I love the Holiday season! Having no kids that will be on Winter break, siblings being with their in-laws this year, and my husband only getting the actual holidays off, you might think Holiday season isn’t that different than a usual week for me. But it is! The atmosphere is completely different: we have cold days, soft Christmas lights, the anticipation of giving and receiving presents to family, thinking of adventures for the coming year, and eating those yummy treats we only get during this season! Believe me, I don’t want to spend those days working on a computer. I already got myself a few good books from the library, my cozy outfits are ready, and I want to take a nice break to warm up next to my dog and reward myself with a well-deserved staycation.
What are you going to do?
Regardless of whether you are staying home, or traveling away, whether it’s warm outside or freezing cold, whether you have a big family celebrating with you, or will relax by yourself—you don’t want to spend these days on your computer!
We work all year. And chances are you work for yourself if you are visiting this blog, which adds a whole new layer of stress and responsibilities to that work. We don’t get PTO, we work late nights, and sometimes even weekends. We deserve a break!
So, how do you take a break, while staying open for business? How can you relax, instead of worrying about emails, and content, and potential clients? How can you make the time easier, so that you don’t have to stress over so many things?
Well, I asked a few friends, and this is what they had to share:
Balancing and Planning
“Set realistic expectations for what you can accomplish and plan ahead as much as you can. The holidays are always crazy and trying to do everything last minute is near impossible. Be honest with yourself and balance saying yes to a mix of what you want to do and what you need to do to help manage overwhelm and burn out. I start holiday planning in the Spring, take care of gifts in the Summer and Fall, leaving wrapping and mailing to the holidays. That’s made a world of difference for my personal and professional life, not to mention my pocketbook!”
– Vanessa Shephard, business and marketing expert, founder of She’s Got Vision.
“Stay connected with other business owners! Taking the time to check in with other business owners, share your stresses, worries, ideas, wins etc. will take a HUGE load off your mind at a time of year where there’s already a-million-and-one things going on in your brain! It can be hard to be surrounded by friends and family over the holidays who don’t understand being a business owner so it’s important to stay connected and support each other.”
— Dani Fairhurst, virtual assistant and organization pro, owner of Organize and Grow.
Scheduling and Meals
“My quick tips are:
1. Timeblock out your schedule. Plan out everything that you need to do so that you don’t allow urgent things to take over time from important things.
2.Get boring with your meals. When things get busy I make a big pot of soup every Sunday and eat it for lunch everyday that week. I also premake or prebuy breakfast and eat nearly the same thing everyday. This way I don’t have to think about food (even though I work from home) and I don’t skip meals when I am short on time.”
— Katie Goulet, designer, digital strategist and website developer at Katie Goulet Design Co.
I love how everyone talked about different things! From setting expectations and starting the holiday shopping early, to connecting with other people who get it, and meal planning to make life easier.
But really, organization is one of the keys in all aspects! So, let’s talk a bit about things you can set in place before the holidays, so that you can relax and enjoy instead.
You can schedule everything out days or weeks ahead of time. That way, your website and social media accounts can continue serving fresh content, while you are away from your computer and phone.
If your website is on WordPress, you can schedule a post by changing the date to publish your post. And it’s very likely that other platforms have easy ways to schedule that was as well. Then schedule your social media posts to go out when the blog post goes live!
Even if you don’t plan on using blog posts, you can still keep your social media going. Use Tailwind to plan ahead Pinterest and Instagram feeds. For Facebook; I’ve used Buffer in the past (and they also do Instagram and Twitter), but right now, I’ve been using Facebook’s native scheduler. When you go to post, instead of clicking on “Publish”, click on the arrow next to it and choose “Schedule”.
If you want to post recurrent prompts (posts that always stay the same, but serve as recurrent reminders for your followers), you can use something like IFTTT to publish them based on specific days and times.
2. Autoresponders / Automations
Set an auto-responder for your inbox, telling people when you will be “back in the office”. You don’t have to explain details to anyone, so, don’t feel pressured to do that.
If you run any contact forms on your business that trigger automations that are time sensitive or require your input at any time, make sure to tweak those automations, letting people know you are currently out of the office. If the automation does not require your input, you can still mention something like “the procedure will go on as planned, but I’m unavailable for a few days, so, if you have further questions, I will be back on XX / XX”.
You can even make a cute Holidays card or write a nice greetings to go along with those messages, you know, cheer it up a bit!
3. Clients / Leads
Always notify on-going clients that you will take a leave, and don’t assume that because it’s the holidays, they will be taking the day off too. Let them know some weeks ahead of time if possible, so that if there’s anything they need to wrap up, you can make sure to get it done. Don’t give them your personal phone number for emergencies. Just make sure that the project is at a good stop before you take off, and inform them well ahead of time so that proper measures are taken by both of you.
For people offering services, it’s a good idea to add a notice on top of contact forms, telling prospect clients that even though you usually reply within XX hours, offices are closed until XX / XX, and you will resume work then. If you use a client relation manager like Dubsado, you can just add an email to your workflow sent to new leads wishing them happy holidays, and telling them when they can expect back from you.
Or it may not even be necessary, because depending on your services, your workflow might do all the work for you; for example, if the goal is to set an appointments, the workflow you set up can walk your client through the forms and questions you need from them, and then lead them to a scheduler for when you will actually meet with them—just make sure you update your holiday hours in the scheduler, so they book you after the holidays.
For people offering products, well, the nice thing about online stores is that they can run a lot of it themselves! But make sure to add a banner notifying customers that because of the holidays, there will be delays in shipping and/or that customer support is closed until XX / XX.
Update your FAQ Page with questions relevant to issues your clients or prospect clients could come up with, and you can link to that FAQ Page in all those spots where you are telling people that you are offline. You can even link to it on your emails.
4. Pause Distractions
Maybe things will not go perfect (they never do!) but don’t worry about it. If you receive an angry email from a client in the middle of Christmas dinner at your in-laws, there’s not much you can do about it. So, instead of stressing yourself out because of an issue you can’t do anything about, avoid that situation. Pause your inbox during special events where you don’t want the distractions.
Boomerang for Gmail can pause your inbox whenever you need it to, and you can resume it whenever you want to. (Aside of a lot of other awesome things it can do for you!)
If you think Instagram or Facebook will be distractions, delete the apps from your phone. For a few hours, a day, or even the whole week, depending on what you need. Holiday season is a great time for social media cleansing anyways!
Even better idea: get a cute basket for everyone to throw their cellphones in. First one to take theirs out has to do all the dishes!
So, enjoy the days off, enjoy the Holiday season, enjoy the people you will be spending time with. After all, didn’t we sail on this self-entrepreneur ship so we could control our work and life better?
Just make sure to prepare your business to run as smooth as possible while you’re away, so that we can rock at being our own bosses. There will be plenty of time to reply to emails and work on projects once the holidays are over. And if someone is mad at you because you didn’t reply to them during the holidays, well, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life, don’t worry about it.
Do you have any other tips on how to take a break from work and enjoy the holiday season? Feel free to share!