Plan Early for a Productive Holiday Work Schedule

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on October 4, 2011 in Productivity & Organization
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Holiday Work

Credit: BigStockPhoto.com

Can you believe it's already October? That means the holiday season is just around the corner. And holidays can wreak havoc on our freelance work schedules (or at least they do for mine). Don't let the holiday season get in the way of work, or let work stress keep you from enjoying the holidays. Let's look at a few ways you can stay productive throughout this time of the year with a bit of planning.

Plan your vacation time early.

More importantly, let your clients know when that vacation time will be. Taking time off can feel like a guaranteed rush on your billable hours, so give clients time to get project details to you early so you can clear them up before you're away.

For me this is easy. I take off the same time every year -- Thanksgiving and Black Friday and then December 24th until the first work day of the New Year. If I need more time, I clear up gigs early and take a personal day.

Simplify your admin and marketing work.

One reason some freelancers don't like to take time off is that we don't get paid vacations. Well, we do. We just have to account for them when we set our regular rates. If you didn't do that you have another option. You can increase your billable hours prior to taking time off so you don't miss out on monthly income.

That said, I don't encourage freelancers to pull overtime to make this happen. Your mental health is as important as your financial health. Instead look for other areas where you can cut tasks out, decrease their frequency, or otherwise work more efficiently.


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For example, you might cut back on your social media time. You could blog three days per week instead of five. You could thoroughly review stats weekly instead of daily. You can check blog comments once a day instead of several times. Little things add up, and the time you save can be put toward increasing your billable hours before taking time off.

Plan for the New Year now.

One reason the holiday season can get hectic work-wise is that we're busy planning for the New Year on top of dealing with our usual workload and family commitments. Why not plan early?

Get your financial records in order so you have less to do near the end of the year. Look at your progress so far this year and start thinking about your goals for the next. How will you reach those goals?

You probably don't need another three months to figure out what you're doing right and what isn't working out so well. Plan your adjustments now to save time later. You can always tweak your plans at the end of the year if something significantly changes between now and then.

How are you getting ready for the holiday season? Or is it still too early for you to want to think about it? Share your tips for working more productively as the holidays approach in the comments below.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.


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9 Comments

  1. Cathy Miller October 4, 2011 Reply

    Love the graphic, Jenn. :-) I don’t have much more to offer. You covered it. I basically think in small victories-half a day stolen here, regular time scheduled for admin to make big jobs chunk-size.

    This year, family is coming, including a 3-year-old, so that is enforced time off. :-) Then my 3-Day Walk is the weekend before Thanksgiving so more time off. My clients all have my schedule (like you suggested). I’m lining up guest posts while I’m in San Diego.

    I set aside time every Friday to update my expenses so I have all my ducks in a row for tax time so it won’t be so time-consuming. Then I pop the bubbly.

    • Jennifer Mattern October 4, 2011 Reply

      Breaking down big jobs is actually something I have scheduled this week for the indie publishing blog. And that’s a great way to handle productivity issues. It’s easy to get overwhelmed this time of year, so thinking in terms of mini-goals can make everything seem a bit more achievable.

      Save some of that bubbly for me Cathy! ;)

  2. Lori October 4, 2011 Reply

    Blog three days instead of five? Can that be done? :)

    Good post. Right now I’m planning my work for November/December in hopes of working right up to Christmas Eve. Too many clients let things slide those last two weeks of the year.

    • Jennifer Mattern October 4, 2011 Reply

      Sure. Why not? Higher frequency is great when you can do it. But you don’t always have to maintain daily posts. Some weeks we do it here. Some weeks we don’t. Once you’re up to a few posts per week, the specific number doesn’t seem to matter that much. At least that’s my experience in this niche. So why not take a bit of a break and put billable time first? Unless the extra blogging brings in significantly more traffic and indirectly income / leads, it’s not the best use of time.

      You’re absolutely right about clients waiting until the year’s end. They want to rush work in so they can write off the expense of contracting us sooner. Or they suddenly realize they want time-sensitive holiday marketing copy taken care of (which should have been planned weeks to months in advance). Traditionally my busiest day of the year for new leads and contracts is the day after Thanksgiving. I have no idea why, and I don’t work that day so they’re settled the following Monday. It’s like some sort of holiday madness sets in and people are frantic for one big project or another. Beats me. But I can’t argue with the income. :)

  3. Ronda October 4, 2011 Reply

    The ideas in the post and the comments are excellent. The last quarter of the year tends to be my busiest, so in addition to all the things you mention, I also plan ahead for my personal stuff too. I bake cookies as gifts for both clients and friends, so I will actually start that this weekend and freeze them. I’ll do one batch every weekend between now and December. That way I’m not rushed or overwhelmed at the end of the year. I also start my Christmas shopping now too. The more I can spread out the personal chores, the less stressed my work life will be.

  4. Scott October 5, 2011 Reply

    Great tips, I was just thinking about this. I’ve been making the mistake of working overtime to compensate for an upcoming vacation and it’s causing too much stress. Simplifying and cutting out non-essential tasks is probably more effective.

    • Jennifer Mattern October 5, 2011 Reply

      Ouch. Been there. I’ve pulled the overtime game pre-vaca, and it sucks. Plus, it’s difficult to relax during a vacation when we’ve just pushed ourselves to the burn out point. If you can cut down on other tasks, it won’t hurt as much to take on the extra billable hours for a short time.

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