Slipping into a Seasonal Business Routine
My business year has two primary seasons: the convention season and the contemplative season. The end of July saw the end of business travel until next February, unless something unforeseen crops up, and I have to admit I’m delighted to be home. I enjoy traveling, speaking, and being at conventions, but home is my anchor point. Here are three things I’ve learned from years of this routine.
Make time for renewal
The most important thing to accomplish between convention seasons is not external, but internal. For me, the shift begins as the season winds down. I attend a soul-nourishing conference at which I do nothing but listen to great speakers and enjoy being with others of like mind. This tends to be mentally and spiritually refreshing, and begins the process of slowing down the go-go-go pace of the convention season. This year, I capped the season with a week-long art class. It was a delight to live on campus, immersed in creativity from early morning to late evening, with people who shared a love for truth, beauty, and goodness.
Once the travel season is over, I schedule a time of home-centered rest and recuperation. I can’t totally abandon my desk – there is a daily deluge of business-related emails – but I make a point of minimizing time spent there. Instead of desk work, I focus on restoring a peaceful schedule with time for home tasks, such as unpacking completely for the first time in a couple of months, laundry, cooking, the eradication of dust bunnies, and most delightfully, reading and creative projects. Although reading is the only thing that seems directly related to my business life, each of these things together forms a serene whole in which I can contemplatively prepare for the next convention season.
Create simple routines
During convention season, there are many weeks when I arrive home late Sunday night, unpack and launder on Monday, repack on Tuesday, and am back on the road by Wednesday. There isn’t much time for anything else except quick visits with our grandchildren. Keeping things simple during this season, eating fresh, healthy food, and focusing on family during those two days at home is what makes it possible to survive the season, and even enjoy it. I’ve learned to
- Schedule all medical, dental, and optical appointments for the month before the busy season begins.
- Have a meal routine that makes it easy to shop and eat. For example, we’ve had omelets for dinner on Wednesday night for many years. It’s a quick, easy meal that varies with whatever produce is fresh and the kinds of cheese we have.
- Keep a packing list in the suitcase, including basic clothing, toiletries, electronics and chargers, etc.
Know the priority project
There are always many projects I’d like to work on during the season of contemplation, but I’ve learned that no matter how much planning I do, less will be done than I hope, but more than I deserve. In creating a routine for the contemplative season, I try to build in time for the focus project, plus all the things my mind, soul, and spirit need in order to be prepared for the coming active season. The truth is that the contemplative season sets the stage for the conference season, so it’s the most important part of the year. Focus is essential!
By the end of convention season, I usually know what the priority project of the year will be. Last year, I had two major projects; the republication of the 1857 McGuffey Readers and a third edition of Excellence in Literature. This was too much for one season, and it made it hard to focus completely on either project, and nearly impossible to keep up with the communicative and administrative parts of the business. The years in which I accomplish most (and enjoy the process) are the years I am able to immerse in a single major business project, leaving ample time for reading, study, contemplation, research, and creative projects that I need to do in order to be prepared for the next conference season.
If I’m not sure which of the many possible projects I should tackle, I use mind-mapping to go through the various options. My process is an adaptation of Benjamin Franklin’s classical decision-making method. I’ve changed the format to one that better fits my visual/graphic preference, and added in consideration of spiritual factors a outlined in the decision-making method outlined by St. Ignatius in The Spiritual Exercises (thanks to blogger Tim van Gelder for pointing out this last resource, and the possible connection between the two). This method allows me to consider ROI (return on the investment of my time and resources), as well as expressed need from customers, amount of time required, and personal preference, all in a format that makes brainstorming easy and organic.
Once the priority project is decided, I work on a schedule that leaves times for things that matter – including family, home, reading to learn and grow, and creativity. But that’s a post for another time.
If you have a seasonal business, how do you make the most of your quiet season?
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