There are times that get painfully busy for many of us, whether it’s the Christmas rush, an unseasonal boost in sales, or navigating multiple roles – it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when there’s lots to do and too little time.
We’ve scoured the brains of people who navigate these times with ease to find out what systems they use to keep on track over a busy period. These tips are helpful for any point in the year, but really make the difference when time and energy are in short supply.
Having good systems in place can also be super helpful in the event that you need someone else to share the workload or step in while you’re out-of-action or away.
Use checklists to conserve brain power
Within your day-to-day workflow, there are often tasks that have a number of standard steps or things you need to remember. Write checklists for your regular tasks or processes that you can refer to as you go, to keep track of where you’re up to and ensure you don’t miss a step. Here’s an example:
When an order arrives:
- Check order details and confirm any special instructions
- Check that you’ve received payment and update your Felt sales page
- Prepare the order for shipping
- Ship the order – update your Felt sales page
- Send tracking details to the buyer
- Post feedback for the buyer
The beauty of checklists is that they reduce the mental load of having to recall each step, which means you can reserve your brain power for problem-solving and creative thinking, confident in the knowledge that past you has already thought this bit through.
Pre-purchase and prepare packaging
Think about bulk purchases of packaging materials you know you’ll need – packing paper, tape, etc. – and be prepared with these in advance. There may be things you can do in quiet times, such as cutting backing card to size or string to length, that will streamline your process in the busy times.
If you have items of uniform size, consider bulk purchases of envelopes, boxes, or postage bags. When you factor in your time, it can be cheaper to buy postage-paid options and be fully prepared than to run around getting a perfect option every time.
Pre-print your sender address labels, or get a stamp made. There are lots of printing options, from buying label paper to use in your home printer, to getting things printed in bulk by a professional printer, or buying your own label printer.
Set up systems for shipping
Have a look at different shipping providers to find the best option for you, and set up accounts and systems so you can process and despatch orders quickly and easily.
Consider your options for contactless delivery and be ready to adapt – during COVID-19 Alert Levels, this can determine whether or not you can continue to despatch your orders.
Create templates for your communication
We’re forever writing messages to different people that say essentially the same thing. Templates don’t need to be impersonal. Make a Word document or Google doc and write out what you generally say, leaving gaps or placeholders for adding specific information (remember to highlight these, so that you don’t forget to add the detail!).
Consider printing a set of instructions, a postcard, or thank you note to add to purchases and top it off with a handwritten extra sentence or signing by hand each time.
Systemise your work space and storage
Set up a work space where everything is where it needs to be when you need it. Stop running around looking for the scissors, or your spare piece of whatever whatever!
There are many ways to make work spaces that work. You might be lucky enough to have a spare room or dedicated studio space, but if not, there are still creative ways to make use of limited space.
- Drawers, containers, or shelves with a labelled, logical order: for example, one for tools, one for packaging, one for materials, one for work in progress, and one for finished products
- Different spaces for different tasks: a making space, storage for completed items, a shelf for pre-packaged items ready to send, and a packing space with packaging stuff on hand, ready to go
- A repurposed ironing board that holds all of your tools then collapses flat and slides under your bed
- Easily moveable trays and/or containers that you can shift off the kitchen table when you need it for outlandish purposes such as eating
- Use your wall space – put up shelves, or one of those pegboard ‘trace the outline’ tool walls
- Mine Pinterest for work space ideas!
Plan personal touches in advance
If you like to add personal touches to your packages, prepare in advance so you can quickly and easily personalise and pop them in.
Pre-empt postage problems
Sometimes things get lost or damaged in the post. It just happens. Next time you’re at the Post Shop or in touch with your shipping provider, get a couple of the forms that you’ll need if something goes missing or is damaged. Having these ready to fill out in your work space can save a lot of time and hassle when you’re under the pump.
Block your time to get in the zone
Just like setting up a space so it’s ready to go, you can set up your time in the same way. A solid 30 minutes on a task can be a lot more productive than three lots of 10 minutes. You may also find you’re better at different types of work at certain times of day. Arrange your time accordingly!
Prioritise at the start of the day
The act of prioritising is quite complex and uses a lot of brain energy. It actually gets harder to do later in the day, so try writing a list at the start of the day of all the things you need to do today, and number them in priority order. Put in a few simple tasks that you can cross off easily – nothing like the feeling of progress!
Know what to do if it gets too much
Be ready with a plan to put into motion if you can see things getting out of hand. Your plan might include:
- A list of possible helpers who can step in and help you get back on track
- Contacting Felt Support for advice or assistance
- Putting a note in your shop header and/or item descriptions to manage buyer expectations if delays are likely – good communications make everybody more understanding and give buyers the chance to decide whether they’re willing to wait
- Putting your Felt shop into holiday mode while you catch up, with a message to buyers about when you will re-open and accept orders again
How do you plan for the busy times? Share your tips in the comments below!
Image credit: Jazmin Quaynor