Early in my career, I had a mentor that shared one of the secrets of happiness as a business owner:
“When you’re working, work. When you’re not working, don’t work.”
That might sound obvious, but the week between the holidays is an easy opportunity to not live by that credo.
It can be challenging to approach the last week of December the same way you approach the rest of the year, but that doesn’t mean it has to be wasted. I collected ideas from some of the top experts out there on how you can use this week to skyrocket your 2018, even before it happens.
Escape the Black Hole between Christmas and New Year’s
It can be tempting to think that you are going to be a productivity machine in the week between the holidays, but reality often paints a different picture.
Offices are half empty, customers are hard to get in touch with, and it’s only a 4-day work-week. It would be easy to just roll into the week, get caught up on a few emails, have some long lunches, and putz around. But if that’s your approach, very little will get done and you’ll be annoyed with yourself at the end of the week.
Instead, do one of the following:
- Take the week off. It’s a great time to spend with family and friends. Embrace the meaning of “Work to live. Don’t live to work”.
- Go into the week of December 25th with a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. It’s the old, “plan your work, and then work your plan” concept. That doesn’t mean it has to be business as usual, though.
Going into this week with vague and unstructured ideas about “getting some stuff done” leads to a lot of wasted time and unfocused effort. If all you have is a giant and unorganized “to-do” list, it’ll be easy to get off track. You don’t want to get to December 31st and realize that you haven’t done anything with your time.
Create Leverage by Creating a Plan
So if you are committed to working the week between the holidays, what can you do to make it effective?
First, acknowledge that the week is going to be a little different. Many of your colleagues and customers are on holiday and your energy level might be different because of the shortened week and the longer weekends (and some pre-holiday preparation burnout).
Then, walk into December 26th with a clear plan for the week. Know what you are going to get accomplished. That way you won’t bumble along into the week.
To help, I tapped into my network to find out how other people approach this time. I went to my friends who were leaders in their fields to see if they had any tricks that they would share.
And they didn’t disappoint. From cleaning out the past to planning for the future, they supplied a whole list of fantastic ideas.
I have to admit, though, I wasn’t too surprised by the answers. In my experience I’ve found that successful people aren’t necessarily successful because they re-invent the wheel, but because they execute on the basics better than anyone else.
But it’s about finding the best approach to the basics, one that works for you. So what are top people going to do to kick off the year?
1. Clear Out the Past Year
One of the most powerful ways that you can kick-off 2018 is by actually wrapping up 2017. I know, shocker, right? Taking a moment to clear the past to allow space for the future is an incredibly helpful process:
Bernie Borges, the insightful CMO at Vengreso, points out a very simple step that’s right in front of your nose. “Sure, during the last week of December I take the time to write down the goals for next year and try to get rested. But an incredibly powerful exercise for me has been cleaning my office. It’s amazing how things pile up during the year and starting the year with a fresh desk and office brings vibrancy and energy once January comes around.”
Sima Dahl, the globe-trotting social selling speaker, reminds us that we don’t have to limit this process to just our desk. “This is the perfect time to declutter and start 2018 a little lighter. Choose an offline destination such as a closet or home office, or an online target like your inbox or computer files. Every year, I schedule the time on my calendar, crank up some tunes, and go through my entire wardrobe – every closet, every drawer – and donate what no longer serves me (or fits me!) to my local Salvation Army.”
2. Polish Your Digital Presence
Every year, our digital presence becomes more central to our overall professional brand. Ironically, that means it’s easy to gloss over it and forget to give it attention. Too often, it’s “out of sight, out of mind”. Updating your online profiles tends to be an activity that keeps falling to the bottom of your to-do list. Take this time to change that:
Andy Crestodina, the sage leader of Orbit Media, suggests pausing to audit your online presence. “Polish your profiles! It’s time to do something that’s important, but never urgent: update those social media profiles, especially LinkedIn. Is everything up to date: Make sure the headline, job title, and descriptions are correct and that the picture still looks like you. Is it complete: Take a look at your publications, education, skills, honors and awards and add any that are missing. And add anything new that happened this year. An hour on the computer with a glass of eggnog by your side will give your social profiles a great start to 2018!
Molly Beck, energetic author of Reach Out and founder of Messy Bun, suggests a simple personal brand audit, “I think it’s important to do a social media personal branding audit. Brainstorm three key adjectives or phrases you want to be known for, then look at your last 12 postings across all the social media platforms you’re currently active on with an objective eye. Do they represent those “keywords”. If not, you know the tweaks to make so your next 12 postings better reflect what you want to be known for.”
3. Dig Into 2017
One of the critical steps in growth is the honest assessment and analysis of how you did in the past. With the extra space available in your schedule, you can dive into the numbers and metrics of your business. Look at what went well and what needs to change:
Michael Kitces, the uber-educated financial powerhouse behind Nerd’s Eye View, suggests. “I do a strategic planning exercise I call Start/Stop/Continue. What initiatives did well for us in 2017 that we want to continue? Are there activities we need to stop doing? What will we add to our platform in 2018, and what foundational infrastructure do we need to set in place for it now? It’s a powerful tool to communicate to the whole team so everyone knows where we’re focused in the coming year.”
Ita Olsen, the communication-savvy owner of Convey Clearly, reminds us of the power of reviewing our message (and its delivery). “There’s time at the end of the year to assess how your messages are being received. I record the messages that I share about myself and the business and listen to them. My goal is to Make them Better by looking for ways to make them more concise, removing the undermining words (such as actually and just), and making sure that the call-to-action is clear. Then I practice that, re-record, and take another listen!”
Carol Ross, one of my favorite career coaches, has a simple process she uses at the end of every year. “I answer “Six Questions for the New Year”, as a way to reflect on the past year and set intentions for the coming year The six questions are:
- What accomplishments do I want to celebrate?
- What disappointments do I want to acknowledge & let go of?
- What are the lessons learned?
- What am I grateful for?
- What do I most want for the coming year?
- What commitment am I ready to make?“
4. Map Out the Year
There are shelves full of books about how to plan in your professional life. But too often we let the idea of planning overwhelm us. It doesn’t have to be that hard. Even a few hours can be enough to create a cohesive approach to the new year:
Shane Purnell, the platform expert and host of Platform Giant, recommends keeping it simple as well. “Toward the end of every year I start thinking of my theme for the new year. My theme must meet two criteria: it has to be short (less than 10 words) and it has to be meaningful. In 2017 my theme was:”leverage the power of your voice” In 2018 my theme is “get paid”. My theme becomes my mantra, a way to remind myself what to focus on.
Pat Helmers, the sales pro behind the Sales Babble podcasts, focuses on the connective tissue that will keep your activities together. “Moving into the new year provides a terrific opportunity to create and update your company vision (or even your personal professional vision). This vision contains your value proposition, monthly goals, core values, goals, reasons and key behavior necessary to execute on that vision. Without purpose, it’s a struggle to maintain focus and follow through. Having single page vision posted on the wall provides clarity.”
5. Stretch out Your Planning Muscles
There is also a fantastic opportunity work on a part of your business that you don’t usually have time for. Is there a growth area that could have a huge impact in your business that is always last on your to-do list? This is the perfect time for a project that needs a little time and space to blossom:
Tim Hughes, the global social selling expert and leader of Digital Leadership Associates points out the how you can use this time for growth, “The focus for the end of this year will be making sure our new North American reseller is self-sufficient in terms of pipeline and resources to execute the Social Strategy and Social Selling projects. So the downtime gives me some freedom from the pressing emails/calls to focus on this growth part of our business.”
6. Start 2018 Early
Have you ever set a goal and thought to yourself, “I can’t wait until next week when I start working on it!” Well, if you know what you are going to do in 2018 already, why not start today? For example, if you New Year’s Resolutions are going to make a positive impact in your life, start them on December 26th:
Gini Dietrich, my favorite PR maven and author of Spin Sucks, points out that you don’t have to wait until 2018 to work on 2018 goals. “Get a jump on your 2018 goals now in that dead week, before everyone else does. It compounds and you’ll be weeks ahead if you do it. At the start of this year, I hired a cycling coach to help me get stronger and in November he asked me if I wanted to amp up my training program now or after the first of the year. I enthusiastically said now because I will have that black hole at the end of the month. There’s more time I can spend on the bike—amping up my speed and my power. I recommend you do the same with whatever your growth area is.”
Grow in 2018
In the 2016 year-end article, one of these tips was shared by a top sales coach, Jim Rosas. I knew Jim from the “networking and sales scene” here in Chicago, and I found him to be super-smart and super-generous. Just a few months after last year’s article was published, he passed quickly and suddenly. When revisiting that article to prepare for this one, it seemed that his advice then was just as poignant and timeless – and worth repeating. It remains a perfect call to action for this year.
“Try something new! Prepare a plan of action that includes new activities, beliefs, and ultimately behaviors. So many people get on their hamster-wheel of business, run and run all day doing the same activities and never get anywhere. The importance of breaking bad behaviors in business is a critical step to success. What new activity are you committed to doing to make next year better?”
It all comes down to taking action. There’s way more knowledge and wisdom here than you can act on, but don’t let that paralyze you.
Use this time to reassess, re-calibrate, and recommit to the life and business that you want. Write what you come up with in your planner or on your whiteboard. Tell your sales manager, your mastermind group, your spouse, your dog…whomever will hold you to it.
And then go to work on January 2nd.
I’ll see you in 2018!