Tips for Makers to Stay Focused and Energized this Holiday Season

The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy and family. For a lot of makers, the holiday seasons are full of stress, sleepless nights, and a lot of anxiety. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and I hated every second of it. I didn’t get a lot of time with my family because I was constantly turning down invites so I could work on stock. I missed seeing a lot of friends for the same reasons. I was sick with a cold for most of November and December from what I think was too much stress in my life and not enough sleep. I don’t ever want to go through that again.

I’ve made a lot of changes to how I run my business the past two years. I graduated from university and started working full-time, so my available knitting time has decreased significantly. I didn’t know how to make this work for me until it was too late and I was stressed beyond belief. This is my second year out of school, my second crack at a holiday season being a full-time worker as well as a part-time maker. I’m going into this season with two strategies in mind, and I’d love to share them with you.

I’m proud to say I’m off to a great start. I’ve been enjoying my autumn activities with my friends and family, sleeping an appropriate amount, and my stress levels have been relatively low. Orders are still coming in steadily, I’m maintaining relationships with wholesale stockists. Things are going well! Here’s tip number one:

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Learn how to say no!

I am really bad at this. I hate saying no. I always want to be the person to dive in and help, or be the first to get the sale. Refusing to say no was where a lot of my stress was coming from last year. I’m trying a new approach this year.

For custom orders, I am temporarily closing so I can catch up on orders, and then reopening once I’ve completed everything. When selling through a store I only agreed to three consignment contracts this year, and the rest were wholesale. I didn’t want to lock my time into making a bunch of stock for consignment agreements when there was no guarantee it would sell. I decreased my requirement for wholesale orders so I could make this more feasible for other businesses, but I knew I had to start putting myself and my time first this year.

I’ll admit, this did make me lose a few selling relationships, but I knew it was the right choice based on my amount of spare time and the number of other businesses who were more than happy to agree to wholesale agreements. Confused on the difference between the two? I wrote a blog post not too long ago on how to create consignment and wholesale selling relationships with other businesses.

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Make SMART goals

Have you heard of the acronym “SMART” describing goal-making strategies? SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Based. Every business goal you make should follow these principles. If you are making crazy goals left, right, and center, you’ll over-promise yourself to too many people and start to spiral out of control.

Last year I took on so many orders, I had some poor customers patiently waiting for almost 2 months to get their product. I wasn’t paying attention to how many people I was saying “yes” to, and I wasn’t being realistic. This year I started developing SMART goals, and it has helped me so much!

Here’s an example. Every week I start with a plan of what I want to accomplish for Strings & Things. When I am making this list, I am trying to pay attention to every tenant of SMART goals.

– I write down SPECIFICALLY which styles of toques I am going to knit.
-I put down quantities on everything, so at the end of the week I can MEASURE my success.
-I even write down which days I am going to work on which orders and items so I know when it’s time to put the plan into ACTION.
-I give myself an attainable and REALISTIC number of items to make during the week.
– And finally, my daily, weekly, and monthly quotas are TIME-BASED so I can determine if I am meeting my goals or not.

I’ve been diligently following these two strategies for the past four or five months now. What is normally the most stressful period of my life has been much more calm and manageable. Even my friends and family have mentioned that they are happy that they get to see me more often this time of year, and that I’m usually in a better mood.

Now is the best time to try implementing some of these strategies on your maker-lifestyle! Let me know how things go and if you have any other practices that work well for you. I’d love to hear what gets you through these busy months!

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