Everyone can relate to the month of the year when it seems like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. No coming up for air. No chance to take a breather for a minute.
How do you navigate this dreaded muck? Many of the best strategies have one thing in common: preparation. If your busy season is the same time each year, take a moment before disaster hits to think about what you need to do to avoid problems.
In this post, Insperity specialists volunteer their secrets for not only surviving the busy season, but also getting through it feeling energized and engaged.
“Use this opportunity to include others. It’s a relief for you and a development opportunity for them. And be sure to cut them some slack. They may not do it just like you, but at least progress is made, and some of them may surprise you.”
Jeff Miller, director, Learning & Performance
2. Change your perspective
“Typically, we tend to get more and more stressed because we have our focus on our own situations. You can change your energy and stress by changing your perspective. Shift your day-to-day away from stress and direct it toward how you can help team members achieve what’s meaningful to them. The word passion is not about enthusiasm, it’s about what we do or sacrifice for another. Be passionate about helping your people succeed, and they will help your company succeed.
“Reflect on your ‘why’. Think about the original reason you started your business. It’s the key to staying motivated and away from stress. The greater cause, the original mission, what has meaning and purpose for you. The ‘why’ is the one thing that propelled you to take on all of the challenges in the beginning. The external stressors will always be there, so fight them off with your internal ‘why’.”
Pete Hinojosa, director, Sales Leadership Development
3. Schedule a break
“Walk around the building, find a quiet spot to listen to calming music or do some deep breathing. Leave at 5 p.m. and hit the gym. Working without breaks and for long hours will make it difficult for you to focus and be as sharp. It will end up being counterproductive.”
Mary Lou Parrott, performance consultant
4. Set proper expectations
“When your busy season hits, it’s essential that expectations are set properly with your customers and employees. If production delays are likely, be sure you inform anyone who is expecting your products or services is aware of the new timetable. It may mean that something you can usually do in a few hours may take a few days to complete. Missed deadlines are often one of the most common ways to create customer dissatisfaction. But with proper communication, it’s also avoidable.”
Kelley Zanfardino, senior human resource advisor
5. Reserve work time
“Reserve a minimum of one full day in the office to work on projects and catch up on items. During the busy time, try to minimize how many meetings you’re scheduling or attending each day. This way, you have more time to complete projects or assist your employees. Plan ahead and prioritize work with clients as much as possible to avoid last minute demands and rushed projects.
Karen Cavanaugh, senior human resource specialist
6. It’s not you, it’s me
“Don’t be the person who adds more stress to the season. Don’t let anyone else’s temperament or negativity drag you down. Try to keep your thoughts and conversations positive and calm.”
Jill Chapman, senior performance consultant
7. Create a prioritized plan
“Take 20 minutes at the beginning of the week to prioritize your goals. Sunday afternoon or evening is also a great time to consider this activity. Revisit the list daily to adjust for other demands. Build in time to deal with the routine activities, such as phone calls, emails and unplanned discussions. Focus on one activity or project at a time. Multitasking on projects simultaneously is not productive.
“This approach is different than scheduling blocks of time for a project. If a block of time is devoted to accomplishing a particular task, focus all of your energy on achieving that specific milestone. Similarly, with emails, open one and complete it (respond, delete or archive) before moving to the next one. The clarity of finishing a number of these tasks and goals throughout the day will provide you a greater sense of accomplishment. It will also keep you energized.”
Michael Timmes, senior human resource specialist
8. Make “mindfulness” a habit
“Take three or four minutes in the morning for mindfulness exercises – observe your breathing and surroundings. This will pay huge dividends throughout the day. When you get in the car, spend the first six or seven minutes driving in silence, without any radio or music. Then, make sure you set a few ‘mindfulness appointments’ throughout the day to focus on your breathing and center yourself.”
Chris Brennan, performance specialist
9. Make your own task appointments
“Schedule certain tasks on your calendar. For example, if you have a project that requires your full concentration, block an hour out on your calendar to get it done. During this time, shut down your email and turn off notifications to limit distractions.
“It’s also important not to lose yourself during busy work times. Make time for activities you enjoy (even if it’s a nap!).”
Dawn Motsiff, senior human resource specialist
10. Don’t over commit and under deliver
“Don’t overfill your schedule. It is okay to move or remove items/objectives based upon urgency and timeline for completion.”
Abe Turner, performance consultant
For more tips to help you lead your team through the busy season, download our free magazine, The Insperity Guide to Leadership and Management.