Q: I am a nutrition and meal-prep coach in Tualatin, Oregon and am gearing up for a busy holiday season with my clients. I really want to be able to take some off time off with my family around Christmas, but this is traditionally my busy season. Any advice on how to be there for my customers but also get some downtime to enjoy the season with my family? I’m trying not to take on holiday stress in both my business and my personal life, but I’m not sure how to avoid it!
A: I know that seeing the light at the end of the tunnel may seem impossible right now, as we’re still more than a week away from Thanksgiving. I get that now is when your customers need you most--in fact, I’m about to write you a note about coming to help me so that I’m not in the kitchen all of Thanksgiving day! But you’re absolutely right--there has to be a balance between your customers’ needs and your own. And I believe that you can find it.
But if you want to take a well-deserved (and needed) break from your business, you have to have a plan in place.
There is so much going on at all times in our lives, and that intensifies at the holidays. We never have enough time for family. There’s rarely the opportunity to take care of ourselves. If you don’t make the time, it will never appear.
Sure, as business owners we rarely truly get time 100% off. There are always small things to attend to, or ideas that come to mind. But if your business slows down over the holidays, then so should you.
In order to make this possible, but start making your plan now and expect to have several longer days than usual to ensure that you’ve attended to the necessary details.
1. Set a date.
Determine the dates for your downtime. Then, establish how much time you have before now and then. You’ll need to outline a plan of all the necessary steps to be ready to go in time.
2. Make a plan.
Take a walk through your calendar to see what’s coming up in the next month and a half. Is there anything that can be rescheduled or dropped? You’ll want to know what you have coming up so that you can adequately plan for it.
Be sure to pay attention to any client projects with deadlines during this busy season. As your focus will be diverted in more than usual in this busy season, block out time in your schedule to make sure any deliverables are ready on time.
Also, it's important to see how much of your business typically takes place over the next six weeks. Look at your financial data from this time last year to give yourself the full picture of what's at stake for your business this holiday season. This isn't said to scare you away from taking a break, but quite the opposite. We can only go at full force for a limited amount of time. Know what's ahead and that will help you plan accordingly.
3. What else might come up?
You know your business better than anybody. What sorts of surprises tend to turn up? If you can build in some precautions to handle the most likely of the unexpected, you’ll thank yourself later.
4. Get some help!
Does your business have employees, or do you contract some of your work? Be sure to check in on those with whom you work to find out their availability during the holidays. You may even be able to call on your current collaborators to help cover aspects of your business while you take some time away.
5. Adjust when clients cash in on holiday promotions.
What holiday promotions do you have planned for your business? In your case, it’s likely that many of those who purchase packages and gift certificates will want to cash in on your help prior to the new year.
Is there a deadline for when people need to cash in on the promotion? If you can add in extra incentives for customers who wait until the start of the new year to utilize your services, then you may be able to buy yourself some time in this busy season.
6. Communicate with your customers.
Now comes the time to notify your customers that you will be away. How will you inform them? Will it be in-person, via email, or both?
Now, consider your plan will be for your time away. Will you close up entirely, have limited access to email, or make yourself available via phone or text message for emergencies?
If you are a brick and mortar business, do you have ways to communicate with your customers so that you can share the news of going away in ways that supplement telling them when they come in and posting a sign on the door?
Come up with a template message informing them of the dates that you will be away, if you will have any availability during that time, and when they can expect to hear from you upon your return. Here is an example:
"Hello Ms. Client,
I wanted to let you know that I’ll be on vacation time this summer from [date] to [date]. I will only have sporadic access to email, so I will be in touch before that time to ensure that we are on-target for our project.
The great thing about taking a vacation this time of year is that many of your customers will likely be away as well, so it may turn out that you won’t miss much on your break!
7. Make the commitment.
Give yourself permission to spend some time away from your business. This step may be the hardest of all--convincing yourself to view your time away as adding to your overall productivity, not taking away from it.
8. Set clear expectations for yourself.
As a business owner, it is incredibly hard to stop thinking about your company. It’s been on your mind non-stop for years, so it’s unrealistic to think that you’ll be able to make a clean break.
You’ll be thinking about work for the first couple of days, but don’t act on those thoughts. By doing this, you’ll be able to be fully present with your family sooner rather than later.
9. Resist the temptation to check-in.
If you’ve told clients that you won’t be responding to email, then don’t. If you’re planning to monitor messages periodically, determine ahead of time the days and times that will happen (for instance, for a half-hour on the Tuesday and Friday of your vacation). Here are a few other ideas:
Turn off notifications on your phone.
Put your phone in airplane mode.
Temporarily remove the apps you use most.
Limit time on social media.
10. Treat yoself!
Sit back, relax, and treat yourself! Here’s toasting to a great year and exciting possibilities in 2020.
Best of luck to you!