By Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting
Photo by Ahmed Saffu
By its very nature, a career in the events industry is fast-paced and high-stress during peak season. The hours are long and late with setups beginning in the wee hours of the morning and tear-downs lasting well into the night. As professionals who want to provide top-level service, we sometimes forget that we are human ourselves, and further, we are people with homes and families. Our busy season takes a toll on our loved ones as much as it does on us, so how can we prepare in the off-season to minimize the damage?
Start with Best Practices
It makes sense that running your business at peak efficiency would address a lot of the stresses of the busy season. Clients appreciate the resulting flawless performance and you, your team and your family will love the net impact of not wasting time in repairs and do-overs!
One of the best ways to make your business operate at its best is to implement block scheduling. Begin by prioritizing the kinds of tasks you have to complete on a typical business day – payroll management, employee training, social media management, public relations and so on. Set aside a block of time each day (or once a week, depending on the task) when you will exclusively focus on one task. During this time, you will shut off all contact with any other parts of the business – no peeking at emails or hopping on Pinterest unless the task demands it. By eliminating distractions and identifying the most important items on your to-do list, you will find that you waste far less time and things actually get done!
Manage Client Expectations
A hard lesson to learn as event professionals is that sometimes the best thing that we can do for clients (especially the really high maintenance ones) is to manage their expectations, not entertain their every whim. Establish inviolable business hours, don’t answer emails in the middle of the night, and plan to answer emails just once a day except in emergencies. Once your clients recognize that you will dutifully address their needs in a reasonable amount of time, they will demand less immediate attention and you will regain control over your schedule. Control = efficiency, not to mention greater personal satisfaction.
Use Business Tools!
We live in a glorious age of software and apps to help make the management of our businesses efficient and affordable! There are so many different programs available to help you do everything from manage projects to create custom forms. Use your off-season to explore your options, try out a few, and implement the ones that best fit your business needs. These are just a few of my favorite tools for computers and mobile devices:
- Basecamp: project management that keeps your to do lists in check
- Calendly/Acuity– calendar management
- Wufoo – create, distribute, collect and store forms
- Schedugram/Latergram – social media management
- Freshbooks – accounting software
- Fiverr– assistance with random (time-killing) jobs- I love it for transcription personally
Best Practices at Home
Of course, it’s impossible to get your household in order without specifically addressing your home life! Finding work-life balance starts with getting all of those things that drain your time and energy under control.
Make a REAL Grocery List
I know, it seems so basic, but the truth is that most of us either fail to make, or at least fail to stick to a list when we buy our groceries. The time and cost savings both prove, however, that it is worth the effort. You can save even more time, and often more money, if you live in a community that has a grocery delivery service. It’s all about investing the time in really considering what you need and how to best source it.
Commit to a Weekly Cleaning List
Oh, does this sound boring and like the last thing you want to do – but take the time to implement this in the off-season and you will thank yourself (while sitting in a spotless living room) in the busy season!
Keep it easy- changing out sheets, towels, giving areas an extra wipe down. Our list takes less than an hour a week and it ensures I won’t be mortified if anyone just swings by to say hello. Everyone who takes this piece of sage advice eventually comes back to thank me!
Create a Birthday/Gift/Holiday Strategy
Once yearly, I make a shopping trip specifically to pick up wrapping paper along with purchasing a handful of hostess/host gifts to bring with me to parties. I run by the greeting card section for a few “just in case” purchases and then I circle back after the holidays to grab what I need for next year. I’m never empty handed on the way to a dinner party or short on birthday wishes when Facebook reminds me of an impending celebration.
Use Tools (The Home Version)
Just as I am a huge proponent of using tools to make your business life more efficient, if there is a cost-efficient, easy-to-use and proven tool to make your home life work like a well-oiled machine, I’m a fan. The slow season is the time to look for life hacks that will make your home run smoothly when you have the least time to devote to important tasks.
Some of my current favorites include:
- Amazon Subscribe and Save – I’ve got a slew of regular household items that I need to replace with regularity. I went back on my Amazon account one day and realized a pattern so now I add things like shampoo and household cleaners to the subscription program and they just arrive at my doorstep.
- Chewy.com– Have a pet? Or pets? I now have discounted subscriptions to all of my prescription pet foods, litter and supplies. They send me a reminder prior, in case I need to pause an order or purchase soon.
- Nest– I love the peace of mind of our Nest fire detectors that test out our batteries for us monthly. It’s an easy thing to hand off- one less thing to worry about!
- AnyList App– Share to do lists with family members and roommates- plus I sync it to my Amazon Echo so I can add grocery items as I’m looking through the fridge.
- Crock Pot/Instant Pot– If you don’t have one (or both), now is the time to invest. All you need to do is come home one night from work with dinner ready to go. You’ll never look back.
Don’t feel like you have to tackle all of these ideas at once. Part of finding peace is accepting that perfection is a process, an ideal that always stays just a tiny bit out of reach. The more you organize, automate and prioritize, though, the closer you get, so commit to taking a first step the next time you experience a lull between events. I have no doubt you will thank yourself when you do!