How I survive working in the Christmas holidays

Getting ready for the festivities.

Nobody likes to work over any holiday do they? I find Christmas really hard to stay motivated and get those hours in. Do you? Please don’t tell me I’m the only one… 

I’m really fortunate because my husband has the days between Christmas and New Year off work so technically it means that I could be catching up with work then. But seriously? Who does that?! I’m going to enjoy my time with him and my daughter seeing family, friends and just being our little family unit. We normally have guests to stay over New Year and this year we haven’t. I’m looking forward to some serious quiet time with books, television and my two favourite people.  

So here is my guide to getting my s**t together over the festivities:

“If you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail.”

Benjamin Franklin
  1. Plan. Plan and then plan some more. I look at my schedule over the coming week and see when I can work. Get my hours in. My business does tend to go quiet from about now until early January but this means that technically I should start looking for new business opportunities for 2019. 
  2. Follow the plan. I try and take myself away for a cup of tea each week away from my house and really get a grip on the ‘big picture.’ This really does help me and I think has benefitted my business. I do know where my strengths and weaknesses are (hello invoicing!) and next week I’ll use my time out of the house to see which clients will need hours over the Christmas period and where I can make up time once the school term starts. 
  3. Tell my plans to my husband and family. So that they know when I say, ‘I’ve really got to do this’ then they know I’m not trying to avoid a game of Monopoly but that I really do have a deadline.
  4. I’ll let my clients know when I’m not going to respond to messages unless they are super urgent. Again I find that communication really is the key. 
  5. I’ll use Hootsuite to schedule all social media activity for my clients
  6. Once my husband goes back to work (2nd January) I’ll be the full time parent which means waking up early to get an hours work in but my daughter will also be seeing my parents for one morning which will give me 3 hours to blitz anything urgent. Playdates, grandparents, god-parents are great ways to get a few hours for work and not feel like you are ditching your child. I’ll swap with a friend for a day – I’ll have her children for the morning and then she’ll have my daughter in the afternoon. It means we both get our work done AND the children have fun. 
  7. Give myself a break. I cannot tell you how freeing and inspiring it is to step away from the laptop. I’m a much better publicist when I’m reading other people’s books (that I’m not working on) or listening to a podcast that I’ve been recommended because it means I’m enjoying myself and not seeing it as a chore. I tend to beat myself up a bit about enjoying free time when I could be working/doing the chores/spending more time with Amy and this Christmas I’m determined to stop and just take a breath.  
I fully intend to be enjoying a few treats like this G&T over the Christmas period!

And that’s it really! My other motivation is to start away from my mobile phone for longer over the festivities. I want my daughter to know that Mummy is present and not half-looking at her phone when we are together. 

Half-term adventures 👨‍👩‍👧

Happy Monday! I’ve been a bit slack on here for the past week. What with juggling work and half-term, it meant that something had to be sacrificed and it was this! Hopefully you’ve kept up with me on Instagram instead.

Leicestershire have their half-term a week before most of the other counties I think and we took advantage of this and headed to Centre Parcs in Sherwood Forest for a Monday – Friday break. Its just a little cheaper on off-school holiday weeks. We’ve been visiting the holiday park since Amy was tiny as its close by, there are lots of activities to try and it still feels like a ‘proper holiday.’

Before that, we headed down to London to visit family and took advantage of the National Rail 2 for 1

We used the 2 for 1 offer with our National Rail train tickets

offers to gain cheaper entrance to The Globe. This is a great place to visit – really easy to get to and the tour/exhibition is fascinating. Top marks for being ready for children – they have a children’s audio guide and exhibition trail which meant Amy was able to take the tour at her own speed.

We visited The Globe in London

We definitely want to head back there when she’s older to watch a play.

On Monday, we packed the car and headed to Centre Parcs. We were going with my parents and had booked a 3 bedroom lodge. We opted for a lodge that was close to the main central area (near the pool and playgrounds) but one that hadn’t been refurbished so it was still a bit cheaper but the edges let’s say on the lodge were slightly frayed.

Here are my tips for getting the best from Centre Parcs:

We stayed at Centre Parcs in Sherwood Forest

  1. Take your own food. They have a great supermarket but it is expensive – £3.98 for a carton of Tropicana. I plan with my mum the meals before we go and split who is bringing what.
  2. If you do want to eat out in the evening, then book ahead. Lunches (expect on change over days) are normally less busy and this year we had a great breakfast at Cafe Rouge where we didn’t book at all. We were then given a 25% discount off our next meal – which we used on the Friday before heading home.
  3. Take your own bikes for riding round the park.

    Take your own bikes or at least a bike/wheels for the children. I’ve rented bikes in the past when we didn’t have a bike carrier which is fine but bringing your own wheels is more economical. Also bring portable bike locks and carrier bags as seat covers if it rains. No soggy bottoms here!

  4. If you want to play a sport then take your own racquets. We booked to play badminton and it was an extra £1 per racquet and then a take home shuttlecock for another £1. Its not a massive extra spend but you could use that saved money for something else.
  5. Don’t rely on the online booking system as there are plenty of deals to be had during your week there. I popped to their brilliant spa – Aqua Sana when we arrived to see what on the day and weekly specials they had running. I was able to book a last minute Twilight Spa session for my husband and I which was cheaper than online due to cancellations. (Take your own flip flops to wear during your session!)
  6. We stayed at 489 Lodge in the Oak area.

    You can gain access to the park from 12pm on your day of arrival. We got there a little after 1pm, parked the car outside our lodge (this is rare – normally you park in car park and then drive round later) and went straight away to explore. You don’t feel like you are wasting your first day there. Likewise on the Friday morning, we packed the car up and then went onto activities. We eventually left just after 2pm. I do know families that stay for the whole of Friday but we needed to pick up our dog!

  7. Bring a bag that is dedicated to the pool – swimsuits, towels, entertainment etc… as you can spend your entire day in there. Keep it separate from the rest of your stuff. I saw a family bring their cooler box with a picnic! (note to self – do this!) £1 coins are required for the lockers.
  8. Explore the whole park – there is so much to see away from the central village – birdwatching dens, golf-putting, a nature reserve – lots to see and do. Easy to do by bike! You don’t have to pay extra for the playgrounds or the walks. Plus there is so much going on, that it makes great entertainment too – horse-drawn carriages clip clop by and the beach by the lake is great.
  9. For the evenings, I took a selection of dvds to watch (you get a dvd player in the lodge) and each family member got to choose one each night. You are allowed to take Crackle logs with you (or purchase them at CP) and we were very cosy with a fire and a film each evening.
  10. Sounds silly but enjoy it! We saw a few families there that were booked on an activity or two every day. I enjoy a slower break – a mix of scheduled activities, messing around in the pool and pottering around the park.

To sum it up, I love Centre Parcs! It is expensive to visit but again you can make it work for you – decide what your priorities are before you go and then just enjoy every single minute. It is always super clean, kind staff and they are brilliant at fixing anything that doesn’t work. Brave CP!

How I handle half-term

Hello! How are you? Week going okay? We are based in Leicestershire and the school holidays here are always slightly out of sync with the rest of the country! Which is great in terms of going to visit tourist attractions when it isn’t so busy but can be tricky when being on holiday a week before everyone else. It normally means that it can take longer for me to finish tasks as when I’m away, everyone is at work and when I’m back, well you get the picture!

As a freelancer, I am hugely lucky that I can pick and choose when I work. But it also means that I do not get any holiday pay whatsoever. Therefore during school holidays, I tend to take a hit on my income because I do not have set childcare in place. The bonus is that I’m around for my daughter and we do fun things but I also could potentially lose money too.

Here’s what I do:

I look to see if there are any extra projects I can work on before or after the break.

Take on an extra project:  I look at my schedule and see if I can fit in another project before or after a planned holiday. This does mean extending the 9 to 3 to working in the evenings after my daughter has gone to bed but I find that it is worth the pain.  I have a friend who takes on a few extra baskets of ironing and walks a few more dogs in the run up to a holiday so that she has a little more cash in her pocket.

Tell my clients: I have a couple of clients that I work for daily and I let them know that I’ll be making up the time either the week before or after, plus I’ll be answering emails during certain hours. These tend to be 7-9am and 7-9pm. I find that you end up doing more work (which is unpaid) to make up the week you took off. Or is that just me?

Forget the admin: A lot of my time is spent organising my company’s admin – accounts and follow ups. During the holiday, I leave it to one side and then pick it up afterwards.

Hootsuite
I use Hootsuite to plan my social media

Schedule all Social Media in advance: I know lots of people that do this already but I really enjoy the conversation flow of posting in real time however during the holidays, I’ll use Hootsuite to schedule a few posts and then I’ll pop as well when the timing is right.

Childcare:  Yes, if there is an opportunity that cannot be missed, I’ll ask my Mum or a friend to look after Amy for me. This can be for a few hours or a whole day. To be honest, this happens more in the summer holidays. With half-term I can juggle a bit more but I endeavour to let me clients know that I’m not around but will make up the time.

Breathe:  The holidays are always quite stressful when trying to combine children with work but once I made the decision to not take on as much and

Live in the moment and try to forget about work.

then step up before and after the break then it made me really determined to enjoy the break.

Have a great day!