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Holiday How-To: Organizing for the Holidays (and Beyond)

Oct 3, 2008

by bethela

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Managing time can feel like a nearly impossible hurdle. There are lots of books and resources on this topic — most sitting on well-intentioned and very busy readers’ bookshelves waiting to be read.  We recently had a few Virtual Labs sessions on the topic and we have summarized the highlights below.

Before you start, take some time to think about why time management is so challenging.  You may think that it should be an easy concept to master, but it’s important to understand why you’re having difficulty managing your time in order to address those challenges. Most of us like to focus on the easy tasks so we can feel like we are crossing things off our to-do lists. You may find yourself doing the things that have been requested by others, time sensitive tasks and scheduled or planned activities.  Phew! When that is all done, there is not much time for things like attending to your shop, fulfilling orders and all of the creating you want to do for the holidays.

So what to do?  There are three key components to time management:

  • Plan – What do I need to do?  When do I need to do it?
  • Manage – How do I set up a personal system to be most effective and efficient?
  • Organize – What do I need to do to focus my work and decrease time wasters?

Planning. Start the planning process by setting goals.  Make a detailed list of actionable tasks necessary to accomplish that goal. Rank what you will do in the order you plan to achieve it. Below is an example of a goal to reach out to blogs, and the steps necessary to achieve it.

Estimate the time it will take to do each task, remembering to keep in mind all of the other commitments you have. I like to take a calendar and map out the time so I can visually see how long everything will take. Remember to be realistic!

In the planning stages, some other ideas that will help save you time in the long run include:

  • Pre-ordering Packaging Supplies – Including boxes, international custom forms, bubble wrap and gift wrapping. (Offering gift wrapping is a great service to offer to your buyers.)
  • Create a Mailing List of Your Customers – For all of those updates you plan to send during the holidays. (Only for those people who have opted in, of course.)
  • Plan Your Promotional Activities – Order your business cards, stickers, etc. ahead of time and outline other activities such as pitching to blogs or local press.

Manage.  It is easy to get distracted during the day, particularly with phone calls, drop in visitors, emails and instant messaging potentially filling up a big portion of the day. Take some time to measure how much of your day you spend doing these activities and you may find there are some hours to take back.

Overall Tips:

  • Prioritize Your To-do Lists – Accomplish all of the high priority items on your list and fill in with the other tasks as you have time.
  • Focus on a Few Key Priorities – Decide up front what those are.
  • Attack the Important and Unpleasant Tasks Early – This will not only give you a big sense of accomplishment for the day, it will also be a huge relief!
  • Batch Processes – Think about answering emails every two hours, instead of every two minutes. This will save time and will keep you focused on the tasks at hand. You can also do this with instant messaging, making yourself available only at certain times of the day.
  • Block Time to Do Your Work, Ideally Without Interruptions – This is easier said than done, but if you can do more continuous work, you will get more done in less time.

Organize.  There are 3 key areas where you might want to start organizing.

1. Record Keeping:  Detailed and accurate record keeping is critical to track your costs, inventory, orders, supply purchase, tracking numbers and payments.  You don’t need anything fancy for record keeping.  Some options:

Pen & Paper: You can use a notebook, journal or bound general ledger.

Spreadsheets:  We have an inventory spreadsheet you can download for free.  There are also Etsy sellers that have a wide variety of spreadsheets to fit different needs, including JMMFinance, serena, simple solutions, Lldesign and lots of others.

Accounting Software:  For large volumes or more detailed inventory tracking, you might want to consider accounting software packages like Quickbooks or Peachtree.

2. Organizing your computer and email:  The ideas below work well for both your desktop and your email inbox.

  • Organized Desktop. A well organized desktop can help to alleviate many headaches during the holidays.  Think about a filing system and what each file will be called. For instance, you might have a file for shipped orders, item descriptions and other components of your Etsy business.
  • Keep all Etsy-related files together.
  • Back up your work.
  • Create templates. Save time when it comes to frequently sent emails and answers to questions.

3. Organize your Space.  Some people are fortunate to have a dedicated place in their home for their craft-related work and fulfillment supplies. If you don’t have a dedicated place, you still need to create a system using baskets, closets or whatever space you have. Regardless of your space, thinking about where you will keep your supplies, finished items and shipping supplies, as well as creating a system to utilize those supplies will help keep stress at bay. Mary Ink‘s work space is a great example of well-functioning, organized place to work.  Rachelaustin and many of the other sellers in the Quit Your Day Job series also have great pictures of their organized work spaces that you can peruse for inspiration.

Tips You Can Try Today

1. Identify non-productive habits that absorb your time (and creates ways to limit them).

2. Create a plan and use it. Set goals and plan ahead by breaking down goals into smaller projects with deadlines.

3. Prioritize “to-do” lists every night for the next day.

4. Do the #1 priority task first and stick with it until it is done.

5. Use a calendar to help stay organized.

6. Block time on your calendar to create, or specific goals you are having difficulty accomplishing.

7. Keep specific lists.

8. Manage distractions and control interruptions (e.g. batch email).

9. Learn how to say no politely. (Don’t take on more than you can do!)

10. Just do it!!! Even when you are feeling overwhelmed, starting on one piece of work is a great start.


If you have any ideas or input on how you stay organized, leave it in the comments below!

For more how-tos about selling, see the Seller Handbook.

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105 comments

  • tinygreenapples

    tinygreenapples said 9 years ago

    Great tips!

  • jennifergibbs

    jennifergibbs said 9 years ago

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Cajajewelry

    Cajajewelry said 9 years ago

    thanks for all the great suggestions!

  • NicoAndMooMoo

    NicoAndMooMoo said 9 years ago

    I'll print this article and give it to my boyfriend, I can't always be the organizer here! :-)))

  • zeng

    zeng said 9 years ago

    love it!

  • OceanGrrl

    OceanGrrl said 9 years ago

    Bethela, thanks lots and lots for the useful tips. I was feeling very overwhelmed by so many things, now I feel I can write up a plan and take action.

  • SnuggleHerd

    SnuggleHerd said 9 years ago

    Thanks, Bethela! Good tips! Blocking time for your work without interruptions is key (something I need to try harder at). My biggest tip: don't answer the phone when you are focused on your work - just let your voicemail get it and then check it later when you are at a good stopping point. That helps me a lot.

  • craftyfolk

    craftyfolk said 9 years ago

    good inspiration and info here! thank you

  • WingsDove

    WingsDove said 9 years ago

    I agree with SnuggleHerd. The best way to get something done is to focus on your work, one thing at a time. Don't answer the telephone, don't check your email -- save that for set times. Lots of good advice in this article.

  • TheSingingBird

    TheSingingBird said 9 years ago

    Thank you for these tips. I still have so much learning to do!

  • glassredefined

    glassredefined said 9 years ago

    Thanks..look like good info. I'll be studying this one for a while!

  • JJMFinance

    JJMFinance said 9 years ago

    I really enjoyed this article! Thanks for including my shop in the spreadsheet links. One of my key methods to stay organized is to do lists. Sometimes I just put them on yellow sticky notes, while other times I make them electronically in spreadsheets.

  • missfruitfly

    missfruitfly said 9 years ago

    This is helpful, thank you for posting.

  • WiseEarthHerbs

    WiseEarthHerbs said 9 years ago

    I feel more organized already! Thanks for all the great tips.

  • allisajacobs

    allisajacobs said 9 years ago

    Thanks for these great tips...really got me focused! Now...off to go organize something.

  • craftycrew

    craftycrew said 9 years ago

    Great tips! My crafting has taken over my dining room!

  • discodip

    discodip said 9 years ago

    thanks for the great tips!

  • JeweLAWryStore

    JeweLAWryStore said 9 years ago

    I seem to have lost my den to all my great finds lately. :) Thankfully I have a very patient husband - that, and I'm also getting ready to Afghanistan so he's pretty much letting me do whatever I want. :)

  • fibrevolution

    fibrevolution said 9 years ago

    This is great, thanks so much!

  • AtabbycatArts

    AtabbycatArts said 9 years ago

    Organized, ME???? Oh Heaven Forbid! My workbench looks like a bomb went off on it and then rabid drunk squirrels had an orgy. Actually a Great article, I need to read these Etsy blog thingys more often.

  • Alpacasfurless

    Alpacasfurless said 9 years ago

    Great Tips! We are always learning. Thank you.

  • CoffeeHouseSuds

    CoffeeHouseSuds said 9 years ago

    Thank you for the info ;-) Very helpful.

  • Studio206

    Studio206 said 9 years ago

    Great article! I have two ideas to share. First, keep a dedicated space for each facet of your business. This will enable you to avoid setup an teardown time. I'm lucky enough to have the space to have a spot for my glasswork, a spot for soldering, for polishing, for beading, for photographing, computering (new word?), and for packing/shipping. The second idea is to assembly line your work as much as possible. Even though I may have an order for one pair of earrings, I will make three or four at once. It's doesn't take that much longer to take four pairs through all the steps than it does to take one (certainly not four times longer, anyway). When you're trying to fit in your artwork around a family and a day job, it's imperative to be organized. The time you spend setting up a system that works for you will pay you back exponentially.

  • nitabear92

    nitabear92 said 9 years ago

    I am grateful for the tips. I am still a good student. I have lots to learn here. I know pictures are a start for me. Thank you for taking the time to teach us. Nita

  • Irbella

    Irbella said 9 years ago

    Great article! Having dedicated space is key. My husband bought me an awesome desk that holds everything in place for me. I now have two dedicated areas, my desk which holds all reference books, laptop, printer, etc. and in my bedroom I have a wall dedicated for all my supplies. It helps knowing I won't get displaced when its time for dinner! I make lists all the time and my first one for today was to read the etsy mail!! Judy

  • giftsforkids

    giftsforkids said 9 years ago

    Very Helpful! I love the idea of assigning an 'amount of time for each task'. With experience I should be able to predict with more accuracy how long things should take. Great article!

  • SewNook

    SewNook said 8 years ago

    Partner with a Virtual Assistant from TodaysAdmin.com. As you grow your Etsy shop, let the right professional help you with the administrative tasks of your business! www.TodaysAdmin.com

  • ThreeWishesStudio

    ThreeWishesStudio said 8 years ago

    This is my first holiday season selling on Etsy. Thanks so much for the excellent info!

  • treasuresfound

    treasuresfound said 8 years ago

    thanks. I have bazilllions of things to accomplish before the holidays! great tips for getting them all done and keeping your sanity!

  • brightlightaccess

    brightlightaccess said 8 years ago

    place taled

  • brightlightaccess

    brightlightaccess said 8 years ago

    This is my first time on a website after much pushing by friends and family...to show some respect for my own work. I appreciate the tips as I am still learning. Staying focused is very important...it's a struggle to not be distracted and to honor the work. Thank you. I'm nervous and excited to be doing something I only dreamed was possible!!

  • DecorNMore

    DecorNMore said 8 years ago

    Thanks for the great advice... gotta get organized!!! :)

  • Waterrose

    Waterrose said 8 years ago

    Thanks for the reminder and to do list!

  • SorchaGillett

    SorchaGillett said 8 years ago

    oh gosh I have so much to do! But can I say to anyone reading this that I have a blog aimed at promoting Etsy sellers, get in touch if your product fits the bill! http://dandeliondaydreamer.blogspot.com/

  • Vanessa Admin

    Vanessa said 8 years ago

    Gettin ready to hear those sleigh bell jingling!

  • polkadotsandblooms

    polkadotsandblooms said 8 years ago

    Thank very much for sharing. I really, really need this. I am bit all over the place at the moment :-(

  • sakizome

    sakizome said 8 years ago

    This article is brilliant and so helpful. Thanks! The items in my shop are stored in organized transparent boxes and so are my packing materials. Makes it easy to reach for to fulfill an order.

  • modernbird

    modernbird said 8 years ago

    Wow! What a great article, thank you. ...printing...and implementing!! I have already begun organizing my work space and supplies (and keeping it tidy). :)

  • dahlilafound

    dahlilafound said 8 years ago

    Don't panic. Deep breathes. It will all get done. :-) dahlila xxoo

  • plumbcrazy

    plumbcrazy said 8 years ago

    Wow! Great work! That was perfect summary of every productivity book I've read! :) Thanks!

  • birdinabox

    birdinabox said 8 years ago

    I am saving this for future reference too, thanks for the helpful tips :)

  • littlemoandfriends

    littlemoandfriends said 8 years ago

    thank you:) I really needed this..it's been a little crazy here this season

  • idlehandsdesigns

    idlehandsdesigns said 8 years ago

    Great read! Thanks so much! I have a tip on organizing to share ::) For each design I make a recipe card. This has been huge for my business! On each card I detail item code, supplier, measurements and cost etc. It helps so much with ordering supplies and recreating a design consistently. Hope everyone has a great night! Lyndsay www.idlehandsdesigns.com

  • MilkAndHoneyFibres

    MilkAndHoneyFibres said 8 years ago

    marking- great advice here!

  • VeronicaGasper

    VeronicaGasper said 8 years ago

    I started a mini notebook for design details but I like idlehandsdesign suggestion. I might give that a try. With limited space I'm still having an issue creating a specific shipping area as well but I like being reminded. Good to rehash these ideas and great tips from everyone. Thanks Veronica

  • 1001Acessorios

    1001Acessorios said 8 years ago

    Thank you for the great suggestions. Now it's time to try! Thanks 1001 Acessorios

  • BatBoSockieFactory

    BatBoSockieFactory said 8 years ago

    Great tips - need to practice tip no.9!

  • TexasHillCountryArt

    TexasHillCountryArt said 8 years ago

    Lie to yourself about when Christmas is: set a deadline to finish all of your personal Christmas shopping, cards and wrapping before the end of November. That way you are not double stressed through December.

  • nettesneedle

    nettesneedle said 8 years ago

    If I just follow your great tips maybe I won't be running in circles during the holidays! Thanks

  • PoeticPaintings

    PoeticPaintings said 8 years ago

    Thanks for all the great tips!

  • EclecticSol

    EclecticSol said 8 years ago

    I'm new to etsy and I have so much to learn. Thank you for the great tips.

  • cardinalhouse

    cardinalhouse said 8 years ago

    Great tips--thanks! -Kat.

  • TheLeftBank

    TheLeftBank said 8 years ago

    Thank you for the (very organized and easy to follow!) ideas!! Cheers--

  • sharonclancydesigns

    sharonclancydesigns said 8 years ago

    Oh, thank you! I am always striving to be more organized. This helps.

  • WeCreate4U

    WeCreate4U said 8 years ago

    We are so very new at this, so all the tips you have shared are very much appreciated. Thank you!

  • Gwendolynsdesign

    Gwendolynsdesign said 8 years ago

    Love elles callender tags. Faved the 2010 ones, now if I could only find place to work on my scrapbooks too... I need a bigger space.

  • LeBoutique

    LeBoutique said 8 years ago

    thank you for the awesome tips!

  • BGSStudio13

    BGSStudio13 said 8 years ago

    I really need to focus on tips 2 & 3!!! Thank you for the great tips, very helpful as usual!

  • gemsdirect

    gemsdirect said 8 years ago

    These are some great ideas - always important to make sure our tasks are effective in addition to being efficient.

  • ReneeRobbins

    ReneeRobbins said 8 years ago

    thanks for the tips!

  • moonstruck48

    moonstruck48 said 7 years ago

    These are great tools for anytime of year! Thank you for taking the time to write this. As a new seller, I look forward to trying out these helpful hints!

  • myglamour

    myglamour said 7 years ago

    I need these tips!

  • banyantreeclothing

    banyantreeclothing said 7 years ago

    Well, I thought I was organized. Might have to work on it a bit.

  • KDemARTe

    KDemARTe said 7 years ago

    Thanks for a great article! I started off the year trying better organizing my studio....there are some great tips here!

  • Charmish

    Charmish said 7 years ago

    February is a great time to evaluate sales, designs, plans for the new year. January is still high post-holiday sales! Feb/march tend to slow down a bit, so even though I WANT to take a break and reorganize, I wait. I love all the tips in this article. Thanks

  • LISMI

    LISMI said 7 years ago

    Thank you very much! getting organized creates a lot of energy.

  • kateendle

    kateendle said 7 years ago

    Tis the season! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Stilltreejewellery

    Stilltreejewellery said 7 years ago

    Awesome, even as an anally retentive organiser/list maker, this is really handy - thanks!

  • kittybblove

    kittybblove said 7 years ago

    Yes! Thank you. All it comes down to is action :D

  • TodaysBaby

    TodaysBaby said 7 years ago

    For those who work at home: get dressed!!! Before you even start #1 on your to do list, get dressed. Don't get sucked into the computer first thing--that will really slow you down. Let friends know you don't answer the phone to chat until (fill in a window of time.) Make all your errands in one trip, preferably once a week,except to the post office. Be ruthless about limiting interruptions when you're working, whatever it takes.

  • RockaBlanky

    RockaBlanky said 7 years ago

    come in visit our shop we are doing FREE SHIPPING on all products Great for new mommy's or mommy's to be let's not leave out the grand parents to give to your grand babies

  • GoodLife00

    GoodLife00 said 7 years ago

    good tips. but I would like to learn this plan,and how to do on the Excel

  • SimplyInvitingCards

    SimplyInvitingCards said 7 years ago

    I made a resolution to reorganize my studio and it's still on-going, but progress has happened. I also recently blogged about setting and executing goals. This article nicely complements the 'organize & focus' mantra I've been establishing for myself. Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips!

  • DrawntoLetters

    DrawntoLetters said 7 years ago

    Inspiring tips and links. I find I am more productive in less space if I separate the types of tasks into work stations in different rooms or corners. It focuses me on the work at hand and offers a movement break.I also schedule weekly time for new ideas when I can be uninterrupted.

  • DetroitKnitter

    DetroitKnitter said 7 years ago

    Thanks for posting the handy tips!

  • raori

    raori said 7 years ago

    Great inspiration, thanks a lot!

  • kirevi8

    kirevi8 said 7 years ago

    So useful,Thank you! will read vey carefully!

  • limezinnias

    limezinnias said 7 years ago

    Thanks for the tips and links and info and help.....

  • bellasparty

    bellasparty said 7 years ago

    Great tips! Thank you!

  • buttonandboo

    buttonandboo said 7 years ago

    this is wonderful! thanks a million!

  • HildeMosaics

    HildeMosaics said 7 years ago

    thank you ,very useful

  • MyCuteBoutique

    MyCuteBoutique said 7 years ago

    Great ideas, thanks ... anything to help is appreciated. C J

  • anakim

    anakim said 7 years ago

    Thank you!

  • RedRobinArt

    RedRobinArt said 7 years ago

    EXCELLENT! I have printed this and will work it in with my plans, for sure! Thanks so very much for everything! You guys are the very BEST! I have even saved the comments for further reading too! Blessings to you everyone!

  • GemdropsoftheFalls

    GemdropsoftheFalls said 7 years ago

    Thank you for the great tips. We joined Etsy in November 2008 so we're still learning what works. These forums are so helpful! We will definitely take your organizing tips to heart. We find that having a daily routine of going through our shop and completing a checklist helps us keep focus and keep our shop up to date.

  • Yayahandicraft

    Yayahandicraft said 7 years ago

    Thank you so much, you have a lot ideas useful for us.

  • QuietStorytellers

    QuietStorytellers said 7 years ago

    I doubt I will ever be completely organized, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart for trying to help!

  • craftive

    craftive said 7 years ago

    LOVE it, thanks

  • TwiceAsNiceBoutique

    TwiceAsNiceBoutique said 7 years ago

    Great tips! Thanks!

  • TheVintageDresser

    TheVintageDresser said 7 years ago

    Great information. Organization is an ongoing problem for me!

  • TimmerysBebeBling

    TimmerysBebeBling said 7 years ago

    THANKS!!! Great tips!!! I think I might spend the weekend better organizing myself and my hair accessories!!!

  • crochetedbycharlene

    crochetedbycharlene said 7 years ago

    There's so much to learn to get a shop up and running and noticed. Thanks for the reminder to stay on task!

  • AlpineGypsy

    AlpineGypsy said 7 years ago

    I ALWAYS need more help in this category! THANK YOU! :) Heidi

  • DestinysTreasures

    DestinysTreasures said 7 years ago

    Great tips. Thank you:)

  • blinddog1

    blinddog1 said 7 years ago

    Very useful, I'll try to keep these tips in mind.

  • JennP1751

    JennP1751 said 7 years ago

    marking. These are great tips!!

  • papermellie

    papermellie said 7 years ago

    Great tips! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • KSWCreations

    KSWCreations said 7 years ago

    Is it weird that I love to organize!!! I love it so much sometimes it is all I get done. It is very rewarding to feel like I have accomplished something.

  • elisawalshdesigns

    elisawalshdesigns said 7 years ago

    Just do it!

  • CactusAndOlive

    CactusAndOlive said 7 years ago

    Awesome tips! Thanks so much. This is my first etsy holiday season coming up, so this is certainly helpful!

  • AlexandraDashiel

    AlexandraDashiel said 7 years ago

    This is great! I'm just getting started on this. And I love the advice from Studio206 - I'm finding in a small house with children that it's tough to have a lot of dedicated space but I'm trying to be creative about that. I've created a packing and shipping station near my kitchen table where I can easily pull items out when needed, all business related things in one binder, totes full of supplies where I can pull out what I need to work on when I get the chance - I've even turned half my babies room into a working studio....

  • BeachHouseLiving

    BeachHouseLiving said 7 years ago

    Great tips. Blocking out creative time is great.

  • jennysprettythings

    jennysprettythings said 7 years ago

    Great tips. I had no idea that there were sellers specializing in accounting spreadsheets. I'm excited to get mine and get organized!

  • TwinTreeCrafts

    TwinTreeCrafts said 7 years ago

    I am lucky enough to have a room dedicated to my workspace. However, my husband always wants me working in whatever room he's in. I find it handy to have a box with supplies for the current project I'm working on. Then I can bring the box wherever he wants me and when I'm done working I put everything back in the box so I can find it next time.

  • regencyregalia

    regencyregalia said 6 years ago

    Great advice thanks. I need to spend some serious time getting more organised. The tips are great will be keeping the article for future referance. Now off to find my desk again!

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