‘Tis the season for business overwhelm.
This may not come as a surprise, but many entrepreneurs find the fourth quarter to be busy as companies drain allocated budgets or begin planning for the upcoming year.
That’s why you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that only 50% of business owners take three or fewer days off during the holiday season.
Here are some recommendations from fellow small business owners to avoid becoming overwhelmed while successfully managing a small business.
Tip 1: Maintain Healthy Habits to Prevent Business Overwhelm
We can’t say it often enough: You’ll get more done if you take care of your mind, body, and soul.
So put down that fruitcake and grab some fruit. Park farther away from the store. Take an extra lap around the mall—just make sure to avoid the food court. Do some yoga stretches before bed. And yes, get to sleep at a reasonable hour.
Tip 2: Schedule in Some Pampering
For some of us, those healthy habits do double duty as “pampering,” but others require a little more. So whether pampering to you looks like a massage, a nice meal out or binge-watching holiday movies, schedule something pleasant at least weekly.
“I make it super intentional around the holidays by blocking out time on my calendar before I schedule anything else, so I’m not tempted to casually throw in work.”
Maiysha T. Clairborne, MD, a physician and wellness coach.
Tip 3: Plan Your Own Traditions First
As the owner of St. Croix Chocolate Company, Robyn Pope knows how easy it is to get overwhelmed during the holidays so she sets aside a day to plan for her own holiday to avoid feeling left out.
While everyone else goes to big box stores on Black Friday, she selects and decorates her tree. “After long days, I can come home to a lighted tree and enjoy a few minutes in the glow of the season,” she says.
Tip 4: Order The Household Basics Online
Why waste time with parking and traffic when you can get most services delivered to your doorstep?
Meal kits, cleaning services, basic household items; these can all be ordered online, giving you more time to relax or comfortably focus on your business.
Tip 5: Get as Much Done in Advance as You Can
Even if your work brings an onslaught of daily customers, like in a restaurant, there are still areas where you can plan ahead. Johan Engman, owner and founder of San Diego’s Rise & Shine Restaurant Group, for example, plans all his special menus in advance and staffs up early when he can get his pick of employees.
George Kuhn of Syracuse, N.Y.-based market research firm Drive Research works extra prior to the holidays so he can completely disconnect during his time off with family and friends.
“A little short-term hard work pays off in the long run so you can de-stress during the holiday and not be bombarded immediately when you return.”
Tip 6: Minimize Unexpected Headaches With Upfront Communication
There’s always someone who is going to want you to do something out of the ordinary, and routinely complying with egregious requests can amp up your stress.
“Make sure your shipping deadlines are prominently displayed on your website, checkout page, order confirmation emails and social media accounts so that customers know when they have to place orders,” recommends Callee Ackland, creator of Bestowed Essentials, “If you do custom work, plan ahead accordingly and make sure you stop taking custom orders in time to complete everything while still being able to enjoy the holidays yourself.”
Tip 7: Incent People to do Their Business With you Earlier
Michael Russell, director of digital marketing at Ratchet Straps, frequently finds the company overwhelmed by large orders all at once, so they devised a system that helps spread them out.
“Larger accounts inside our company receive the sale the week before with a different discount code,” he explains. The discount is the same, but staggering redemption dates helps the company more easily ship orders without a big backup.
Tip 8: Block Out Time Off and Communicate Them to Clients
Richards takes time in the Fall to reserve multiple days around Thanksgiving, Christmas and the new year where she won’t accept engagements, interviews, phone strategy sessions or coaching sessions.
She communicates holiday office hours ahead of time to manage clients’ expectations, then launches “out for the holidays” messages on voicemail and email that let contacts know if or when she will be checking her messages. “This alleviates any stress for your clients and customers as they know you’ll respond to urgent requests and will hear from you soon after returning from the holidays.”
Tip 9: Utilize Technology and Tools That can Automate Business Processes
It might be a tool that sends and follows up on your invoices or a pre-drafted email sequence that onboards a new lead, or an app which feeds instant inventory data across different sales channels platforms.
Whatever it is, there are many automated tools that for a small investment can free you up to focus on the more strategic parts of your business, or allow you to grab one more hour of sleep.
Tip 10: Outsource Every Task You Can
Feel guilty paying to outsource something you could do yourself?
Instead, think of the business case, suggests Lisa Nicholls, virtual executive assistant and founder of Lisa & Co. “Ultimately, it’s important to understand the value of your time; if delegating or paying to outsource a task is cheaper than what your time is worth, you should do it.”
If you value your time at $30/hour and spend two hours at the grocery store, that essentially cost you $60 and two hours that you can’t get back. “Having your groceries delivered for a $30 delivery fee is so worth it, and it frees up those two hours to spend on something strategic.”
Tip 11: Hire a Virtual Assistant
A virtual assistant can schedule appointments, conduct research and so much more. “My virtual assistants can perform a number of tasks with limited supervision, such as writing and publishing weekly blog posts, responding to customers’ specific product inquiries and following up on orders,” says Li.
While the intersection of “end of year” and “holiday” can conspire to wreak havoc on your business and personal life, deploying some smart strategies can help you keep both on track.