You know that old adage, ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.’ It’s true and working mums are surely some of the busiest people around, especially if they are running their own business.
Christmas is fast approaching and no matter how you feel about the festive season, we know you’ll be busting a gut to make it special for your little ones while also trying to keep all the other plates spinning.
We asked some local mums in business for their advice and tips for making sure the festivities go with a bang and their sanity remains in check too.
Happy Christmas from Caroline and Clare at MumsWork!
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”… (if you plan properly)
Christmas, every year I say the same “must get organised” sometimes I get it right but other times I have got it so, so wrong especially around work. There are a few things that have added to those successful years and these are my three key pointers
Manage expectations – Whilst I like to think I’m super woman, I cannot be her all the time! It has been important to set realistic goals and not to over promise on activities or projects. Clients definitely prefer to be told an honest deadline rather than be disappointed when you don’t deliver.
Accept help – We are all guilty of “No it’s fine I can manage” STOP IT! This is the time to welcome help with open arms. And that’s sharing the work load both at home and at work. I have worked out this year an accountability schedule with my husband. I’m all about the presents; he’s all about the food. Yes that right ladies I’m not cooking – woo hoo!!
Communication – This sort of relates to the managing expectations. Be clear with your audience and clients exactly when you are finishing and when you will be back in action. We shut for a good 7 days in total, just before and just after the festive season. We make sure everyone has out of office switched on and we provide an emergency contact number on email and answer machine. I know this sounds weird for recruitment, but we have over the years had interviews happening on Christmas eve, New year’s eve and 27th December.
Whilst I know this is not ground breaking advice, if you can actually do it (rather than theorising) then you should be heading for a “most wonderful time”.
Happy holibobs. X
I’ve been running my business making hand-painted and personalised gifts for 9 years now. The reason I’m self-employed is because I wanted to be at home for our children, so my business has needed to change and evolve as they’ve gone through different stages to work around that.
Christmas is obviously a peak time of year in the gift market, which financially-speaking has been great, but it has had a huge impact on our family traditions and I found it very difficult to enjoy the festive period as a result. I spent so much time making my customers beautiful, thoughtful and personal gifts that I ended up needing to buy ours from the supermarket at the last minute! I quickly came to associate December with feeling permanently on the brink of a heart attack so over the last few years I’ve re-shaped my business and products to make it less seasonal so that I could enjoy Christmas while our children are still young enough to want to. The main changes I’ve made are:
- I now do the vast majority of our Christmas shopping and write my cards in November so that I can take my time and enjoy doing it
- I designed a new product range of lovely seasonal personalised prints instead of hand-painting gifts from scratch. This means that I was able to spend most of the time painting the original artwork earlier in the year when I was quieter (I was painting families of elves and snowmen while sitting in the French sunshine in August!), and the actual orders are much quicker to put together during the festive period. I also stopped taking bespoke commissions during this period.
- I stopped doing Christmas craft fairs and events around this time of the year because a) they take a lot of preparation and b) they eat into the evenings and weekends when we could otherwise be doing nice things as a family
- I also re-branded my business earlier this year from ‘Painted with Love’ to ‘Qalbi’ (which means “my heart” in Arabic), with more of a focus on the Arabic part of my market (I make personalised Arabic gifts too), which means that I’m busier at other times of the year (for example, for Eid) and have less of a peak at Christmas.
My advice for balancing your business with your family in the Christmas run up (and staying sane) is one word: boundaries! Make a list of everything you need to do for both, then allocate time for each. And stick to it. If you let boundaries blur, you’ll end up trying to deal with everything at once and finish nothing with any satisfaction. Also, let go of perfection. Let good enough be good enough. Holding yourself to unrealistic expectations, especially at such a busy time of the year, will lead to procrastination and unnecessary guilt. And finally, make sure you schedule down time for you. If you burn out by Christmas day you won’t enjoy it. And a stressed mum does not a merry Christmas make – for anyone!
My first piece of advice for juggling business and life leading into Christmas is online shopping! My daughter always knows Christmas prep has started when mysterious parcels start arriving.
At POWER to Live More I believe that we should set our businesses up to suit our life rather than the other way round. And I take that thinking into my planning for events like Christmas. Where possible I try not to work much during school holidays so I can spend time with Little Doddsy. I know that doesn’t work for everyone (it didn’t for me when I first started a business) but I do think it’s really important to think ahead around when you are going to be working and when not, so everyone is clear.
My to do list is very important to me and especially leading up to challenging times I like to double check it for priorities. What absolutely has to be done, and by when, and what could be postponed. I think we can get bogged down with a to do list as long as our arm when actually with a bit of a review process in place beforehand we can be smarter about what is on there, for it to be less overwhelming.
My final piece of advice in relation to Christmas is that you don’t have to ‘do it all’ whether that be by asking people for their help or by dropping some of your l, and other people’s, expectations to keep it manageable and, ultimately, enjoyable because that’s the point isn’t it?!
The build up to Christmas is wonderful but running a business, keeping on top of endless Christmas related activities for the kids and getting organized on a personal level can be overwhelming. The major benefit of working for yourself though is the flexibility it brings, so even though I burn the midnight oil, I make sure I take time off to be with family and friends and enjoy the parts of Christmas that make it magical. My top tips to make this happen are:
Start planning for Christmas business wise early. My aim is to have all the building blocks in place by the end of October at the latest. There are always curve balls thrown your way and sales go crazy from the start of November so important to have the foundations in place.
Keep organized. On a Sunday night I list write. One list for essential work tasks for the week. Another for family life. Every morning, I then break this down into three key activities I need to action that day. It helps keep my focus rather than jumping from task to task and not actually achieving much.
If you are running an online retail business be clear on when the last order date is in order to guarantee delivery in time for Christmas. Don’t over promise as it tends to go wrong and you will spend the days before Christmas trying to resolve something that was hard to achieve in the first place. In my experience it is much better to over deliver.
Make time for family and festivities but also say “No”. It is not possible to spin multiple plates all of the time. I find this the hardest but I am getting there. Sometimes you just have to create space in order to get back in control and crack through what needs to be done. Failing that I make time to run, it never fails to clear my head and recharge me.
The run up to Christmas is always a very hectic time for Aqualife Swimming. On top of our busy swim schedule we have re-enrolment, badge assessments, certificate ordering & writing and a crazy amount of admin to cope with. Keeping on top of a busy work life, the vast amount of activities and end of year excitement from school and home life is enough to tip anyone over the edge….or indeed into a bottle of wine!
Top tips always comes down to planning and sticking to the plan. When I taught scuba diving there is a saying: “Plan the Dive – Dive the Plan” and I try to keep to this as much as possible. One of the biggest issues I have found running my own business is that work and home life can easily merge into one. Building in even an hour per day on the run up to Christmas to write lists, online shopping, wrapping a few presents, writing cards or plan meals can make a massive difference….and don’t forget to delegate! In these busy times it’s also important to remember that you can only do what you can, give yourself a cut off date, turn the phone off and enjoy time with your family and friends. Merry Christmas!