Holiday season can be bananas as a mom, having to manage so many balls in the air: packing, presents, travel, sleep schedules, family weirdness, new foods and places, beds and spaces. If you're a working mom, there's a whole other layer of stuff to manage, and for those of us who are work-at-home moms, either working remotely or running our own businesses, the already blurry lines between home and office can melt into a puddle during the holiday season. So here are our top four tips to help you sail smoothly through the holiday season, keeping your customers happy, your family healthy, and yourself sane.
1. Make a work schedule that lets you be present for holiday festivities, and still keep on top of business
Between holiday travel, parties, traditions, kids out of school, and family visits, it can be hard to stay consistent with work around the holidays. For Work At Home professionals, it's even trickier - you've got dinner guests in your office space, and family may not understand that just because you work from home doesn't mean that you're "free" all the time! To prepare for a holiday season that lets you be with loved ones while also staying on top of your work, planning ahead is key. Try to find out when holiday activities will be happening, and when there will be down time. During those slow moments of each day, block out an hour or two you can slip away with your laptop to check items off the to-do list, reply to emails, and keep your business in order. Let your family know ahead of time that you need to take a little time each day for work, and give them a heads up as to when that will be. Keep that time sacred and separate. And once that block of time is done, turn off the phone and the computer, and be fully present. Compartmentalizing your time and giving both your family and your work the undivided attention they deserve will keep loved ones, customers, and yourself happy.
2. Create a great away message
Email away messages seem like an afterthought, but they can be a wonderful tool for helping your business to thrive over the holiday season, and they're a great opportunity to show your clients that you are organized, attentive, and there for them. In your email away message, create really clear expectations for how responsive clients can anticipate you'll be over the holidays. Most away messages just say how long someone will be away from their desk, and are more frustrating than informative. In yours, let folks know what date you'll be back full-time, and in the meantime how many days they can expect to wait before getting a reply via email. Also share who to call or write for immediate help (or a subject line to use in a fresh email that signals urgency to you) in case they have a time-sensitive matter. Giving them ways to circumvent the away-from-desk situation in case they really need to reach you will help customers feel taken care of and comforted, and demonstrate that your business is still running like clockwork through the holidays. Being explicit about the number of days they can expect before getting a response helps customers feel calmer and be more patient with you, too. It also gives you clear guidelines for how much time you can take away from your computer and sets clear boundaries for you around your time and work, which can be one of the biggest challenges when running a business from home, holidays aside!
3. Keep your work space free of holiday clutter
The holidays can bring tons of mess with them - whether you're decorating your home, hosting out of town guests, packing for a trip, or having a holiday meal at your house, there's often a lot of changes that your house will go through, and this can be especially tough if you run your business out of your home. To keep yourself organized and sane, make sure to keep the holiday stuff outside of your work zone. If possible, try to find a space outside the home (or home where you're staying) where you can get work done peacefully - whether it's a coffee shop, a library, or a coworking space that takes day passes. If you must work out of your house, make sure to keep the tools of your trade in a safe, separate area so they don't get swept up in the madness, or misplaced by an unsuspecting family member. If you have a bedroom that can be closed off and kept tidy, claim that as your "office" for the duration of the holidays if you don't already have a dedicated office. Carving out a physical space for getting work done that is free of clutter and distractions is just as important as carving out time in the schedule.
4. Send a wonderful holiday gift
Before the madness of the holidays is upon you, send your customers a truly original and useful holiday gift to show them how much their business means to you. Don't worry if you don't have time to create something super customized and branded - even a handwritten card with a little sweet treat can be touching and show how much their business means to you. If you do have time to get creative, think about something your favorite customers could really use that would let them feel understood by you. Try making something that is related to/in the same vein as your other products or services, but slightly different than what you're already offering. And the earlier you can send it the better, so your gift stands out once the sea of packages starts coming in December.