How to Survive Holiday Visitors: Your Small Business Playbook

Another holiday season is upon us, and with so many competing demands and priorities, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. There’s travel planning, prepping for visitors, gift shopping and holiday events piled on top of an already-busy schedule.

While it’s hard for anyone to strike a good balance between work and family life during this time of the year, it’s particularly challenging for small business owners who don’t have vacation days or a big staff to step in. Those of you working from home may soon find your regular schedule and quiet workspace interrupted with children home from school, out of town visitors, and other family members home from work.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to balancing work and family life over the holidays, but here are a few tips to help us all stay sane, stay productive and enjoy ourselves.

1. Know your priorities

Holiday stress occurs when you feel pulled in a different direction from your priorities, so you should start by identifying what’s important to you. Do you have a big work project to complete? Is your priority traveling to see family/friends or enjoying your baby’s first Christmas? There’s no right or wrong priority; the important part is understanding what matters to you this holiday season and then setting your time accordingly.

2. Be 100% present

You might be tempted to bring your laptop into the kitchen and crank through some email responses, invoices or other work while everyone else is hanging out. However, this kind of multi-tasking shortchanges everyone, including you. You won’t enjoy the time, and all the distractions will just make each task take that much longer. A better strategy, if possible, is to set aside specific days or times in your schedule to focus solely on work, and then leave it behind and have fun!

3. Set boundaries

People who work from home have a unique challenge: since they don’t get up and go to the office, there are no clear boundaries between work and home time. Not all friends and family members understand that “working from home” entails working and that you can’t hang out for lunch, watch TV or just chat. It’s important to set boundaries, if needed. Remember that people will respect your schedule, only if you respect it first. So create a work plan, and stick to it.

4. Find a place to work

I know that some of you will be losing your regular workspace when your home office is temporarily converted to the guest room. If this is the case, you will need to find a new place to shut out the distractions. If there’s no other place in your house, then duck out to a café, library, or co-working/temporary office space, as needed.

5. Set your holiday schedule with clients

If you haven’t done so already, you need to communicate your availability with clients. Customers understand it’s the holidays and you’ll want to spend that time with family and friends. Let them know the days when you plan to be unavailable, and depending on the nature of your business, give them an alternate way to contact you for emergency situations.

6. Get help

Over the holidays, some basic tasks like cleaning the house or running errands can eat up a large amount of your time. If you can afford it, hire out some of these tasks during the busy period. And, if you are hosting this holiday season, don’t be shy about asking others to pitch in, too.

7. Don’t neglect end of the year requirements

There’s a lot to keep track of this time of year, but you don’t want to let certain legal and tax-related requirements slip. You might end up paying extra in 2015. For example, you should officially close an inactive business, send in the Annual Report for your corporation and decide if you should make any equipment purchases in 2014 to help your tax situation. Review “10 tips for wrapping up 2014” for more details.

8. Learn when to say “no”

You might be overloading your schedule because you accept any and every request that comes your way, whether those requests are from clients, friends, family members or volunteer organizations. It might be hard to say no to others, but people should understand that this is a busy time of year—with lots of competing commitments. If you’re still struggling to say no, just think back to last year: how much time, energy and stress could you have saved, if you had just been able to say “no” once or twice?

9. Be grateful

In the chaos of the holiday season, it’s very easy to lose sight of what really matters. As a result, we get stressed and grumpy. I have found that when I take the time to consciously think about all the things I am thankful for, it gives me a new perspective and I am able to embrace the holiday craziness.

10. Make time for yourself

It’s only natural that you’ll be thinking about others during this time of year. If you are hosting, you will be focused on keeping your guests comfortable and entertained. But if you get overly rundown, no one wins. It’s important to create time solely for yourself each day. Whether it’s a trip to the gym or 15 minutes of meditation, allow yourself to become refreshed to handle everything else you need to do.

Remember that the holiday season doesn’t have to be perfect. Do your best, stick to your priorities, appreciate what you have, and have fun!

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