Every business battles to survive “the busy season” at some point during the year. I’ve been in the thick of it in the last few months. It was the trigger to collate 6 tips for managing the busy season (you can call them “tools” if you like) and I’m sharing them with you, so neither of us gets consumed by the overwhelm. Because Christmas…
Consistency and equilibrium in business?
You may as well believe in fairy tales.
When you run a business, ups and downs with a pinch of chaos are compulsory, if you ask me. ()
All joking aside, I genuinely think every business is surviving “the busy season” at some point during the year.
For you, it may be…
School Ball season
Chances are good it’s the lead up to the Christmas season.
In truth, it doesn’t matter when. Fact is it’s unavoidable to some extent.
But we can try to navigate peak season in such a way that we can avoid burnout.
I’D CALL THAT A PRETTY IMPORTANT GOAL.
Managing Peak Season In Your Business
I’m interested, … How do YOU make it through the busy season?
These past few months, I’ve been in the thick of it myself. BUT I’ve been very conscious of not abandoning the good practices I put in place during the quiet season.
Because, that is what we do, isn’t it?
When things are calm, we think about all the right tools and processes. We put them in place, and then…busy season knocks!
Suddenly, things need to get DONE as fast as humanly possible so you can move on to the next burning thing on the never-ending list. And all these sensible, well-thought-through practices and procedures… go out the window.
Unfortunately, what looks like a short-cut in the moment, usually isn’t in the long term!
What good habits have I held on to against all odds (and despite my past track record ) that have stopped me from the crash and burn this time around?
6 Tips For Managing The Busy Season
I have 6 best practices for the busy season (you can call them “tools” if you like)
and I’m sharing them with you, so neither of us gets consumed by the overwhelm.
1. Write A To-Do List At The Start Of The Week
At the start of the week, I write a list of all the things I want to get done during that week. That’s business AND personal (Yes, that trip to the dog groomers and the rubbish bin repair go on there too!).
It gives you a very good overview of what’s on your plate and what you want to achieve. But even better, you no longer need to keep it all in your brain.
From there, you can start prioritising.
2. Create The Top 3 Priorities For The Week AND For The Day
Next, I pick the three things that NEED to be done that the week
It’s a practice I’ve adopted from the “Full Focus Planner”. (I’ve dedicated an episode on the Full Focus Planner in the past, but it was at the start of my podcasting career, so you may have missed it. You can find it here.)
Not only does this practice keep you focussed, but it also makes you feel accomplished when your 3 priorities for the week have been ticked off. (Because, let’s be fair, it’s hard to feel accomplished when you’re overwhelmed by the amount of work in front of you. ) In the odd event you have some unexpected spare time, you can tick something else off the list.
I also pick 3 priorities for the day. It’s slightly different from the week's priorities. An example would look something like this: I want to show up for my meetings prepared and on time.
3. Block Out Time In Your Calendar
The power of pinpointing priorities is that it puts your focus where it needs to be. Rather than having my day dictated by my inbox (a.k.a. “context switching”), I’m focussed on my priorities.
But here’s the deal. In order to really nail our best practices for the busy season, we need to take the next step, and that is allocating time for these priorities. The best way to do that is to block out time in your diary or calendar.
Blocking time does several things:
- It keeps me on track (focussed, responsible and accountable)
- It gives structure to my time. (Can I get half of this priority done before my next meeting? )
- It’s a lot more time efficient than “context switching”.
- It takes the stress out of a busy day.
Although there are times I prefer some fluidity to my day, time blocking is a pet favourite of mine. It’s very effective in managing the busy season and avoiding the pitfalls of “context switching” too. (Again, I’ve created an episode of the topic in the past. You can find it here.)
4. Enter Every Task In Your Project Management Tool
Here’s a brutal reality in my business: if it’s not in the project management tool, it’s not on my radar.
It’s my answer to “What needs to be done today?” And it’s indispensable when I’m managing the busy season.
If you have been on the BYW podcast for a while, you’ll know I have a favourite project management tool: It’s Monday.com.
Monday.com shows me all the outstanding tasks. And what doesn’t get done when it was supposed to is transferred to the next day.
On top of that, every task is broken down in multiple subtasks (So no,… it’s not a double-up of my weekly priorities list! )
Here’s an example from my business management company:
- On my weekly to-do list, you’ll find: “Get the Budget vs. Actual report done for X event.
- Monday.com will also tell me to do the Budget vs. Actual report, but in addition, it will tell me to …
- Reconcile the bank statement.
- Make sure all the supplier invoices have been paid and loaded into Xero (my accounting tool)
- Ensure the Budget vs. Actual report matches the Profit and Loss report in Xero
5. Focus On What Only I Can Do
Here’s what I mean with that.
Every single task that needs doing I am capable of if I would have to run my business on my own.
But here’s the thing: I don’t have the time for it. Especially not when I’m surviving the busy season.
That said, when I feel overwhelmed, it’s very easy to get caught up in the “ I'll just do that or I'll just do this or that'll take me two minutes.”
Those two minutes quickly turn into 10 minutes or 15 minutes. Before you know what it's 20 minutes later.
So when it gets busy, I remind myself to stick to the tasks I have to do myself because nobody else can do them.
Everything else gets delegated to the team (And Yes, that process of delegating involves Monday.com! )
6. Do The Right Things At The Right Time
Lately, I have been discussing this final point of my best practices for the busy season
with my team
As we've been navigating this busy season, it became very clear timing is everything. More specifically, we need to make sure we are working on the right things at the right time.
See, when you work really focussed on a particular task (because you identified it as a priority and you’ve blocked out time to do it) it’s very easy to get caught up into the nitty-gritty details for the sake of taking the task off the list, rather than focusing on doing what really needs doing.
But when we're in this busy season, we have to make sure we're working on the right things at the right time. Because every minute counts. And especially for you as the manager, it’s easy to become the bottleneck for the rest of the team. And that’s a situation you absolutely can’t afford during peak season.
So I ask myself:
- Do I need to work on this?
- Is this the right time to be working on this project?
- Will it help my team?
- Will it help my clients?
- Will it progress the bigger picture rather than just satisfying my desire to take things off my list?
If the answer is NO, it can make sense to put some (parts of a) task in the fridge for a later date, because it’s not essential or a priority to get us ahead.
Bonus tip for Managing Peak Season In Your Business
When we get to the end of your week, I like to celebrate the things that we've achieved in my business. It’s something I do at any time of the year. But it’s especially important during the busy season.
Because during this time, that list of things that need doing is just endless and intimidating. And we all know that the weight of what you haven't done can feel heavy.
But when you celebrate what you HAVE done, you create a sense of achievement and accomplishment. And I don't think we do that enough.
The tasks that you didn't get finished are carried over into the following week and they become next week's things to do (very likely with a higher priority). But at least you can finish your week knowing that you've moved the needle on several things!
So there you have it.
Those are my top tips for managing the busy season and I hope they are helpful to you. (Considering Christmas is around the corner, there is a good chance it will be a timely reminder. )
But I’d like to end with this: Obviously, those 6 tips for managing the busy season work for me, but your business may be very different. As a matter of fact, it probably is.
BUT these tips can still act as a form of inspiration. It’s often how I get my biggest insights.
We All Need Some Help With This!
Let me know! I’m interested to hear what the tools are that help YOU move through the busy seasons without the overwhelm?
So let's start a conversation!
I'm really keen to share the wisdom. Because together, we know so much more!
Take a snapshot of this episode
Head over to Instagram.
Share it on your stories
Be sure to tag me
I'm @SandraJulian.co .
Let's start a conversation about what‘s most effective for us in our busy seasons!