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83. Replay: How to Ensure Smooth Operations this Holiday Season

Anxious about Q4 and your eCommerce business? You’re not alone. With so much talk about how crazy Q4 is going to be, how online sales are going to skyrocket, and how much opportunity there is to make big bucks, it can be overwhelming just thinking about how you’re going to get through. 

In this week’s episode, I’m walking through some simple things you can do to glide through the holiday with ease.

What You’ll Learn: 

  • Simple tricks for making sure you have productive work days
  • Ways to balance work + life throughout the season
  • Why not wanting to grow in Q4 is okay too

Episodes Mentioned

Episode 09: How to Get More Done in Less Time

Episode 72: How To Plan For Q4 In Your Ecommerce Business

Episode 73: How To Prepare For A Smooth Holiday Season In Your Ecommerce Business

Episode 74: How To Promote Your Ecommerce Business In Q4

Learn More About the Eisenhower Matrix

Get the Holiday Planning Guide + Conent Bundle

Need a deeper dive into all things Q4 planning for your eCommerce business? Get your hands on my Holiday Planning Mini-Course and the Holiday Content Bundle with 90 content prompts and 75 email subject lines. It’s the ultimate toolkit for eCommerce biz owners who want to rock their holiday sales while still enjoying their pumpkin pie and time with their family.

Learn more at eCommerceBadassery.com/holiday

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Read the Full Episode Transcript

It’s officially Q4 which means it’s time to get your ass in high gear and prepare for what’s to come. Everywhere you turn you hear eCommerce peeps talking about how crazy they expect online holiday sales to be this year and I gotta say, I agree. 

For the right categories, eCommerce is going to be crazy this Holiday season. Yes, a lot of people are suffering but there are a lot of others who are still spending. People are going back to work, and while it’s still at an all-time high, unemployment is going down.

We’ve already walked through my 3 step process for a kick-ass Q4, planning, preparation and promotion. Check out Episode 72, Episode 73 & Episode 74 (in order!) for everything you need to know about your inventory to your email marketing and everything in between.

If you go through those step-by-step, your holiday season will automatically be less stressful because you’ll already have the most important pieces of your campaign planned and ready to go, which means no last minute scrambling and stress. 

Today’s episode is a little less tactical and we talk through some simple things you can do go through the season with ease.

Check your mindset

I’m no mindset coach, but one thing I do know for sure is that negativity breeds more negativity. If one thing goes wrong or doesn’t go to plan it can be really easy to get into a negative spiral. 

When it comes to running an eCommerce business in Q4, no matter how much planning and preparation you do, there’s still a possibility that something unexpected will happen. Give yourself and your team some grace while you’re all working through this crazy season. 

And when shit does hit the fan, go into problem-solving mode instead of stress spiraling. 

Give yourself grace at home

Mentally prepare yourself and your family that things might get a little off course and you won’t be able to do it all. Maybe the laundry will pile up more than usual and you’ll be ordering dinner instead of cooking every night. 

If you don’t already have help at home, maybe you need to invest in some during this time, or reallocate who does what at home to keep things flowing as smoothly as possible. 

Ultimately you have to figure out what you can and can’t tolerate and make any necessary adjustments. Remember that this just a season in your business and it’s not going to be forever. 

Give yourself permission to focus on pushing forward in your businesses, knowing that it is just a season and your time will come. It does no good to beat yourself up about it in the meantime. 

Make sure everyone understands your work schedule

You’ve got a permission slip that allows you not to be perfect and do it all, now let’s figure out what your work schedule is going to look like. Bringing in your family, or whoever else this affects, will be helpful so you can make sure everyone is on the same page. They’ll understand from the outset what times you’ll be working and when you’ll be with them. 

Funny enough, just like customer service issues, the biggest stressor between people in general is unmet expectations. As much as you can lay out ahead of time, the better. Of course you need to leave room for adjustments, because life… but having a general idea of when you can focus 100% on work you’ll be much more productive during that time. 

Batch your work 

This basically just means working on the same type of tasks in blocks of time. While this is always a good idea, it’s a REALLY good idea for Q4. Especially if you’re homeschooling your kids while running your business—everyone’s routines are thrown off right now so we have to adjust. The more you can plan and prep, the smoother things will go. 

You don’t have to have everything planned out to the minute but if you can block out larger chunks of time for things like creative work vs. operational work, you’ll limit the amount of context switching you’re doing and have a better chance of getting into a flow state. 

For example, you could block out 2 hours to work on your emails campaigns for example or you could set aside an hour for social media engagement and answering customer service emails.

Check out Episode 9 for more info on getting more done in less time

Plan around your home life

When you’re trying to figure out what you’re going to do and when, be mindful of what else you have going on that day and how much brain power each of those tasks is going to take you. 

For instance, when I’m planning out a podcast episode or creating educational content, I don’t want any distractions. If my husband is bouncing back and forth between the office and the living room, which is typical for him, I’ll often go into the bedroom so I’m not distracted by him talking to me or being on the phone with clients.

If I’m engaging on social media, I don’t necessarily need the same level of focus, so I’m not bothered by that. 

For you, if you’re homeschooling your kids, be mindful of what you can do, if anything while you’re also trying to support them. That might be a time where you can’t do anything more than put together boxes or answer some customer service emails. 

Give yourself permission to have a day off

If you’re not fulfilling your own orders or your volume isn’t high enough that you have to ship every day, you may want to take some days where you don’t work in the business at all. 

There’s going to be a lot of nuance here depending on how you work, your other obligations and your business itself. Think through what is realistic for you, what expectations you need to set for yourself and your family, and what additional support you can get whether by hiring or divvying up the responsibilities a bit differently in your family for the time being. 

Solidify your end of day procedures

Creating systems in your business will help keep you organized and save your time and energy. My favorite way to do this is by laying out end of day procedures. 

This is helpful no matter what time of year it is. The habit of setting yourself up for the next day is a game changer. It lets you start fresh and hit the ground running every day. 

What this looks like is going to be different for every business, but it could be: 

  • Straightening up your workspace at the end of the day so you can start with a clean slate in the morning. 
  • Refilling your packing and shipping station with supplies so you’re ready to rock and roll as the orders roll in. 
  • Assembling boxes to shorten your packing time. 
  • Emptying trash cans even if they’re not full so you don’t get stalled half-way through the next day. 
  • Creating your to-do list for the next day – I find this to be especially helpful so you don’t waste time in the AM trying to remember where you left off. 
  • Even peeking in on your ads, reviewing your sales + inventory levels so you can make notes of what you want to work on first the next day. 

Think about all the things that could potentially interrupt you or slow you down the next time you sit down to work and do those the night before. 

The get-shit-done zone

Now that you’ve got yourself set up for the next day’s success, it’s time to figure out what gets you motivated to work and stay in the get shit done zone.

Create a space that you enjoy working in

For me, I know I need a little time when I first wake up to just have my coffee and not talk to anyone. Sometimes I like a little music in the AM to get me pumped up, but when I’m working on things that take brainpower, I like the quiet. I don’t even like binaural beats, even though they’re supposed to help you focus. 

Oh, and I regularly have a candle burning. Right now I’m switching between a pumpkin spice candle and a leather scented one. Who doesn’t like a little ambiance?

Lots of little interruptions add up

Figure out what it is that you need, and make sure you set yourself up for that the night before or at least run through the checklist in your head before you sit down to work. I’m notorious for leaving behind my laptop charger and water. Nothing worse than being in flow and realizing your laptop is on 5% battery with no charger in sight. 

It seems innocuous, but when you have multiple of those tiny interruptions each day it can easily waste away your time without you even realizing it. Just like one notification on our phone can take us down a rabbit hole of mindless scrolling. Or if you run to the kitchen to grab a snack and then get distracted by someone asking you a question or you just feel compelled to do anything other than work so you decide it’s a good time to clean the counters or take out the garbage.

The importance of prioritization

In the beginning of this episode I talked about giving yourself grace. A CEO’s to-do list is never done… and that’s okay.

When it comes to getting through Q4 you have to take a really hard look at everything on that to-do list and ask yourself, if I can’t do it all — what is going to have the biggest revenue impact on my business and make my customer’s the happiest? 

Prioritize revenue generating tasks

For instance, if it comes down to posting on Instagram or sending an email, in MOST cases the email is likely to drive more revenue than the Instagram post. 

If it’s between updating that graphic on your home page or responding to a customer service inquiry, you probably want to answer the customer first. 

Granted, these are very simplified situations, but the idea is that you don’t HAVE to do it all. Your business will not fail if you skip a day on Instagram, or don’t update your website with holiday graphics. 

What you can and should focus on will vary widely based on your business and bandwidth. When you’re deciding on what is and isn’t important a good place to start is focusing on what is likely to drive the most revenue and make for the happiest customers. 

The Eisenhower Matrix

I don’t want to go into it too in depth here because it really deserves it’s own episode, but have you heard of the Eisenhower matrix? Essentially it’s where you group tasks and to-dos in 4 categories:

Urgent and important — these are the things that you do. 

Urgent and not important — these are the things that you delegate

Important and not urgent — these are the things you create a plan/schedule

Not important and not urgent — these are the things you eliminate

This is just another way to approach all the things you think you need to do right now and figure out what really is necessary and what can wait. 

Know Your Goals

The last thing I want you to think about is your goal for Q4. It can be really easy to get swept up into the frenzy of the holiday season, especially this year knowing that eCommerce sales are at an all-time high. 

The goal doesn’t always have to be growth

Maybe you don’t care about having an epic holiday season. Maybe your business is already successful and you just want to coast through. Maybe your business is at a place where it basically runs on it’s own because you’ve spent years building it up and if you need a few more sales you can just turn on a Facebook Ad or send an email and you’re good. 

I was speaking to someone recently and this is where she’s at with her business. And what’s more important to her right now is just enjoying this time with her family. 

Before you get yourself into a frenzy doing all the things… really dig deep and think about what is most important to you this year. If growth really is it, then by all means do all the things—or as many of them as you can manage.

You can also get your hands on The Badass Holiday Planning Guide, which gives you a detailed step-by-step guide for your entire Q4 planning.

And if growth is not your goal this year, there is no fucking shame in that.

Your business, your way

Ultimately, this is your business and you get to build it however you want. That’s the beauty of being a self-funded and bootstrapped CEO my friend. You don’t have to answer to anyone but your damn self. 

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Jessica Totillo Coster of eCommerce Badassery eating gelato on stairs in Rome Italy

Hey, I'm Jessica eCommerce & Email Marketing Strategist

I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. Learning from the top experts in the digital marketing & eCommerce industry I love working with female entrepreneurs and teaching the secrets of 7-figure eCommerce businesses.

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