It’s November and we’re looking down barrel of the gun at the most hectic time of year for families. Throw a small business into the mix and you could be headed for a nervous breakdown! Here are my tips for making it through alive and maybe even earning the title of Super-mom!
Calendar and Scheduling
Stop what you’re doing and take out a calendar or planner or even a large sheet of paper divided into grids. Grab all of your kid’s school and club newsletters then highlight every date that requires YOU to do anything out of the ordinary. Use your master calendar to collate all of the essential information into one place. For example, Tyler will need to bring a paper plate to school on Wednesday the 28th. Later, once it’s all on paper, you can transcribe the vitals into your digital calendar and sync with the rest of the family. But having the master calendar displayed where everyone can see it, including babysitters, visiting family and your children, is especially important at this time of year.
When you are done with the school notices file them into a clear file or binder labeled with the name of the month. We apply the ‘read it once and file it’ rule here so make sure you read it properly the first time!
Next, using a different color if you like, fill in other important dates: birthdays, anniversaries, special holidays your family celebrates. Working backwards schedule in the exact day that you will shop for presents, prepare food or decorate your home for that occasion. Involve the rest of the family too by scheduling the tasks that can be delegated. I have been pleasantly surprised recently by my husband’s ability to shop for items such as new school shoes for my sons. It’s essential that you let go of the reins for a little while.
Don’t forget Date Night! We keep Sunday evenings free to re-connect as a couple with a DVD and a bag of popcorn!
With all the family commitments noted we turn our thoughts to the business. The final quarter of the year is when we hope to get the most sales, if we market a product or service perfect for giving. Are you planning to take part in Small Business Saturday or run Cyber Monday promotions? Will you run giveaways? Offer free shipping? Or be featured on a cool blog as part of a Holiday gift guide. All of these promotional efforts correspond to dates and need to be written on the calendar. Need a great photo for a blog feature? When by and what size? Add to your calendar the cut-off dates for shipping. Now is a good time to check your supplier schedules too. You may need to note order days for packaging supplies or packaging materials.
Lastly, pick a date when you will close for the year. Leave it to the big-box retailers to guarantee delivery if you order by December 24th! If you operate online then put up a notice wishing customers happy holidays and ask them to return in the New Year. I make it worthwhile by mentioning my big New Year sale! Having an end in sight makes it easier to sacrifice a little sleep and relaxation time during this hectic period.
Making it work
Now you have a clear overview of the upcoming months. Look for particularly busy days or possible scheduling conflicts. Again it might be time to delegate or time to call in reinforcements. Babysitters may need to be booked. Grandparents may be willing to help out. Your partner may ask for an afternoon off work. A neighbor might be willing to drive your kids somewhere.
Number 1 rule
Communicate the new system to the whole family. Ask for their input and advice. Find out what they consider to be priorities – this is very important if you will have to compromise. Everybody needs to be involved and accept that this is a busy time for you and your business. Without the support of the family it isn’t possible to do it all. But with a grand overview and careful time management you can reach new levels with your business and still make time for the all-important family memories. After all, that’s what holidays are all about.
Nuts and bolts
Food is the biggest concern for my family. Shopping for it and preparing it take up a lot of time. When I get busy with my business I am tempted to eat less healthily or order takeout. Avoid this by planning your meals ahead. I use a grocery delivery service, a godsend. My crockpot comes into its own at this time of year. I also use the bread maker for pizza bases or bread rolls for after school snacks. My freezer is slowly filling up with meals that can be heated quickly on busy evenings. I roast extra meat and vegetables so we have leftovers for sandwiches the next day and I always try to bake some cookies while the oven is on. By planning our meals I make sure the family is well-fed and therefore happy. And we don’t end up spending a lot of extra money on takeout.
The next major hurdle is housework. What a chore! I have tried to streamline my efforts and it’s been working. Enlist the help of the family and teach your kids to pick up after themselves. I try to keep on top of my housework by doing it in small manageable chunks. The kids are eating their after school snacks, I am in the next room folding laundry and ironing a few things before putting them away in the closets. No more ironing mountain! I give the bathroom a quick swish after I use it in the morning. I do dishes as I go while preparing meals. I straighten up the living room before I go to bed.
There a plenty of great websites to help you get organized, and many more apps and cool things for your iPhone which help you stay on track but I find nothing beats the first old-fashioned step of writing it down with pen and paper. I would love to hear suggestions from veteran mom-biz owners who have survived a few holiday seasons. Share your survival tips in the comments or snap a picture of your planners + schedules and link to them below!