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How you can reclaim time during the Christmas season

guides & essays

How you can reclaim time during the Christmas season

Three women sitting on a sofa
Freelancers share how they reclaim time during the Christmas season and how they set boundaries and plan to enjoy the festivities
Three women sitting on a sofa
Photo by Inga Seliverstova on Pexels

It’s the season to be jolly, but also, ever-so-slightly burnt out? Whether we like it or not, the pressure of the Christmas season can affect most of us.

From festive planning to final projects, clients and tasks ticking over, this time of the year can feel oh-so-not-jolly for many people.

We are big fan sof creating systems to reclaim time. However, you could argue our head teacher Fab wrote a whole book about it, so we are biased. We asked a few freelancers and entrepreneurs their best way to reclaim time off during the Christmas season.

Make a plan – be upfront and transparent

When you’re in traditional employment, taking your allocated annual leave is part of the rhythm of things – but when you work for yourself it’s very easy to just keep working. “After my first year of business, I looked back and realised I hadn’t taken a proper break for the entire year, I take regular time off now and this year I’ll be taking a good 2 weeks off over the holiday season”, shared Monique Shaw, founder of Re/Write, a coaching and consulting business that helps frustrated professionals to rewrite old stories and create careers and lives that actually work.

To survive the Christmas break, think about what that particular holiday means for you and your loved ones. What do you want it to look like? Do you like taking a big chunk of time off or will you only take a couple of days?

monique shaw

Whatever it looks like, make a plan for it and protect that time, continues Monique. “Be upfront and transparent with your clients, customers and community. Let them know in advance what your availability will be during the period. Wrap up any essential items, jiggle your ongoing projects to hibernate over holidays and clear your diary.”

Then set that out-of-office, switch off and enjoy the holiday season – you deserve it!

Set expectations during the Christmas season

Anita Fosen from Dinewinelove shares how she has been juggling quite a few projects since becoming fully self-employed this year and some of her learnings. Her best tip for being able to take a break for Christmas is to ensure to set expectations early (give notice to clients/vendors etc. about availability and capacity for December well in advance), then following through on that capacity by actually postponing some things to be done for next year.

“I have found that with new clients I don’t already have an ongoing agreement with, I have kindly let them know that I will only be able to take on new work for next year but that I am fully booked this month. That way, I will have some less work this month and can take time off without being too stressed.”

I am setting an autoresponder letting people know the dates we’re closed. I’m also adding the closure details to my email signature so that people know in advance of closing.

cassandra davis

Cassandra Davis runs Cahill Davis Publishing, an indie digital-first publishing house, and she plans to take a break over the Christmas period.

“I think that the most important thing I’m doing to make this break less stressful for myself is to keep a to-do list in a note on my phone. That way, I don’t forget everything that pops into my head come January and I won’t be spending my free time working when I could be relaxing instead.”

Communication is crucial

As the founder and managing director of Goho, a female-powered, boutique PR, Marketing & Events Agency Stacey-Rebekka Karlsson has learnt a thing or two over the last few years about switching off over the Christmas season.

When you run your own business, it’s impossible to switch off. With the change in ways of working which Covid has brought, it’s important you draw a line in the sand.

Forward-planning such as delivering extra work before we close means clients still get the hours and results they’ve paid for, but condensed. If they have live elements as part of their packages, such as stories on social media, we give them a choice of us pre-preparing them and sending them over so they can upload when needed, or us ramping up activity before and after the break.

Stacey-Rebekka Karlsson

“Last year, I decided to close the business for two weeks over the Christmas period. The team (and I) could all have a well-deserved break. I was nervous at first, but it was all fine. The key is in communication,” Karlsson continues.

“Ensure everyone’s out of offices are on. Get everyone to turn off their phone notifications on their email. Set up voicemails and auto-reply messaging on Whatsapp and all social media channels.”

She encourages fellow business owners to make sure to email clients early on. Explain when you will be closing, reopening, and what will happen to their accounts in the time you are taking time off.

“You’ll be amazed at how kind and understanding clients are. It’s been a tough time for everyone, and as long as you communicate effectively, your clients will support you taking this time.”

Use the tools of the trade

Anna Carga and Nathalie Redfern, owners of online secondhand children’s and maternity clothes shop Buildabundle are the first to admit we aren’t very good at taking breaks from the business – as any small business owner knows it’s a 24/7 job, especially these days with social media and email access directly to your phone.

I plan to leave my phone in my car or wardrobe switched off for at last part of the holiday period, to remove that temptation to ‘just quickly check’ the orders or emails!

anna carga

“The temptation to be online constantly checking and staying on top of things is real, and I know I feel like I may miss things if I don’t stay on top of it”, Anna admits.

“We have already scheduled several social media posts in advance using the Facebook and Instagram business suite tool. We also scheduled emails on our Mailchimp email account to our customer mailing list in advance, letting them know about our festive period offers and discounts.”

Small business owner Jacqueline Farrow from WKND apparel is considering asking customers to allow longer for delivery of items shipped between Christmas and New Year and temporarily removing next day delivery from the shipping options.

“This is my first Christmas since launch. It is a little bit daunting, and I will be playing it by ear. However, I do want to take some time for myself as it has been a very hectic few months, and if I don’t look after myself, the business will suffer.”

I run my brand on my own and can’t afford to not post on social media over Christmas; otherwise, my engagement will drop. I’ve started using an app to schedule Instagram and Facebook posts in advance

Jaqueline Farrow, WKND apparel

Enjoy the Christmas season

Jess Salamanca at Banana Scoops leaves us with some practical tips to enjoy the Christmas season with ease. Before the Christmas break, make sure you review your 2021 goals.

“Remember, 2021 has been a rollercoaster year and, it’s normal if you haven’t hit all your goals. However, is there anything you can do this week to get you closer to them? Any quick wins you can achieve?”

Salamanca shares a simple practice so you won’t have to shut new ideas or projects. Especially if they come to mind during the Christmas break.

Start a list of all the projects and goals you want to achieve in 2022. Nothing fancy, a simple list on your notebook will do or in the Notes app on your phone. Write them down, so they’re out of your head and revisit in the new year.

jess salamanca

She also encourages you to set clear boundaries. “You might go cold turkey by deleting any work apps on your phone (and laptop). You can turn off your work phone and be super clear about not looking at any work stuff during the break. However, this doesn’t work for everyone. Instead, you might prefer to give yourself a specific amount of time per day where you look at work emails, etc. but only for that amount of time. I would recommend 30-60 minutes, so you have that peace of mind that the world isn’t ending.”

Have a Merry little Christmas

Not all tasks are urgent, and there’s work that can wait until the new year. Break the goals that need doing into manageable tasks that you can do by the end of the week. Prioritise based on the most urgent and impactful tasks to ensure your last week super focused.

Take this time to truly recharge ahead of the new year and plan ahead for ultimate success.

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