biz ladiesLife & Business

Biz Ladies: Staying Sane During the Holiday Season

by Stephanie

Illustration by David Saracino

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes to us from previous contributor Tara Swiger. Tara is an author, maker and creator of the Holiday Sanity Kit to help creatives manage the endless to-dos of the season. Today, Tara offers some quick tips for keeping your life in balance and in check during the sometimes-chaotic holiday season. Thank you, Tara, for helping us stay on track this season! — Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump . . .

For the busy Biz Lady, the holiday season is a time of joy (Peppermint mochas! Decorations! Candle light!) and stress (Holiday orders! The post office!). Sanity can be hard to hold on to between filling orders, fulfilling family obligations and standing in the dreaded post office line.

But sanity and profit are possible. It starts with knowing yourself, your business and what you want from the season and then setting expectations (and plans) for yourself and your community.

Know what your business needs from you.

Different businesses have different cycles of busy and slow. Service-based businesses might slow down now, while retail businesses ramp up, right until the day before Christmas, and wholesale-based businesses slow down a bit before that (as long as your retailers don’t place a last-minute rush order!).

Know what to expect by taking a look at what your sales (and production) cycle looked like last year, before the holidays kick into high gear. Some things to look for:

  • Were you scrambling at the last minute last year? On what days? What can you do now to avoid that?
  • Do you have everything you need to fill the same demand you had last year? Do you need to make extra products now? Stock up on shipping supplies? Start printing your shipping labels at home (if you don’t already), so you can avoid long post office lines?
  • What is the last possible day to ship? Check the USPS website (or whatever shipping company you use), and then decide what your own cushion needs to be. If it takes you six hours to fill an order, what would happen if you got three orders on the last possible shipping day? Build your cushion into your own “Last Day to Order” policy and then communicate it to your customers. Put it clearly on your website, product descriptions and email signature. Email past customers (if you have their permission) and remind them of the deadline, at least a week before.
  • What extras do you want to do for the holidays? A new line, a special craft show or just offering gift wrapping? Now is the time to decide and to communicate it.


Once you have a clear idea of what your business needs are, create a schedule for getting them done. Make those products, label everything and get ready to pop them in a box.

Know what your life needs from you.

Everyone celebrates the holidays differently, and you have the power to choose what kind of holiday you want to experience. Take a few minutes to consider what you loved (and loathed) in holidays past, and build it into your plan for this year.

Every holiday is packed with outside expectations: what the rest of the world (family, friends, even your own guilt) expects you to do to make merry. Stay sane by getting explicit about what matters to you. Here are some things to look for:

  • What do others expect from you? From family dinners to the New Year’s party to giving a gift to your third cousin once removed, list it all so you know what to keep and what to ditch.
  • What makes the season special to you? What’s a can’t-miss?


(For me, it’s dressing up for a live performance of the Nutcracker, hot chocolate with Charlie Brown + the (cartoon) Grinch, twinkle lights and decorating a zillion sugar cookies with my little brothers. The tree, the presents, the fancy wrapping, the endless parties could all fall away as long as I get to sing along with the Whos down in Whoville.)

  • What are the can’t-get-out-of-its? (This list is smaller than you think. You can say no to giving gifts, but you probably don’t want to say no to your kid’s first Christmas play.) Even if it’s not your idea of merry-making, what are the things you are consciously keeping because they are significant to those around you?
  • What can you do now to make the season better? Are there expectations you can set or changes you can make? Tickets you can buy now? Movies you can queue on Netflix? Supplies you can buy?


Know what your body + spirit need.

With the constant commercials, jangly music and crazy traffic, the coming season can wear you out, even if you weren’t juggling a business and a personal life. Build in extra fun time so that you can manage it all. If you’re energized by alone time, make sure you’ve got a good book and a warm beverage on hand, and then schedule it. If you get your energy from spending time with friends, call ’em up now, before they get busy and schedule a date doing something special.

And finally: What do you want to feel this season? Pick a feeling (or three) and keep it front and center. Look for those qualities everywhere and build them in to everything you do. (Joy at the post office? Peace at the 3rd grade orchestra concert? You’re creative, you can do it!)

What’s your secret for staying sane in your business and personal life during the busy season?

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  • Today I was mentioning this… and wrote a little post on the blog!
    I am truly overwhelmed for such amount of work that I need to accomplish by the end of the week that I can’t seem to savor this Christmas season!
    So, thank you so much for sharing this lovely advices!
    So spot on!

  • This was such a great reminder that I am not the only one going through holiday orders/sales craziness. I just cleaned my house last night (even though I had a TON of work to do) and I feel so much better and centered. I feel good about getting back to the grind stone again… almost there!

  • Here is an idea for brightening the holidays : Let’s “pay it forward” in any way we decide.
    E.g. by giving a very generous tip to a good quality server.

  • This was our first real Christmas season at The Design Pallet. It was a blur and a rush, and we’re just now even starting to think about our own holiday plans. Somewhere in the madness, we were lucky enough to remember that we are human, and allowed to make mistakes and to learn lessons to apply next year. We did everything we could to take care of our customers, and gave ourselves some wiggle room and forgiveness.