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If you’re hoping to make it to the new year without having a nervous breakdown — revenue targets, frenzied shoppers, fulfilling orders by Christmas, holiday celebrations, year-end bonuses — then listen up.
There are several things you can do to lower your stress and maybe even enjoy the holiday with family and friends. It’s all about being smart with your time and letting technology work for you.
Here are six tips to put to work so you feel like jolly Saint Nick instead of the Grinch.
1. Make team sharing software work for you
You’ve probably heard friends and fellow business owners talk about remote-working tools that keep employees on the same page.
Slack, for example, features chat functions for you and the team to communicate, whether or not you’re in the office. It also offers file sharing, project organization capabilities, and complete integration so you can keep track of things wherever you are.
Time is a limited resource, even more so during the holiday season, and efficiency tools can help you make the best use of the limited hours you’ve got.
2. Schedule your marketing efforts
During the holiday season, you have to be really smart about your time. Carve out some hours dedicated to marketing. Then write several blog posts, tweets, and Facebook updates in one sitting.
You can schedule when you want the content to go live for the remainder of the year with a tool such as Hootsuite. Then check in once a day and respond directly to any comments sent to your account from other users.
3. Review your numbers daily
Concrete numbers can guide you on what you need to do to get through the holiday season. Square merchants have access to daily sales reports that tell you how sales are doing even when you’re not in the store. The data is readily available in your Square Dashboard, where you can track sales by the hour, day, week, month, or year.
This allows you to keep tabs on inventory levels so you don’t run out of best-sellers during the gifting season. You can also track how well your email marketing efforts are performing and ramp up customer communication accordingly.
Here’s a refresher on how to create reports using the Square app, plus tips on the type of sales data you should be tracking daily.
4. Forecast the additional business you’ll be getting during the holiday boom
You save a lot of stress if you come into the holiday season prepared. Use Square Analytics to review historical data and identify your busiest times from the year prior. Then, use that knowledge to predict busy days this year and set holiday hours and staffing to adjust for increased traffic.
Careful planning and forecasting go a long way toward keeping you calm despite the chaos ahead.
5. Set firm holiday business hours and communicate them to customers
Before you resolve to open early and close late during the holiday rush, look back at past years’ performance over the holidays using Square Analytics. Think hard about whether you’ll have enough sales between 9 p.m. and midnight to justify the cost of staying open those extra hours — like paying more staffers and increased utility costs.
Customers, for the most part, are respectful as long as you communicate holiday hours clearly and effectively. Send an email to your customer lists, post that information on your website, and even change your business’s voicemail to indicate what your holiday hours are.
If you have an e-commerce business, be sure it includes realistic estimations about shipping times. Provide an email address for customer or client emergencies.
6. Pencil in daytime breaks for yourself and your employees
This may sound counter to what you’d think, but penciling in short breaks just might benefit end-of-year business. Seasonal affective disorder is the real deal, and employees who go the whole day without seeing natural light can suffer from decreased productivity, sluggishness, stress, and low morale.
Make a schedule that includes one hour for each employee to take a break and go holiday shopping. It’s a feasible (and festive) solution that results in a huge morale boost.
And if you feel like you’re just too crazed to hit pause, at least plan to walk while you work. Take a conference call from the park across the street or conduct a one-on-one talk during a walk around the block. Switching up the scene helps lower mental stress, relieves the physical stress of sitting in one place all day, and might even make you more creative.