1. Grab your appointment book. Go ahead, go get it. OK, now open it to December. Pencil in two, 15-minute breaks for yourself every day. It might sound counterintuitive, but here are two good reasons to block out 15-minute breaks. First, if by some crazy stroke of fate you stay on schedule, you’ll have time to sit back, stretch, walk away from your desk, and maybe even go to the bathroom. Second, if you get behind, you’ve scheduled wiggle room where you can catch back up. An added bonus: If you’re a diehard type-A personality, you’ll have two 15-minute slots you can use to accommodate last-minute fixes or polish changes.

2. Download and print, or cut out from a magazine, exercises and stretches that relieve your tired neck, wrists, shoulders, and back. You can find some online at www.nailsmag.com/conscious (search for “yoga-inspired exercises”). When your clients leave to wash their hands, take a few minutes to do a few stretches.

3. Call a local beauty school to see if you can get a student helper for your busiest days. The student can function as an intern, and she can complete tasks ranging from tidying up the salon and refreshing the coffee to helping clients with their coats and keys. She may even be able to help you with polishing, nail art, or scheduling appointments. Entice her with bartered services, salon access, and a reference on a resume.

4. Decide which days you’re taking off between Christmas Eve and New Year’s and post a sign announcing which days the salon is closed.

5. Do one long, thorough cleaning of your salon’s shelves, mirrors, windowsills, and corners. From now until the New Year, you’ll likely have time for only a quick, surface clean.

6. It’s not too late to place a last-minute order for gift certificates. If you’re in a pinch, local office supply stores will have utilitarian ones. However, you can personalize printed gift certificates that can be at your door in less than a week from websites such as www.vistaprint.com.

7. Add finishing touches to your decorations and retail displays. Create an environment that is peaceful and warm. If you didn’t invest in retail items this year and your shelves look empty, call someone who lives locally who makes gifts such as pottery, jewelry, or bags. Offer salon exposure and shelf space for their merchandise in exchange for a percentage of the sale price.

8. Check your stock. Be sure to have extra buffers, files, favorite polishes, rhinestones and art paint, and holiday colors on hand.

9. Blitz your clients with a fun, holiday-themed e-mail using a company such as constantcontact.com. For about $50 a month, you can communicate with your clients as many times during a month as you would like by using their e-mail. Remind clients of your holiday specials and your holiday hours.

10. If you’re having a salon party, your date and details should all be planned, but make the decision today as to what to purchase in the way of gifts, food, and drink. If you’re not exchanging gifts, you can still personalize a hand-written card, letting your coworkers know what it is about them that makes them special. Sometimes a sincere note is the best gift of all.

11. The gifts and generosity of clients during the holidays can sometimes overwhelm us. It’s easy to forget that we should be showing our appreciation for our clients, not just the other way around. Remember, you’re the host of the party at your table or salon, so be sure to prepare for your guests. It’s wonderful to receive a gift of cookies that you can open up and share with clients, but don’t depend on it. Be sure to have refreshments to serve to anyone who walks through your doors. Warm drinks such as spiced cider, coffee, or special tea, and seasonal treats such as ginger or anise cookies tell clients you’ve been looking forward to their visit.

12. You’re about to round the corner to the big finish. Stop by the dollar store today to pick up a colorful, bright, container with a lid. The container will hold extra holiday tips or gifts from clients. (You may want to stash this out of sight depending on the ambiance of your salon.) Cut an opening in the top that is large enough to fit folded bills and seal it shut. Add to it every day, but don’t open the container until after your longest, hardest day is over. This is going to be your gift to yourself.

13. Capitalize on the networking culture. Offer a contest where clients are entered in a drawing when they submit a signed business card from a friend who would like a service in your salon. (You want the friend to give her permission to be entered.) Let clients know you’ll choose one business card and reward both her and her friend with a gift certificate to the salon in the amount of your choice. (If you really want to work the networking angle, choose from among Facebook friends your clients have referred. Referred friends can post your client’s name on your wall. Both the new friend and your client are entered into the drawing. You do have a Facebook page for your salon, right?)

14. Pick up a couple of tins and pretty packaging, such as gift bags and tissue paper. When clients bring in trays of treats, select a few special ones to put in the tins. This way, when you attend a party, you’ll have a wonderful, homemade gift to hand to the hostess.

15. Ten days to go until you get some relief. If you’re starting to feel the pinch, try to delegate errands to a teenager looking for cash. He or she can pick up your lunch, buy specific gifts for your kids, even stand in line to make sure you get your presents mailed in time. Pay per project, not per hour. (Tip: If you can’t find a teen, you might try a client who wants to earn some quick cash while she’s out shopping. She might even be willing to barter for services.)

16. Start looking beyond the holidays. Open your book and schedule a day in January where you can “de-decorate” and do some heavy cleaning to get the salon back in order.

17. Send out a second e-mail blitz to your clients. This time, tell them how much you appreciate them and wish them a happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year. Remember Hanukkah, which runs from December 11-19 this year.

18. Choose either Friday or Saturday to recharge your personal battery. Your “to-do” today is whatever you feel like doing, without guilt and without thinking of what you “should” be doing. Spend the night with friends, enjoy your family, or attend a party. Choose one night to celebrate exactly as you’d like. When someone tries to obligate you to something you would rather skip, let them know you are “already booked” that day.

19. Make final decisions about where you will make donations this year. Drop off any material donations and mail any financial contributions.

20. Go to restaurants near your salon and get all your favorite menus from places that deliver. You’re not going out to lunch next week, my friend. Stock up on healthy foods, such as fruit, nuts, protein bars, or any other snacks that can be eaten quickly, in case there’s not time for lunch at all.

21. Cook two make-ahead dinners that can stretch to a couple of meals. Try a hearty chili that converts to a second meal by adding it as a topping to a baked potato, or put a stew in the slow-cooker so you can eat it as dinner one night and pour it over rice for dinner the next night. You’re not going to want to cook after working long days, and if you don’t prepare for it, you’ll be eating takeout this week for both lunch and dinner!

22. You’re in the thick of it. Relax. Enjoy your clients. Laugh and celebrate with them as they share their family traditions and the funny family dynamics. Keep gift certificates handy to offer solutions to their last-minute gift needs for family members who suddenly decided they could make it in for a visit.

23. Look over your gifts from your clients and feel blessed that you are so loved and appreciated. Life is good, and your clients value you. That’s a good feeling. Now, look at the gifts again. Do you have any doubles? Do you have gifts that you love because of the sentiment, but you know you’ll never use? Consider the re-gift. Don’t feel guilty. Re-gifting changes the nature of the gift, but preserves the intent. Your client bought that for you to use. You may need to use it as a gift of your own; for example, as a hostess gift to a last-minute party or as a gift for an unexpected guest who stopped by with a gift for you. (It’s painful to make the sacrifice, I know, but sometimes a bottle of wine works well as the re-gift.)

24. Don’t work more than a half-day today. You might be pressured to extend the day, but don’t give in to the guilt. Leave by noon and fill the morning with all your favorites. Enjoy your friends and family today, or spend the day tying up loose ends to round out your holiday meal, the kids’ stockings, or your decorations at home.

25. DO NOT THINK ABOUT WORK. Rest. Kiss your kids. Call your mom. Drink some tea. Watch the fire. Eat too much. Sing.

26. Breathe a sigh of relief. Go get your colorful, unopened jar filled with tips and treasures and plan how you’re going to spoil yourself.

27. Go to the salon and remove all dated holiday signs. Run a vacuum. Clean the bathroom. The place probably looks as tired as you felt during the crazy days you just survived. Make it presentable for the clients who come in this week.

28. Many salons are closed on Mondays, so this might be a day off for you. Use the time to stop by the beauty supply store to see if you can cash in on any post-holiday sales. It’s never too early to start planning for next year.

29. Talk with clients about their New Year’s plans. When the conversation shifts to resolutions, redirect the conversation. Tell clients that this year, you’re going to develop new habits; you’re not going to commit to resolutions. Discuss ways to develop new habits that are baby steps toward progress, not bold proclamations of radical lifestyle change. Instead of saying you’re going to lose weight, for example, you could say you’re going to develop the habit of making choices that are healthy. One measurable way of doing that is to change one thing at a time until it’s a habit. Try this: I am going to walk/exercise for 10 minutes a day. Or this: I will not snack between meals (or after 7 p.m.). You’ll be amazed at how encouraged you and your clients will feel when you talk about manageable and measurable steps that lead to a goal instead of the traditional resolution that demands an overhaul of your time and schedule.

30. Choose the person who won the “networking” drawing and call them to let them know they have a gift certificate waiting at the salon. They’ll love that you started their New Year off with the good news.

31. Create a festive mood for clients who come in on New Year’s. You can use lights, music, and non-alcoholic bubbly to get the party started early. And you have reason to celebrate. Since you planned well, you were able to spend 31 days enjoying yourself during the craziest month of the year. KEYWORDS: BUSINESS

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