This first thing to do is to plan the dinner.
A typical menu would be as follows:
Hors d’oeuvre: Cheese, pate, crackers or Shrimp and Sauce or PC hors d’oeuvres
Main: bread, meat, potatoes or rice, and 2 vegetables
Desert: ice cream, fruit, whipped cream and cookies
(Note that some people might want plain yoghurt with the fruit.)
Beverages: wine, water (spring and sparking), tea and coffee
I keep an outline of the above menu in a Word document. I also keep track in this document of what the people I invite are allergic to and what foods they dislike.
For each dinner party, I will produce a menu that not only contains what I will have, but of who is coming, (including the information on what people are allergic to or what they dislike.) I will leave lots of space around the food menu. In this space, I will write in cooking times; that is what time to start and finish an item. I count on taking the meat dish out of the oven when people arrive, put it away from the stove, and cover it properly, usually with towels, to keep warm. This standing time also lets the meat settle and finish cooking.
You must be realistic in your timing. You will not get people to take a seat at the table sooner than one half hour after your parties' start time.