Whether or not you celebrate the winter holidays, this season can get a little hectic. Between the holiday traffic, increased crowds and constant stream of parties and gatherings and events, it can get a little overwhelming. All of these distractions can make running a business and working during the holidays even harder. Who wants to focus on client work or email funnels when there are hot toddies and sugar cookies and snowball fights?
Despite the odds, it is possible to find balance in your business during the holiday season. All it takes is a little bit of planning, a smidge of gumption and some self-discipline. Here are my top tips for finding your way through this madness we call the holidays while still managing to enjoy the festivities and manage your business smoothly at the same time.
If you’re reading this in the thick of the season this one may be too late for you. Regardless, it’s a good tip to keep in mind for next year. As with all things, the more you can plan ahead, the better off you will be. I tell you this from personal experience. This was my first holiday season running an e-commerce business. While there were some ways in which we were really prepared, there were others where we weren’t at all and it definitely showed.
So how do I plan ahead effectively, especially when I don’t have years of experience to know what to expect? Here are the three things I did well this year to feel prepared:
- Ask around. If you know anyone in your industry who has gone through a holiday season before, ask them what it was like for them. Even if your businesses aren’t exactly the same (and no two are!) they’ll be able to give you an idea of what to expect. Or at least, you’ll get an idea as to what issues might arise.
- Break out the calendar. I’m a big fan of calendaring. So, I whipped out that baby back in the summer (yes, I said summer) and started to plot out what the holiday season would look like for my business. Since everything takes twice as long as you’d expect, I wanted to make sure we started on projects far ahead enough so that we could actually finish them with some breathing room. You might feel silly talking about December in June, but trust me, it’s completely worth it.
- Do weekly check-ins. Although I do weekly check-ins in my business year-round, starting in the fall I specifically started focusing on the holiday season. This is to ensure that we’re on track for all those to-dos that I laid out on my calendar. This gave me a good sense of the status of each project. I can see whether we were ahead or behind, and allowed us to make adjustments if needed before it was too late.
No matter how you decide to plan ahead, make sure to WRITE IT DOWN and TALK IT OUT. Having your plans, deadlines, to-dos and overall strategy written down will make it that much easier to stay on track and refer to if you don’t have to remember what you discussed months ago. And make sure to talk it out with your team (or your family if you are a one-woman show!). That way, they can keep you accountable. Living in a silo isn’t going to get you anywhere and will make it that much easier to get off track.
This applies to both business and personal obligations. Even if your business doesn’t get busier during the holiday season, or if you don’t celebrate the holidays, everything gets busier and takes longer during this time of year. To plan for that and allow yourself space for self-care, make sure your schedule has holes. While it’s up to you and your personal preferences and schedule to make your own set of rules, I recommend listing out your guidelines for holiday season commitments. Write them down and then stick to them. These are mine:
- At least one weekend day is reserved for immediate family only. No holiday parties or other events can be scheduled on that day.
- Only commit to two evening events each week in December.
- Absolutely no work commitments between Christmas and New Year’s. I reserve this time for family and focusing on creative projects for next year.
- I allow myself to work until midnight Monday-Thursday during the month of December (usually I have a strict rule about shutting down at 10 p.m.). But, Friday nights are no-work times so that I can relax from the hectic week. I practice a little self-care and spend some time with my husband.
These rules make sense for me given my business and my family’s schedule. But figure out what works for you, write it down, and stick to it. Just make sure you’ve balanced enough family time and personal time. Limit those “holiday obligations” so that they don’t overrun your life.
Plan Blackout Periods
Speaking of saying no to commitments, when you plan for the holiday season, schedule in “blackout periods”. These are times where you will not work (that includes checking email!). These can be in small chunks – 30 minutes here and there, or entire afternoons. While it may seem like scheduling these times is impossible, if you put them in your calendar well ahead of time and make your team/clients aware of their existence, it’ll be a lot easier for them and you to respect these boundaries. And your stress-level (and your family) will likely be very thankful for this.
Choose Imperfect Action
This is, of course, true for every time of year. But especially when it comes to the holidays, remember that imperfect action is always better than perfect inaction. When you’re trying to balance work and your personal life during the holidays, there’s no time to waver. Things have to get done. So instead of fixating on perfecting a project or tweaking a deliverable, honestly evaluate whether or not putting additional time into it will be worth the incremental improvements you make.
This goes for client work and holiday décor. My house currently only has 3 wreaths on the windows out of 10+ windows. I could have waited until we had time to put all of them up. Instead, they’re going up as we have time to hang one here and there. Does this make us look a little funny? Sure, but remember – it’s better to have imperfect action than perfect action. At least we have some holiday décor up!
Trust In Others
As with my other tips, this is another one that is good to do year-round, but is especially important this time of year. If you have a team, use them. Don’t be afraid to delegate just because you want everything to be perfect or feel like you have to do it all yourself. Ideally, if you planned ahead, your time is prepared for the holiday season so you can trust that they have the tools to do their jobs in the best way possible, but even if you feel a bit unprepared, have a conversation about how they can support you during this time. Remember – they are there to help you. If you don’t rely on that, why did you hire them?
Do One Small Thing Each Day
No matter how busy you get, reserve 15 minutes (or 5, if you’re really struggling to find the time!) for yourself every day. Decide ahead of time when this will be and schedule it on your calendar. I also like to decide what I’m going to do with this time (and it can vary every day). Thus, when it’s that time, I’m not wasting any of it figuring out how best to use it. By taking just a little time for yourself every day, you’re breaking up the chaos and overwhelm of the holiday season. You are giving your mind and body a chance to catch up.
Some of the things I enjoy doing that take 15 minutes or less but make a huge difference in my day are:
- Meditate or sit quietly
- Read (not a business book!)
- Put on an exfoliating face mask
- Do a few yoga stretches
- Play with my son
- Go for a walk
- Turn on my favorite jam and sing at the top of my lungs
Whatever it is, finding a small way every day that you can take a few minutes will make a huge difference in how you manage the hectic holiday season.
For your sake, I hope you’re able to find some balance during this holiday season. No matter your situation, I think the holiday season gets hectic and people get overwhelmed much easier than the rest of the year, but implementing these tips has made all the difference for me and I can honestly say I’m going into this holiday season feeling fairly relaxed and excited because I am confident I have my sh*t together this year. 🙂 It’s a holiday miracle!