mostly their loss, for the second great reason to send cards. In addition to being about the recipient, it’s about you. Nurturing social ties makes people happy. We can’t get together with far-flung friends and relations for coffee, but writing a note induces some of the same feel-good vibes. Sending someone you know a note means that you suspect someone out there in this vast universe cares enough about you to open and read it. In an occasionally alienating age, that is no small thing.

I was reminded of this as I mailed the first round of my holiday cards recently. I sent many of them with a fresh-off-the-press paperback copy of one of my books. If sending holiday cards is a pain, mailing books is even more of one, given that it requires traveling to the post office, filling out priority mail envelopes, and waiting in line. As I stood there with my tote bag full of packages, I thought about all the other things I could be doing. But then I realized how lucky I was that I had all these people to send greetings to. The holidays gave me an excuse to do so. That’s something to be grateful for.

When I’ve interviewed disciplined networkers over the years, they’ve often told me that they seize any opportunities to reach out. There’s a simple reason for this: Even the most jaded people tend to remember personalized, handwritten notes. Writing them makes people stand out because almost no one sends them . . . except during Christmas.

So, instead of lamenting the time that holiday cards take, we’d all be better off—happier and probably more successful, too—sending them and then finding even more opportunities to send missives. First day of summer cards? Halloween cards? No reason not to—and a lot of reasons to do so.

Photo Credit: Horn Photography and Design