Keeping your wits in the peak of the spring retail garden season is no easy feat. Getting through spring often feels like entering a black hole on one side, then emerging on the other side in an alternate universe once it subsides. Everything in between is just a blur. I don’t know about you, but if you’re a hard driver like me, it can be easy to sacrifice self-care during very busy times. Unfortunately, that never works out well for anyone — especially your employees.
When you have a short season in which to make a lot of hay, the pressure to succeed can feel overly intense. It is a time when you may need to pull back a bit to make sure you’re not sacrificing positive company culture — and your sanity — for profits.
Clearing your head before you enter the black hole of spring — and being able to see the light on the other side — is one important strategy to managing spring stress. As the owner or manager, you should plan for your breaks, both before and after your busy spring season. Schedule a few days off just before you know the season is going to take a big upswing. Taking a little time to clear your head before you must dive in full steam can help rebalance your energy. Plan some time off right after the close of your spring season to do the same. Sometimes the best gift you can give your staff after spring is to leave them alone for a little while! Your family will also appreciate you pre-scheduling time away from work.
If you know you’re going to be spending lots of extra hours at work through spring, simplifying your personal life as best you can will reduce some mental pressure. Big house projects? Maybe take those off the to-do list for spring. Hate doing your taxes? Get them done before spring hits or outsource them. Consider outsourcing anything that really stresses you out, such as housework or general yard work, even if it’s only temporarily through spring. Don’t overcommit yourself to things like volunteer work or organizational events, unless you can truly spare the time and energy. Simplifying can reserve some “you” time for family, self-care and socializing.
Working longer or more hours does not translate to better productivity. While everyone has their own threshold, you need to acknowledge your own limits. As an owner or manager, you might need to acknowledge that working 60-80-hours a week through spring isn’t resulting in a good ROI. It just stresses you — and your staff — to the max. It might also make you sick. In fact, most people’s true productivity levels come to a screeching halt by the time you hit 50-54 hours of work in a week.
Pay attention to your normal productivity rhythm and when you typically run out of steam. Work on tasks when your brain can most easily focus on them, even if those times fall earlier or later than the normal work schedule.
One of the worst things you can do is to neglect your physical health during the busy season. While you might feel exhausted and don’t think you have enough time, you need to get your body moving. Whatever works best for you — even light walking or a bit of yoga goes a long way. I hate exercising. But I’m also fully aware of how much better I feel when I do it consistently, and how much more energy it gives me to tackle stress and longer working hours. Regular exercise also boosts your immune system to keep you healthy during busy times.
Taking breaks, even quick ones, can have major positive effects on your mind and body. Even five minutes off the sales floor — or away from your desk — for some quiet time, a stretch and extra water is a healthy habit.
If you’re sick, STAY HOME. Your staff doesn’t need you passing them an illness, which we all know spreads like wildfire in a retail environment. If you really want to stress yourself out in spring, get everyone in the office and store sick. And no, no one believes it’s just allergies.
As the owner or manager, you must model these stress-reducing self-care strategies for your staff and encourage them to do the same. Make sure your staff gets much needed vacation time on the books in advance so they can also see light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t require, push, or guilt your staff to work through illnesses; sick time exists for a reason. Be sure to train all staff on beneficial stretching and hydration strategies to combat fatigue and injury. When you don’t take care of yourself in spring, chances are you’re going to stress out everyone around you.
Most importantly, don’t forget to have a little fun. It’s contagious too — in a good way.