This year, Sage are celebrating the business heroes who work so hard over the holiday season, and recognising the sacrifices made by so many small business owners. In this blog, we speak to business owners about how they manage their time during the holidays.
I plan my business calendar so that I never work in the last 2 weeks of the year. I run my business from home and these 2 weeks are essential down time with my boys and a chance to catch up with family and friends. I start planning my pipeline and marketing calendar early November, as it would never get done if I waited until late November or early December! With 3 weeks to go before my kids break up for the Christmas holidays, a School Fair, a Christingle Service, 2 school plays, my youngest son’s party and his birthday, there are a lot of events to blend into my working week even before Christmas. I will be juggling these with 5 separate days of business travel over the next 2 weeks – and somewhere in the mix I have to figure out all the Christmas and Birthday presents, food and plans! I manage my time over Christmas much the same as I do any other time of year – but with one crucial difference – I don’t kid myself that it will be anything but busy. Because I expect it to be busier and fuller and I don’t resist that, I lower my expectations and go with the flow! Which means less stress and more fun. What needs to get done will get done. What doesn’t get done wasn’t important. But it’s taken me many years to achieve this kind of philosophical attitude!
Over Christmas I manage my time, by putting on the out of office to manage client expectations. As it is generally quieter I recommend taking the time out to review the year, archive documents and set up systems that you have been putting off. That way you go into the New Year uncluttered.
Janice B Gordon
I always take 4-7 weeks in December/January as time to reflect, plan and produce. You may not be able to fly off to sunnier climates, if this is a time when your business slows down you must create creative space. Always take more time than you think as you will not get that time back when you year is in full swing. Reflect on what and how you want to carry the best of 2016 forward. 2017 will be challenging, plan what you can do to ensure you can take advantage of the opportunities. If you need to produce a new product do it now. Write your business marketing action plan now, your first meeting in the New Year will be to communicate the plan of action for the coming year and set fire to the vision.
I’m fortunate that I can plan my work ahead, so I make sure everything that can be scheduled and automated is done well before the Christmas break. Mainly working B2B, I can also count on a drop in enquiries over the Christmas period, but I always aim to let people know that I’m taking a break.
As a business owner, you can never fully switch off. But to be honest, I don’t think I ever have – there was that time on Christmas Day when I hosted the BBC Soaps message boards, or when I updated the Yahoo! homepage on New Year’s Eve with my 0% alcohol beer on the desk next to me! But one thing that’s on your side is that most sensible people *are* managing to take time off. So there are fewer emails, far less social media activity, and most people try to get big projects wrapped up before the Christmas break. These means if you do have work to keep on top of, there are fewer distractions. So it’s actually a good time to get on with those important-but-not-urgent jobs that never quite make it to the top of your to-do list. It’s time to sit down and do some planning, so you’re on the ball when you return after the break – even if no one else is.
December is ‘wrap up month’ for me. It’s all about wrapping up work in a way that allows me to finish the year with a sense of job done satisfaction, so I can take a proper break over the holidays and not be greeted with New Year panic when I get back! Here’s how I do that:
Create finish lines – we work in a world where work never ends, so there’s no point trying to get ‘everything’ done before Christmas, however tempting that might sound. So instead, I get really clear on what tasks and projects I want to get wrapped up, and park the rest for the New Year.
Communicate – I touch base with anyone I have an ongoing conversation with, to let them know about my availability over December. That gives me a chance to catch up with people who are ready to progress the conversation before my holidays, set up dates for the New Year for the rest, and avoid last minute surprise phone calls when I’m knee deep in wrapping paper or snow!
Celebrate – I review the year and celebrate my champagne moments. It’s a great way to notice progress, recognise the journey, highlight what’s worked well and deliberately decide what to take into and develop further in the year ahead. Then when it comes to Christmas, I can take time off, enjoy making memories with my kids, and recharging with family and friends, ready to come back fresh for a brand new year.
Christmas is a busy time of year for our greeting card business, Blue Eyed Sun, with new product launches in January and our Valentines and Mother’s Day cards shipping to retailers the first week back. Our wedding stationery business, Ivy Ellen, is also gearing up for the busy January to March quarter. We always organize our production schedule so that our team get a good break each year. Personally I like to make sure I take the Christmas week off to spend with family and friends. It has been more difficult to do this in the past. Now I stay disciplined to make sure it happens.
For me, not having an e-commerce offering means Christmas is not as frantic compared to other businesses that will be selling products for the Festive Period. I focus on making sure I’ve spoken to clients about next year’s plans, but I also call/meet them to have a catch up on all things 2016 and to wish them a great Christmas and New Year. Nothing like catching up with clients over a mince pie and glass of mulled wine. I’ll still be designing and developing content and platforms for my clients, but I’ll make sure to take off a few days between Christmas and New Year to recharge the batteries – ready for a full on 2017.
At Funding Options, we steal an idea from the largest corporations, which is to implement a freeze on any major projects over the Christmas break. This vastly reduces the chances of something going badly wrong at a time when you’re inevitably short-staffed, allowing you to focus on live customers. For example, this year our technology team will spend Christmas on small, low-risk tasks like tidying up our website code. Our technique almost works, I’ve almost had a proper Christmas break for two years in a row now!
To celebrate the business heroes who work so hard over the holiday season, we’re giving one small business owner the chance to win £5,000, but to make their dreams come true we need your help! Nominate a business that is there for you. Merry Christmas to all businesses!