The busy season survival guide

Regular breaks and flexible scheduling can help your team get through the crunch times.

The busy season survival guide

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Whether you work in retail with the holidays approaching, as an accountant during tax time, in a medical office at the height of cold and flu season, or a theme park attendant in the summer, busy seasons can be challenging to get through. They often require longer working hours, and the stakes are typically higher during crunch times. As such, busy periods can be very stressful and take a physical and mental toll if you’re not prepared.

We turned to career experts for their strategies on how to get through your busy season like a pro.

Change your mindset

Whenever you anticipate something with dread and worry, it’s hard to break that negative cycle. “A common expectation of a busy season is that you will be overworked and stressed, not energized and inspired,” says Allison Holzer, co-author of Dare to Inspire: Sustain the Fire of Inspiration in Work and Life.

Instead, as a crazy project deadline or large customer influx looms, try changing your view about it. “When you view stress as an opportunity to overcome an obstacle or challenge yourself to learn and grow in new ways, it can be good for you—even inspiring,” says Holzer.

Create checklists

It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed when everything seems to hit at once, but a priority checklist can help you keep things in perspective. “This is what pilots do, and when a crisis kicks in, they don’t argue, they don’t brainstorm—they get out their checklists,” says Lars Sudmann, former CFO of Procter & Gamble Belgium and TEDx speaker on leadership.

It works the same for anyone who is going through a busy season. “You should have your one-page checklist ready, and go through those step-by-step. This was especially helpful for the operations teams that I worked with, and avoids the ‘running around like a headless chicken’ syndrome,” says Sudmann.

Practice self-care

At any time of the year, managing your physical, mental, and emotional energy can allow you to set the appropriate work-life balance you desire, says Holzer. But this is even more true during crunch times. “If you take care of yourself in each of those areas, you will set yourself up to access higher levels of productivity and performance, and this is similarly resonant when your career may dictate you to work longer hours,” she says.

One of the most effective things you can do when stress gets very high, is to focus on relaxation breathing, suggests Sudmann. “Breathing 10 times in a focused manner already goes a long way, but of course one can use more sophisticated strategies such as Warrior Breathing, or use apps such as Headspace,” he says.

Take breaks

Making sure you allow for “resets” throughout the day to reflect on how you’re feeling, and eating healthy can allow you to not only work longer hours, but more efficiently as well, says Holzer.

She recommends taking frequent, small breaks throughout the day, and if possible, to combine physical activity with something that shifts your emotions or mindset. “For example, you can play an uplifting song while stretching out tense muscles for just 60 seconds, or take the stairs rather than the elevator and while you walk, think about an inspiring moment, or a meaningful goal for the day,” she says.

Do some prep

As a busy period approaches, there are things you can do to help you power through. “Going through a busy season is a lot like running a marathon—you have to get physically and mentally prepared leading up to it with clear goals, you have to make sure you have social support and checkpoints during it to stay motivated and focused, and you have to plan adequate recovery time afterward to regroup and recoup,” says Holzer.

Bond and commiserate with your team

A shared mission—like braving through a busy work season—can strengthen everyone’s connections to one another and to their collective goals, says Holzer. What’s more, if your colleagues are rising to the challenge, their example can go viral. “When a person is inspired, they evoke verbal and physical cues that others around them pick up on, allowing others to ‘catch’ inspiration,” says Holzer.  

Ask yourself: What can you do to be the one to inspire others? And who inspires you?

Look for motivators

If you’re in a position of authority, you should take the time to figure out what inspires and motivates your staff before busy season begins. “Do they thrive on rewards? Positive recognition and celebrations? Having clear and shared goals? Find out what inspires them most and build into busy season to help them stay motivated,” says Holzer.

Busy seasons are also the perfect times to lead by example, says Sudmann. “It’s a powerful thing for every leader to be there during the busy time. That shows everybody that ‘we’re in it together’ and creates a team feeling,” he says. The worst thing you can do? Send an email from a vacation spot or from the comfort of your home while your team is enduring a period of stress, he ads.

Finally, give your staffers ample opportunities to recharge, says Holzer. “Something as simple as a workplace yoga session or a walk during lunch can help staff members manage their energy and stay motivated.”

Reflect and reward yourself when it’s over

Doing a post-mortem after completing a major deadline or closing out your busy season is always a good idea. It allows you to take a breath and figure out what strategies worked, what you could have done better, and what lessons you can apply next time.

Once that’s done, though, it’s very important to take some “R&R,” says Holzer. And by that she means rest and reward yourself. “You’ve just run a marathon, now take some time off to rest your muscles, reconnect with friends and loved ones, and regroup.”

Your achievements can take you further

Your company's busy season may make you exhausted just thinking about it, but it also provides you with ample opportunities to shine. And that's exactly the kind of achievements that hiring managers want to see. Make sure you keep track of all the monumental tasks you've conquered—it's a great way to negotiate a raise and boost your talking points during a job interview. Are you ready to bring your hustle to the next level? Join Monster for free todayAs a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads.