Finding Balance In Retail During the Holidays

There is no doubt that working in retail we don’t necessarily have time to personally enjoy the holidays as we want to (or should). The holidays are chaotic but very energizing to those of us who have chosen retail as our field. Day-by-day from Halloween through Christmas Eve our work lives have returned to the cyclical holiday traditions of retail and are gravitating towards hectic. However, we should all be able to step back and find the time to relax and enjoy the moments we can with our families and friends.

One of the best changes we made in 2015 to our workplace holiday program was to move our holiday party to after January 1st so that ALL employees could attend and their favorite +1. With extended holiday hours at lifestyle centers and the additional coverage needed we found that we were eliminating attendance for people that really wanted to experience the workplace festivities. This also allowed for our seasonal employees to have a great send off was filed with recognition, fun and appreciation for their hard work during the holiday season.

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But…this post is more about how you can find some work/life balance and holiday enjoyment outside of your workplace and experience more of the holidays [despite your growing laundry list of to-do’s]. While achieving the proverbial work/life balance is a challenge and may seem rather ambitious (especially this time of year in our industry), it can be done…the following are some tips to help you accomplish what you need to while still finding the time to live your life this holiday season.

  • Get Organized:
    Love your calendars at this time of year. Take a day to put all of your scheduling in your calendar. Don’t overextend yourself. Identify days and or blocks of time that you will not schedule anything other than “you” time or “family” time. When keeping track of your “to do’s,” it’s always a good idea to write them down. You might think you can remember needing to pick up treats for the school party or for your team, but with everything else you have going on, you might just come home with the dry cleaning instead. Building out schedules for yourself and your family will help you stay focused and efficient and it will help you protect your personal time. As it relates to work – have your seasonal team trained and on-board early! Fill your team with amazing, highly-productive, empowered talent. This will help you step away from work when you are “off” and your business will be protected.  Read more about this here [added 3/14/16].
  • Avoid Burnout & Reengergize Yourself:
    Set aside time for yourself – for example, I schedule mani/pedis close to my workplace during the holidays – it’s relaxing and it gets me ready for the holiday parties I have committed us to on the weekends and evenings. Let’s face it – we can snack on something while we are (1) treating ourselves and (2) decompressing outside of our work zones. The time you set aside for yourself should focus on things that are good for you; things that might energize, relax, or reengage you in your compelling purpose (which is to enjoy what you can of the holiday season). Whatever your pleasure, be selfish and remind yourself that you need this time in order be the best you – you can be.
  • Strategize Your Schedule:
    Use your time wisely. When you leave a project or task incomplete, you tend to mentally carry it around with you which can leave you distracted and unable to mentally rest or move on to a new project. If you’re able, try to work until you’ve reached a natural breaking point in your project. This will give you a sense of completion while allowing you to walk away when you have other important tasks to attend to.  Schedule your least favorite tasks first and then things that you want to be involved with and doing last. This will help you get through your least anticipated projects and into things that spark your passion and excitement. Make sure you make time for your family traditions. If something has to give, make sure it’s not something that is important to your family.
  • Plan Your Family Time:
    I love the holidays and in my house we celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas and dedicate time and fun to each of the respective celebrations. Back in 2014 I allowed myself to get so distracted and consumed by work I didn’t spend any quality time having fun around these holidays with my children (ages 6 and 3, at the time). All the crafts they did, they did with our amazing nanny, Gina. Usually I involve my children in cooking but that year it was another “thing” I had to get through for party commitments and so I did it when they were sleeping overnight. It was a total parental fail that I still feel tremendous guilt around. So, I highly recommend making this a scheduling strategy priority because it is unbelievably important. It may seem cliché, but families are the ones who tend to suffer most when work is taking on a life of its own. They and you will feel disheartened if you don’t prioritize at least some scheduled time together for homework, their sports, crafts, cooking, making traditions, and/or family movie/dancing nights. This dedicated time will have a positive impact on you and your family.
  • Embrace Delegation and Learn To Say No To Upward Delegation:
    Whether you are dealing with a lot of things happening at work or at home, when people ask how they can help…let them. People, especially during the holidays, get a great feeling from altruistic actions/behaviors. They want to help. So, give them something to do that doesn’t absolutely require your participation – communicate your needs clearly and share the likely steps they will have to take to accomplish the assignment. Let them know you are available if they have any questions but let them take the lead. If someone who has volunteered or been given an assignment by you attempts to delegate it back to you. Say “No Way!”. You can read more about that here.
  • Disconnect From Your Devices:
    It may seem a bit counter-intuitive but occasionally shutting down your devices or even just turning off notifications can help you be more productive. We are inclined to think we are multitasking when we are checking email or social networking sites while we’re running errands. In actuality, we are distracting ourselves from the task at hand and creating an unsafe environment depending on what you are doing. You are much more effective and efficient by being fully present when getting through your to-do list. If you are in a retail leadership position – let your team know that Sunday’s are disconnected days for your and/or from 7:00pm – 7:00am you are not online or on your phone. This will help assuage any frustrations they have. If they are empowered and accountable – they will love this and make you proud without bugging you.
  • Reward Yourself:
    Take some time to reward yourself and celebrate your accomplishments during the week. When you stick to your schedule, when you make your family your priority…celebrate it! When your team has allowed you to manage your schedule without bleeding into your personal time – celebrate, recognize, and thank them!
  • Embrace Flexibility:
    You will always have anomalies pop up in the day and the week that will pull focus away from your schedule…it’s fine…you can either take care of it quickly, delegate it, or incorporate it into your schedule. Be willing and able to roll with the changes that life inevitably throws at you and maintaining your optimistic attitude will be a win that you can celebrate later.
  • Get Enough Sleep!:
    Eek…where do I start with this one…this is a huge opportunity for me but something I am working on. According to Officevibe, some research has shown that people who get 5 hours or less of sleep for a few nights in a row have the equivalent of a 0.1 blood alcohol level! Sleep affects much more than your productivity, a lack of sleep can also have massive effects on your health. And this is a huge problem, it’s estimated that 70 million Americans have a sleeping disorder. One study found that one sleepless night contributed to a 20-32% increase in the number of errors made by surgeons. Granted…we are in retail but, still – sleep is important to being effective and efficient during the day. Studies show that getting 6.5 to 7.5 hours of sleep is the best for you.

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Just because we work in retail doesn’t mean we have to miss out on the holidays or even dread them. We do have to start planning in September and have our strategy and schedules identified by Halloween though and with time dedicated to planning, sitting down with your work team and your family, respectively, and working through commitments and accountabilities, you can be be ahead of the chaos of the holidays and have a great structure ready to find balance and happiness during the season! If your workplace does things that make the holidays more challenging than they have to be – share this information with your boss early (like now if you are reading this post-holiday) so they can build the discussion topics into their summer meetings for the holiday season. Some ideas to surface to help planning and making the holidays more enjoyable:

  • Start holiday music the week of Thanksgiving instead of November 1st [this is a point of contention for teams and customers alike]
  • Allow and build in payroll for seasonal hiring early (all team hired by November 1st) to properly onboard and train seasonal team members to maximize customer experience and sales
  • Share holiday work week expectations or scheduling anomalies by mid-September for planning purposes
  • Email and phone calls to the stores only during scheduled times to keep focus on the selling floors and to help home office teams schedule writing and sharing effective communications
  • Holiday party plans for stores or company


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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