Regular people don’t realize how insane the pre-Christmas months are for makers. But: it’s true, they’re insane.
The sheer quantity of work -- in combination with the uncertainty and pressure of making the most of holiday sales -- adds up to quite the exhausting scenario.
So: if you’re feeling similarly, remember that 1) you’re not alone and 2) January will come.
Also: I asked some of the most effective, successful, and inspiring makers I know to share their tips for staying sane, organized, healthy, and focused in hectic times. Read on!
Lora from Free Period Press
Free Period Press creates products to help you unplug, relax, and get your creative juices flowing. Cleveland-based Lora puts an incredible amount of soul, hard work, and savvy into Free Period. She partners with other great artists and makers in the design of each product and ends up with items that are inspiring, helpful, and fun.
Lora shared two key tips and we added a third:
Invite friends to help.
Relationships are such an important part of self-care, and they often get neglected during our busy seasons. Packing orders and hanging out at craft shows is more fun with friends. Offer to pay them for their time if you can, or at least provide food!
Prioritize what you need to do.
Your to-do list is probably a mile long, but try prioritizing your to-do list in terms of your goals. Ask yourself, "Which of these tasks is the most important to get me to my goal?" When I do this, I usually realize that a surprising number of tasks are not as urgent as I thought. During some seasons, I am focused on getting money in the door! So during those times, I prioritize based on ROI. I ask, "Which of these tasks is most likely to bring in the most revenue?"
Consider a Self Care Index.
Note from Wholesale In a Box: Lora didn’t mention this, but she has the coolest Self Care Index zine that could be a fun and helpful tool.
Jonnie from Grey Theory Mill
San Diego-based Jonnie is a strong, vibrant presence in our maker world. She makes her Grey Theory with a touch of sass, a pinch of the profane, and a lot of class. She’s also uber-busy as her business grows, as she’s thriving in both wholesale and online.
Jonnie got really honest and really specific about how she stays organized and sane:
I started a variation of bullet journaling after a friend told me she thought I'd enjoy it. She was right. I love being able to have my goals/tasks split up into their various priority level. I have an "at a glance" which is my equivalent of an analog zoom out.
Keeping organized with orders.
For keeping orders straight I have a word document that has 3 columns: Current POs, Later Ship Date, and Consignment. When an order comes in I plug the shops name in, the date they ordered, the ship date I quoted and the order total. This makes it easy for me to see what needs to be done when, what I will be quoting for a ship date for incoming orders, and when it comes to month end I can plug in the order total to my spreadsheet.
Staying on top of money-in-the-door.
I have no training in bookkeeping, but this year I really wanted to see what was coming in -- per account -- so I started two spreadsheets. The first is called “Finished PO's” and the other is called “Deposit Log.” As the POs go out, I plug in all the data from my Word document: date ordered, date shipped, shop name, and their order total. For my deposit log, I plug in the numbers for wholesale, retail, and consignment at the end of the month. So far, so good! It gives me peace of mind to know how much I am actually making.
Hiring help (finally.)
This year I hired help. I may have made that decision a little late in the game, but finding the right person was so important to me. I am looking forward to having the help with production, but even more so with the holiday retail shows!
A true day off.
I try, try, try my darndest to have one day off a week (versus the random hours throughout the week). It's hard, but I'm getting better at it.
I prioritize getting a workout in at least 4 days a week. At very least I do a 15 minute HIIT workout. Getting that blood circulating does wonders for me when I'm feeling hella grumpy-moody.
Last year I was SO toasted come Christmas, I decided that the first two weeks of January would be a personal "no-work unless you really want to" sabbatical for me. Having that carrot in front of me makes me feel like I can get through anything.
Paris from Paris Woodhull Illustrations
I met Paris at two makers’ summits I spoke at this year and she is as warm, generous, and smart in person as her illustrations are. A Knoxville native, Paris creates apparel with a purpose, quirky paper goods, and city maps.
Paris shared some helpful self-care practices she stays sane with:
Haha I'm a list maker addict ;-) I end each work day by making a list for the next work day. And not a digital list, but a hard copy one -- one that I can keep propped up on my desk all day, staring me in the face. It helps me to visually see what I need to do and also induces a good bit of (healthy) guilt if I'm procrastinating and not getting as much done as I should be.
I know this is one of those things that is kind of eyeroll-inducing, but stay with me? I was always the person that never worked out because "I didn't have the time." When I started going to the gym consistently, I realized that it sets me up for success in my day to day life; I have a better mindset and I'm 100% more efficient/effective running my business. It's also nice to have an hour each day that is dedicated to me and not emailing, packaging, talking to customers, etc.
Have a friend that will listen to you rant.
Having a small business can feel so solitary sometimes, which makes the pressure feel insurmountable. Having a trusted friend that you can talk through things with, or even just get a quick pep talk from, can really work wonders. For me, this is my sister. Poor girl has probably heard me rant, cry, and complain about how hard it is to run a small business one too many times. P.S. It helps if you buy them dinner every once in a while in exchange for listening to you ;-)
Learn that not everything needs to be done immediately.
My phone is a really big distraction for me and I'm currently still figuring this one out. What if I don't answer this email right now?! What if I don't reply to this instagram comment immediately?! Ha! Trying to remind myself that everything can wait and I will get to it eventually. 90% of things can at least wait 24 hours for you to get to them. No one is going to die if I don't answer their email immediately.
Business is not emotional.
Meaning that my feelings do not matter in my business. Sounds cold, right? Well this is my number one way that I self-care in my business. I'm a very emotional person and I have a tendency to take things personally, which are two of the worst qualities to have when working with clients. Some days I will literally write "Business isn't emotional" on my forearm to remind myself that my #1 priority is to serve my clients as best I can. For me, it's a small way of controlling my emotions and learning to be more flexible.
Let it evolve.
Organization, focus, and self-care needs are things that are always changing. Organizational needs will change as a business grows and same with self-care and focus. Haha… owning a business is a learning curve 24/7.
Thank you so much to all three of you!! Your wisdom is hard-earned and each nugget is such a good reminder and valuable insight.