From the November 2000 issue of Startups

Imagine this: You take two weeks off during the holidays, all your work gets done, and you have unlimited time to spend with family and friends. Yeah, right. While other people enjoy paid vacation time to cook that Thanksgiving turkey, you're meeting client deadlines, shipping products, holding conference calls, helping with children's holiday pageants, preparing the house for holiday parties, and (the ever famous) planning how and when to see your family. It's enough to make a homebased entrepreneur feel a little . . . well . . . stressed.

"I tend to get stressed out over the holidays," says Mia Cronan, whose Greensburg, Pennsylvania-based EMC Media publishes the e-zine Main Street Mom
mainstreetmom.com). "I feel tremendous pressure, and I fall short. Before I know it, the holidays are over, I'm wiped out, and things didn't go the way I 'pictured.' "

Cronan, 34, says the time just before the holiday itself is her busiest, while she's trying to gather, organize and upload pertinent content for her e-zine. "I have had to juggle things by using long car trips to read my tutorials, write articles, proofread my work and do research while my husband drives," she says. "Or I've had to stay up well after visiting relatives have gone to bed to get caught up on my work."

Does this sound like your life? If 16-hour days are giving you the Christmas crankies, it's time to mellow out and enjoy the holiday groove. Remember, you are not Super Entrepreneur, able to make a holiday turkey with one hand and complete client projects with the other. "If you know the holidays will be busy for you, be realistic about how much holiday activity you will be able to participate in," advises Cheryl Demas, author of The Work-at-Home Mom's Guide to Home Business (Hazen Publishing). "Consider what kind of memories you are creating for your family. Will they remember the holidays as a happy time, or will they remember you as the stressed-out workaholic who never had time for anything?"

This year, brainstorm some ways to make your holiday easier. Do you really have to burn the midnight oil sitting in front of your computer? Are you the only person who can clean the house? Timesavers like online shopping and getting your holiday meals catered can help balance the clock in your favor.

"For the past two Christmases, I've done at least 90 percent of my gift-purchasing online," says Cronan. "Paying for shipping is worth not taking my three girls to the mall and dealing with parking. I can shop at 3 a.m. if I have to."

And remember, sometimes saying no is the best timesaver of all. "If you don't have the time [to run holiday errands], say so, and don't back down," says Demas.

The holidays are supposed to be fun, aren't they? So take time to celebrate and schedule a little time for yourself. "Schedule an hour per evening to do something family- and holiday-related, such as reading stories with your kids, baking cookies or phoning an old friend," advises Cronan. "Don't let the holidays pass you by while you're working away." Enjoy the season!


Heather Lloyd-Martin (heather@successwks.com) is the owner of SuccessWorks, a new media copywriting firm. A recovering crisis junkie, she prefers to avoid stress whenever possible.