Small businesses are likely to experience days when there aren’t enough hours to get it all done – crunch time. It may be a project with an iron-clad deadline, or seasonal changes in work volume (think retailers at Christmastime or CPAs in April).

Preparing for crunch time is prudent business. Managing a serious drain on company resources and morale starts at the top, with good preparation and a strategy in place.

1. Develop a contingency plan before you hit that work crunch

If you don’t have a plan, you don’t have as many options. Do you have the staff, the space, the financial resources to take care of workplace crunches? Plan today for a variety of scenarios and develop contingency plans to lessen the impact of a business crunch on your company’s productivity and employee morale.

2. Don’t let your own productivity drop

As an owner or manager, you may be pulled from here to there during crunch time. Maintain calm in the workplace by showing confident leadership. Develop a prioritized to-do list and focus on one task at a time. Jumping from one project to another can be confusing, and drain you of the creative energy that crunch-time management demands.

3. Make up a schedule

Take time today to plan the best use of your staff’s time tomorrow. Know what needs to be done before it needs to be done. Anticipate some disruption, but schedule time carefully.

4. Set time limits on meetings

If it can be done in 15 minutes, skip the banter, get the facts on the table, divvy up assignments and get back to the other items on that day’s to-do list. Run the meeting, set the agenda, keep it short to avoid losing steam, while taking affirmative steps to manage the crunch.

5. Put out the DO NOT DISTURB sign

Your open-door policy may have to be put on hold for a while. Close your door and avoid distractions that pull you in different directions with no progress on your to-do list.

6. Use the latest in technology to boost productivity during busy times

Smart phones for on-the-road employees, online business banking, customer relations management software, automated cash management systems – all can be set up in anticipation of a very busy time in the office or plant. Ask your business banker for ways to save time, including depositing checks remotely instead of going to the bank. Take advantage of slow times to prepare for times you know are going to be extra busy for your entire team of employees.

7. Recognize and reward progress

Busy times can present new challenges each day, so reward employees who show initiative in solving crunch-time problems and who are willing to put in the extra hours. Bring in lunch for the staff, order pizza when working late – little things can make crunch times easier to handle. This may also develop more cooperation and enthusiasm from your staff when the next busy time comes around.

8. Be good to yourself

You’re the linchpin that keeps it all together during busy times, so give yourself a break. Try not to take work home with you. Plan recreational time with family and friends. Take short breaks throughout the day to lower stress levels and help enhance creative problem solving.

9. Learn from the experience

Do an after-action assessment once things have calmed down, and give everyone on staff a chance to give feedback on what went well and what could have been done better. This will help you better prepare for the next crunch time.