Avoid the festive frenzy

After a long year’s valiant battle to sustain and grow their business, the festive period can offer a rare guilt-free opportunity for entrepreneurs to take pause, relax, and enjoy the delights of the season, safe in the knowledge that work can afford to wait, for a few more days at least.  
That’s the theory, anyway, but the reality is often rather different.
For some, the festive season is a source of apprehension, long before it even arrives.  The run-up to Christmas often represents the busiest time of year for many businesses and this, along with the prospect of a near total shutdown for a week (or more) at the end of it all can make ‘Christmas’ begin to sound like more trouble than it’s worth.  
But as uncomfortable and exhausting as this time of year might be, it’s a simple inevitability of running your own business isn’t it?  Well perhaps not.
Here are four simple strategies that really can make all the difference, both in the build-up to the season and during it.
Make a plan
Take a little time to make a sensible appraisal of tasks that you need to complete before the Christmas break begins. Consider specifically things that happen on a regular basis, and that under normal circumstances would take place at the end of the month. The last thing you want, is to wake on Christmas morning and realise that you’ve forgotten to process a crucial invoice.
Now, bearing in mind the time you have left, set yourself specific time frames in which to complete individual tasks… something of a startup advent calendar if you will. I know it seems rather an obvious piece of advice, but I cannot tell you what a genuine positive effect this brings to us in December, allowing us to spread the extra work that comes hand-in-hand with this time of year, over several preceding weeks.  
Leave a few days clear before the Christmas break as a pre-emptive buffer, in case you find yourself more strapped for time than you had anticipated.
Know your contingencies

As well as providing you with a little extra peace of mind, mapping out your contingency plans in advance of the festive break means that if necessary, you will be able to implement them with minimal fuss and as little disruption to your time off as possible. A little creative thinking is needed here. Try to imagine possible problems which could require your attention, then formulate some easy to implement solutions that will hold fast until you return after the break.  
I.T. issues need special treatment here. Anyone who has a significant I.T. element to their business knows that they crash at the most inopportune times. If you don't already know, find out who your point of contact is for the various technical aspects of your business, drop them a line to confirm their availability over the period, and rest assured that if worst comes to worst, you won’t be left to deal with it single-handedly.  
Again it seems like common sense, but having these contact details somewhere close-at-hand over the break can keep you reactive to any problems that take place.  
Manage expectations
Many businesses want to send a message to their clients, customers and suppliers that they provide an incredibly efficient, 24 / 7, reactive, inexhaustible service. A major source of stress for many entrepreneurs is that periods away from work can belie this. The problem becomes particularly acute if you are solely responsible for the day-to-day running of the business, as is the case with many startups and small businesses.
Again, preparation is a pretty good way to overcome this obstacle.  Those with whom you have built an association or professional relationship, won't (usually) begrudge you some time away from work, and it is generally understood by the business community that the Christmas / New Year week is usually much less productive than it would otherwise be. Make contact with any relevant persons / businesses with which you have a strong working relationship, letting them know your businesses working arrangements over the course of the holiday period. This is also a great way to gauge their own concerns about the period, and suggest effective ways that major disruption can be avoided.
Remember to set an 'out of office' auto response on your email as well, with details of your return and information on how to contact you in the event of something that needs urgent attention.
Plan to work if you need to

For some businesses Boxing Day can be one of the busiest days of the year, particularly or the retail sector. Whilst we would all ideally like to spend this time with family and friends, if you rely heavily upon the extra trade that comes over this period, you may well have to work. This is not something that you should feel guilty about... it’s just something that comes hand-in-hand with your business.

If you find yourself in this situation, the stress of the holiday season can verge on the extreme. Make sure that prepare yourself and your loved ones for the fact that you will have to work, set yourself working hours and try as far as possible to stick to them. Remember to compensate yourself for this extra work by taking some time off in January when things calm down a little.

Eoin O'Hara is a business developer and lead content writer at Startacus.net. He has a background combining arts and culture with strategic business development, and now plays a central role in the growth of the Startacus brand. Startacus.net, The Self Start Society, is the place for enterprising people to learn, share, connect and bring ideas to life. Follow them at @Iamstartacus