The holiday season is a hectic time for most of us. Not only are there all the usual things to deal with in terms of running a home business or otherwise working at home, there are all the extra delights the holidays bring. Extra shopping. More demands for family time, especially with extended family. Lots of events to consider attending. Traditions to follow.
All this makes it difficult to balance the holiday rush with your home business.
Sometimes the holidays really throw a wrench into your plans to follow a normal work schedule. There’s so much to be done, and you’re usually the one with the flexible schedule expected to handle it.
It gets even more difficult when you’re looking at the things you enjoy doing. You may feel more motivated to do the fun stuff and less motivated to work on the things that bring an income in, at least until you start thinking about the incoming bills.
This isn’t something that people who work outside the home always understand. They can work their usual hours and handle all the holiday stuff, no problem. Why can’t you?
It’s more challenging to deal with the holiday rush when you work at home because you often aren’t working standard business hours. You may work a part of the day, then again at night. You may work weekends. Or maybe you work when it fits into your schedule.
That flexibility means your work hours often take a hit when life gets busy. It’s so much easier to hit the store during the day in the middle of the week when more people are at work than it is at other times. You take less time on errands that way. The only problem is that you take away work time.
How Do You Decide How Much To Work?
It’s helpful to decide how much work you need to do to keep up the income you need to have at this time of year. There’s no one answer to that. If you have a lot of passive income, you may be able to let things go for a while. If you earn based directly on the work you do, you will need to work as usual, especially if your family badly needs the money.
This takes sacrifice if a lot of family events are at times you’d usually be working. That’s the life you chose when you decided to work at home. You may be your own boss, but that often means being a harsh taskmaster. Find a way to get that work done.
For many home business owners, working later at night or starting your day earlier in the morning may be the answer. You have 24 hours in a day no matter how much you need to get done.
Know When To Take Time Off
We all need time off, and the stressful holiday season is no exception.
If you’re feeling tired or burned out, it’s time for a break, even if you have a lot more to get done. You will be more productive after you’ve taken a break. Don’t stare at your computer monitor, getting nothing done just because you’ve told yourself you need to get a certain number of hours of work done today. Staring at the monitor doesn’t count as work, it only counts as wearing yourself out.
Also, make sure you aren’t overdoing the holiday fun too much. If you’re stressing about decorating your home just right or baking all of the perfect holiday treats, it’s not so much fun anymore. The holidays, no matter which ones you celebrate, should be enjoyed by all. That includes you.
If you have clients, let them know as soon as possible what your vacation schedule will be. It’s a huge help for them if they know that you will not be available certain days.
When in doubt, give yourself a little extra time off from clients, rather than too little. You don’t always know exactly when life will be back to normal during the holidays – they’re hectic and rarely go exactly as planned.
And then there are all the little events you may need to attend, such as
- School concerts or other performances
- Family gatherings
- Holiday events with coworkers – yours or your spouse’s
- Getting together with friends and/or neighbors.
These don’t go away just because you didn’t clear time for them in your schedule. Take that time off to enjoy the fun and social side of the holiday season.
Consider Hiring Help
If you just can’t get it all done, this is a great time of year to hire help, whether it’s around the house or for your business.
Hire a housekeeper to get your home clean enough for company if you don’t have the time to do it. Hire someone to hang those Christmas lights on the house.
You may also want to hire someone to do the writing for your site, some research, or whatever else you need help with. You’re better off with this option if you’ve done it before and have either a regular assistant or know how to find good help. Otherwise, it can add to the stress. Teaching someone how to meet your expectations is not easy.
Don’t Hold Yourself To Unnecessary Deadlines
If you’re running your own business, most of your deadlines are the ones you set. You’re the one who knows if the deadline is necessary or just something you set for yourself.
If it’s not necessary to keep to the deadline, don’t! Give yourself a break.
I don’t mean give up and ignore all your deadlines. You still need to get things done and have productive workdays. But there will be times when it makes more sense to ease off on a deadline to get something ready for the holidays.
This takes planning well in advance. If you have clients, they need to know early on that you won’t be putting in as many hours as usual on their projects.
The first thing you should focus on each day is getting the things done that MUST be done. This will give you more flexibility to work on the things that don’t have to be done right away.
Can You Get Ahead Of Schedule?
One way to balance the holiday rush with running a home business is to get ahead of schedule. It’s tough, but if you can do this, you’ll have more time when fun things start happening.
Here are some of the things you can do to get ahead of schedule:
- Work 1-2 extra hours a day
- Brainstorm blog post ideas for the season
- Create link roundups
- Write extra blog posts and schedule them
- Update old blog posts and repost as new (this post was originally written in 2010!)
- Design social media images
- Plan social media posts, including variations on titles and text
- Schedule out your social media using tools such as Hootsuite and Tailwind
- Schedule promotions for your email list
- Repurpose content for marketing purposes
- If you ship physical products, prepare them for shipping so all they need is a shipping label.
Get Your House Ready
Somehow, amid all the work you need to do in the holiday rush, you need to get your home ready for the holidays. This is something you should do outside of work hours, of course.
Sometimes that includes preparing your home office to be a guest room. It may be time to get that space company ready, not just productive work ready. Make sure you prepare an alternate space for those times when you need to work while your home office is a guest room, or be sure that your guests understand that you will be working in there at times. Just how well that will work depends on your guests.
Decorating your home for the holidays can be a break from work. Take the time to enjoy yourself and your family. Create memories.
Depending on the kind of home business you run, this may even be inspiring. You may be able to share some of your holiday preparations in a blog post, for example. Think of things you do for the holidays that relate to your niche and you’ll kill two birds with one stone.
Prepare To Work As You Travel
If you’re traveling to visit family or just take a vacation during the holidays, you may decide that you want to keep working while you’re away from home. There’s often downtime when you’d just be sitting around anyhow. If you want to use that time to work, make plans to do so.
If you don’t normally work on your laptop or tablet, make sure that the equipment you’re bringing with you has everything you need in order to be productive. Also, know when you’ll have wifi available and when you’ll need to use your smartphone’s data connection.
It’s a good idea to bring along an external battery charger when you’re traveling. This will keep the worries about having enough power for your tech to a minimum. Buy one that’s good for several charges on your phone or other devices. Some of the better ones will even have a plug for your laptop.
Don’t assume that you can do heavy duty work while traveling. You will have much less work time available to you, so whatever work you do while away from home should be things you can work on with distractions around you. Major projects can wait for when your work at home schedule goes back to normal.
You will also need to talk to those you’re traveling with or visiting. Make sure they understand what your plans are. If you’re at your parents’ house, you don’t want them upset that you keep disappearing into the bedroom to work rather than sitting and chatting for the entire visit. Let them know that you’ll need some of that time to keep your home business running.
And be sure you spend a good amount of time being social with the people you’re with. That’s the whole point of the trip, isn’t it?
Prepare For Sick Days
The weather is getting colder, and everyone around you is bringing cold and flu viruses home. While you can get a flu shot to cut down on the odds that you get the flu, or help shorten it if you do catch the flu, there’s nothing you can do about it if you catch a cold but deal with it.
Toughing it out rather than taking a sick day can be a big mistake. You may end up sick longer than if you had simply taken a day or two off. It’s hard to be certain, of course, as you can’t compare the two directly.
If you’re sick enough that it’s hard to work, take the day off and don’t feel bad about it. You’d do that if you worked outside the home, wouldn’t you? The smartest thing you can do is give yourself time to get over the bug.
Remember To Enjoy the Season
No matter which holidays you’re celebrating this time of year, remember to enjoy them. Don’t drive yourself crazy thinking about work when you’re supposed to be having fun. The work will still be there when you come back to it.
Step away from the smartphone as well as your computer. You truly do not need to be available to your business 24/7, especially during the holiday season. A 2012 survey found that many professionals keep in contact with their work by smartphone for 13.5 hours a day and 5 hours a day on weekends dealing with email. 51% of consultants in one survey checked email regularly even on vacation.
Take a break!
Spend time with family and friends!
Work will be there later.
Taking a break from work will help you enjoy your holidays more, and you’ll be more refreshed when you return.