You've probably seen nearly every shop in the world declaring yesterday as 100 days until Christmas. Whether that fills you with dread or you're simply giddy with excitement now is the time to get your survival plan together. With the help of a few friends I've put together our top tips for getting through Christmas without a hitch.
In no particular order:
1. Prepare Prepare Prepare.
And I don't just mean your products.
To minimise stress it's best to start thinking about preparing for Christmas so far in advance you can comfortably do it in shorts. But let's say you've not done anything- don't stress! Look at your sales from last year and forecast what you might achieve. Packing 50 cards a day is way less daunting than panic packing 500 in one day come November.
Now imagine this: you've had a shite day, been up since 6am, the kids are home and wanting fed but you've still got 50 orders to pack! Oh, what's that in the freezer? Only the chilli you made a huge batch of last week and froze. You go Past-You! Good job. To avoid toast for tea cook in batches and freeze. You can thank me later.
Deborah from Sparks Clothing says "Preparation is everything! Fill the freezer with food to keep you going. Have back up people you can call if you need them for the more menial tasks. Most of all don't panic!"
2. Have A Back Up Plan
In an ideal world everything will go smoothly and hey presto you're sitting in front of the TV watching 007 while you sip a glass of eggnog. Unfortunately we all know life rarely goes to plan (You certainly hit that nail on the head Rabbie Burns.) so do yourself a favour and have a back up.
Plan for the worst hope for the best. What if your suppliers suddenly shut without warning? Where else can you buy each component for making your product? What if you slip on the ice, hurt your arm and can't make anything?
Ok, these scenarios might fill you with dread but if you have a back up plan it's no problem- you just move comfortably to Plan B.
Research alternative suppliers, train a friend or colleague to handle your orders. Everything can be managed and sorted but in the panic of Christmas it can feel impossible so do all the hard work now. Hopefully you'll never have to use your Plan B but don't you feel better already knowing you have it?
Michelle from Wink Design says "expect the unexpected. have backup everything. back up your files, have people you can bring in at short notice, have alternative suppliers lined up, alternative couriers."
3. Know Your Lead Times
It's all going to plan and you're selling fast, in fact maybe too fast?!
How long does it take for your stockist to replenish your supplies? Do yourself a favour and enquire now about what their lead times might be and when they shut for Christmas.
Looking at your sales for the past week how long will be before you sell out? Adjust your lead times accordingly- most customers won't mind waiting an extra few days as long as they know what's happening. Tensions can be high at Christmas and being unexpectedly kept waiting for a present is something we can all do without!
*IMPORTANT INFORMATION KLAXON* This is my all time favourite tip. This technique has saved my ass many a time- you're busy and things might be dwindling without anyone noticing so create a Trigger Box:
Kyleigh from Kyleigh's Papercuts says "We have two 'trigger boxes' full of 10/30 of everything we use meaning when you reach into it and take the last of anything out this triggers whoever to make sure an order is placed for more. The trigger box amount tides you over hopefully in time for the order to arrive."
4. Marginal Gains
"What the hell does that mean? I'm not an Olympic swimmer Zoe." Perhaps not but in this marathon time counts more than anything!
If you're working long days and constantly dispatching orders so think of it this way:
You keep your stapler at the other side of the room so have to walk over every time you seal a postal tube. You then need your postal stickers which are back where you started; time per staple run- 5 seconds.
Move your stapler closer to you and you could save yourself 1500 seconds packing 300 orders that day. That's 25 minutes. It might not seem like a lot but add up all the other little things that waste time? That's a lot of your day, huh?
Becka from Becka Griffin Illustration says "Go through your whole packing space and make sure you can reach everything you need to pack orders within a few steps. We used to do this when setting up the back bar and it makes so much sense, the less you have to move the better. My packing space is set up so that you can pick (almost) everything if you are standing in one place. Then take the box of orders to the other side of the table and you can pack everything without moving."
5. Don't Compare!
To quote Theodore Roosevelt: "comparison is the thief of joy". And never a truer word was spoken in my opinion.
So what if Tracey is bragging about her 800th order that day and I've only had 50? Good on you Tracey but I couldn't give a rat's tooter! If you're happy with your business that's all that matters. If getting one order is a huge thing for you then celebrate and own it. Everyone is doing their own thing and no-one is doing better than anyone else.
If you're constantly comparing yourself to others you'll never give yourself any credit. You'll miss your own milestones and successes. Ultimately you'll stress yourself out for no good reason. You are you- don't worry about anyone else, that's their job.
6. Take care of yourself
The most important step of all.
It's so easy to be overwhelmed by a seemingly never ending "to do" list. The orders are flooding in, you haven't tidied for days, customer emails need replied to...STOP. There is literally nothing that can't wait 30 minutes in the evening. No one will die.
It might seem ridiculous but removing yourself from work for 30 minutes makes the world of difference. Do something to relax: talk a walk outside, enjoy a bath, watch a soap, have a cup of tea, go for a run...absolutely anything but work.
You are your business and you're no use to anyone when you're run down, burnt out and breaking down. I guarantee you'll feel more energised and motivated than if you'd ploughed on.
Melissa from Holmes-Made Papercuts says "Go outside. Even if it's just fifteen minutes twice a day for a quick walk round the block. Leave your phone at home. Just take a break! Or if you can't get outside, take a breather with an app like Buddhify or Headspace."
7. And Another Thing...
Thanks so much to everyone that contributed to my Surviving Christmas tips. It was so hard to whittle them down as they were all so ruddy good- before I make this blog post a serious rival to War & Peace let's bullet point some of my final favourites:
- Michelle from Auntie Mims "Do your own Christmas shopping by the end of October.... Or no one will get any presents because you won't have time"
- Gemma from Newton And The Apple "I used Gousto a couple of times last Christmas to make sure we had healthy ingredients all ready to make tasty dinners with minimal effort."
- Samantha from Born Bespoke "Make sure you have some kind of life away from the business, even during the busiest times. Even an hour break helps you keep sane and improves your enthusiasm and productivity when you return to it!"
- Becka from Becka Griffin Illustration "For every busy period I have a treat waiting at the end. One Valentine's it was a new bathroom, one Christmas is was new stairs carpet. Fathers Day was a new Magimix. This Christmas the aim is to redo the back yard and get some nice decking."
- Claire from a Few Home Truths "Book your online grocery shopping slots and have your "normal" shopping week groceries already loaded."
- Nicky from Nickynackynoo "Ready meals and book the children into school breakfast club. It's amazing how much you can get done with that extra hour first thing in the morning."
- Kim from Post Tea "Make a list of every single step that is involved in making up one product, then go back through each point of the list and make another list of what you need to do to achieve that step. Then you can make sure you have plenty of everything and not panic buy like I did last year. I am literally never going to run out of staples ever after my hoard buying last year."
- Lindsay from LittleBirdyDesigns "I'm going to sign up for those Graze boxes so I get snacks through the letterbox!"
- Jo from Bespoke Verse "If you have helpers make a diary of every day from the start of November - morning, afternoon, evening. Find out who is free when and plan shifts with breaks for everyone. Put in back up staff (or family and friends) who might be free just in case for each shift"
- Jack from Paper Plane "Every hour or so, stop and tidy up. It's easier to work in a tidy environment, and it gives you a break from your work (even if it is a really boring break."
- Charlotte from The Forgotten Library "Remember to sleep. Staying up late and getting up early day after day will take it's toll and a shorter day in good health will be more productive than an exhausted all nighter."
I'd love to know what your top Christmas survival tip is- comment below and let me know.