How to make the most of the downtime during the holidays

Christmas socks

By Donna Torres, director of small business at Xero UK

It’s the festive period at last.

Time to relax, take stock and work out how to make next year even better than the last. But it’s not always easy to relax during the festive period – especially when you are a business owner. Festivities are no doubt easier when you’re an employee. You’ll look at emails to reassure clients, but crisis aside, you shouldn’t need to flip back into full work mode.

When you run a small business, if you stop, it stops. According to our own research, many small businesses feel pressured to keep working, with three in four businesses (69 per cent) admitting they don’t stop. The research revealed the pressure small businesses feel to hide how much they are working, as SMB owners admitted to fibbing to friends and family to hide their work habits. The most popular excuse given by small business owners to explain their absences from festivities was ‘going for a walk’. Other small business owners admitted claiming to be ‘doing some exercise’ (25 per cent) while sneaking in some work and some even get their emails done while ‘going to the toilet’ (24 per cent). That’s commitment for you.

The pressure to keep working affects everyone, but our research found that women in particular struggle to switch off over Christmas. The survey found that 46 per cent of women versus 21 per cent of men are ‘highly likely’ to work over the Christmas period, with 39 per cent of women in the survey versus just seven per cent of men planning to work 13-15 hours between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. Men seem to be a little more relaxed about the business during the party season too. When asked why they keep working, 36% of women verses 21 per cent of men said they thought the business would suffer if they didn’t, though similar proportions of men and women thought Christmas was an important time of the year for the company.

The challenge is knowing how to switch off to avoid burn-out.

Here are some tips to help you relax during the festive break:

  • Ditch paperwork. Avoid time-consuming admin by using technology to help you work smarter and faster. We know that using cloud technology to manage cash flow saves business owners 15 days a year on average.
  • Stay in control. There’s nothing worse than feeling unprepared for the year ahead. Use the run up to scope out potential new clients and staff and keep up with the latest rules and regulations coming your way, such as HMRC’s Making Tax Digital legislation
  • Sleep. Just because you are on a break, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a good night’s sleep. More sleep means you will feel more refreshed and in a better place to receive work emails and make better business decisions.
  • Take the time to exercise and eat well. This could be easier said than done but try and use time to look after yourself.

And finally, enjoy it. You might need to catch up on a few bits, but try and do the things you enjoy most such as brainstorming ideas or researching new opportunities. Just make sure you don’t spend the break bogged down in admin – the right planning and smart technology can help make that part of the job a breeze.

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