Are you a business owner that struggles with balancing your business and personal life? Consider these tips to find some time to relax.

When it comes to the year-end holidays, many entrepreneurs struggle to find a balance between their business and personal life.

In fact, a recent Funding Circle survey found that half of small business owners take less than three days off during the entire holiday season. Those that do take time off usually struggle with disengaging completely from their company while they’re away. And nearly 20% said they felt guilty taking a day off during the holidays in the first place.

However, ensuring your business runs smoothly through the end of the year doesn’t have to come at the expense of your well-being. It’s entirely possible to rake in the holiday revenue while keeping stress at bay and enjoying some downtime with friends and family. Here’s how:

Plan ahead

Create your operational plan for the holidays as early as possible. Consider the holiday hours you’ll maintain and the days off you and your staff will take. Think through which discounts, deals and additional (or reduced) services you will offer. If you run a retail business, work with vendors to plan how you’ll handle holiday order crunches and shipping and returns. Establish firm cutoff dates for holiday orders. Determine how much earlier than usual you’ll need to secure inventory to have enough for the holiday season.

For Mark Aselstine, whose wine club and gift basket delivery company makes half its annual sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas, advance planning is essential.

“I try to get a good idea of the amount of wine and packing supplies I’ll need based on web traffic, conversion rates and other placements,” says Aselstine, founder Uncorked Ventures. “We do a range of wooden gift baskets, which have to be ordered at least 90 days before delivery, which is basically at the beginning of August.”

Give customers plenty of warning

Don’t spring details about shipping constraints or adjusted holiday hours on customers at the last minute. Clearly relay special deals, products and ordering information to them well ahead of time.

“Communication is key,” Aselstine says. “My website’s shopping cart tells people before they pay exactly when the product will ship. I find that if I explain that we cannot ship your wine on Christmas Eve because common carriers don’t accept shipments then, people understand.”

Enlist additional help

If your business typically enjoys a spike in sales during the end of the year, you may need to hire seasonal workers to get  through the crunch. Again, the sooner you get on this, the better – you’ll need ample time to find, hire and train new staff.

“Every year I end up having to ask friends and family to help pack some boxes,” Aselstine says. “I’ve tried to hire paid help in the past, but it’s hard to predict exactly when I’ll need them, so on demand sites like TaskRabbit are a good fallback for me.”

Outsourcing personal needs can be a big help, too. Robyn Dochterman, owner and chocolatier at St. Croix Chocolate Company near Minneapolis, MN, relies heavily on meal delivery services, dog walkers and massage therapists who make house calls during the holiday crunch. “Anyone or anything that comes to me is a godsend,” Dochterman says.

Maintain self-care

You may have to work harder to stay even-keeled during the holidays. Make time for yourself and your loved ones, even when you think you can’t spare it. Don’t skimp on sleep, nutrition, exercise and personal relationships. Prioritizing your own health and happiness will give you the stamina needed to reach the year-end finish line.  

Even though the holiday season is 10 times as busy as the rest of the year for Uncorked Ventures, Aselstine avoids checking his phone before getting his kids ready and off to school. “There’s a lot of assumed immediate need that’s not necessarily immediate,” Aselstine explains. “There’s not much I can do about a wine shipment at 7 a.m. on a Wednesday other than print a label, which can happen at 9 a.m. just as easily.”

If you start to run out of steam during the holiday onslaught, Dochterman suggests feeding off of your customers’ enthusiasm. “People are usually happy and engaging in December,” she says. “Let some of their energy fuel you.”

Create the holiday rituals that work for you

Owning a business that heavily relies on holiday profits might mean revising how and when you celebrate the season. Dochterman and Deidre Pope, her spouse and business partner, take off Black Friday to find and decorate a holiday tree each year. “The day after Thanksgiving is not huge for our shop since most folks focus on big box stores,” Dochterman says. “If we miss this opportunity, we might not have time to get a tree at all before Christmas.”

The couple also makes a point to vacation each January. “It’s hard to put in 60 or 70 hours a week in December without something lovely and warm, like a trip to Saint Lucia, to look forward to during our short break between Christmas chocolate and Valentine’s Day chocolate,” Dochterman says.

Know when to unplug

When visiting loved ones or vacationing during the holidays, commit to the time off. If your business is still open on those days, trust that those you’ve trained to run it in your stead have everything covered. Leave your phone home (but tell staff where they can reach you in case of emergencies). If you must check your messages, limit doing so to several minutes a day. Instruct staff to only message you in case of emergencies. Then put your feet up, relax and savor your well-earned break.

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