In December it gets way too dark, way too early (at least in the northern hemisphere). Here in Chicago, the sun sets around 5:00 and then it’s a long, cold night. And the days themselves can be pretty grey. It’s not very motivating.
Then you add in the busyness and distractions of the holiday season, and it can be hard to focus and find motivation. Especially when you get to the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Too often, I see people just bounce around like an aimless pinball during that week. They’re half-in and half-out of business mode, half-in and half-out of relaxation mode, and 100% not-engaged in anything.
So how do you fix that?
Escape the Black Hole between Christmas and New Year’s Day
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 in 2018 it’s a weird, 3-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 putter 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”. Be deliberate with dis-engaging from work.
- Go into the week with a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. It’s the old, “plan your work, and then work your plan” concept.
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
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 work on and 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 how they were spending the last week of the year.
And they didn’t disappoint. From cleaning out the past to planning for the future, they supplied a whole list of fantastic ideas.
How to Maximize the Last Week of December
Successful people usually have a list of books waiting for them when their schedules give them a moment. Reading is always a useful exercise, and it can be a great way to focus your thinking for the next chapter.
Judy Hoberman, the head honcho at Selling in a Skirt, wants to reread Power Questions by Andrew Sobel. “It confirms the fact that being named the “Question Queen” makes great business sense. He gives you reasons why you should and shouldn’t ask certain questions and identifies a question that, when I ask it, the response is “No one has ever asked me that question before” and the conversation continues on an entirely different level. I find that asking questions shows you are interested in, not interesting to, your prospect, client, friend, partner, spouse etc.”
Danny Schuman, author of The Worst Business Model in the World, shares a different approach to business reading. “I’m fascinated when business podcasters ask successful business people to recommend a book they’ve been reading, and more often than not, it’s a work of magical fiction that takes them away from the real world versus a practical business book. In that case I’d suggest either One Hundred Years of Solitude or The Sisters Brothers (now a major motion picture!). Each in its own way transports the reader to another place and time and expands your mind as you read it.”
Jeff Davis, founder of the Sales + Marketing Alignment Summit, is looking to go back into the classic Good to Great. I think it’s a great reminder of the things that help companies achieve sustainable greatness, like confronting the brutal facts, yet never losing faith and using tech as an accelerator not a panacea. With digital disruption affecting every industry, those companies committed to these types of transformative ideas will rise to the top.
- Building a Storybrand – because I have had four people this week, alone, ask me if I’ve read it and what I thought. So yeah…going on my list pronto! – Gini Dietrich
- ReWork – because it brings an honest, no-nonsense, funny perspective to business. – Danny Schuman
- Think and Grow Rich – because this book is my yearly prompt to forget what everyone else is doing and to build what my mind can conceive, not what the market has already seen. – Will Barron
- They Ask You Answer because it reminds me to write bottom of funnel content, too. – Joanna Wiebe
How well did the year go? It’s common to look at metrics and reports on a daily or weekly basis, and there’s value in pulling back and looking at the larger trends. It’s valuable to look at where you are in relation to your goals so that you can course-correct and make changes to your activity and processes in the new year.
Pat Helmers, the sales pro behind the Sales Babble podcasts, explores his email efficiency. “I look at open rates, click-throughs, and opt-outs on my email list over the course of the year. It helps me understand which emails convert and which ones don’t. I then take that information and use it to hone my editorial calendar and hone my headlines for the next year.”
Joey Davenport, the president at the Hoopis Performance Network, looks at their proprietary report developed using MySQL. “It’s a database aggregator that provides a custom snapshot of business critical metrics on high volume website and SAAS systems. I use it to assess the activity levels of our enterprise clients and identify trends, best practices and which clients need additional subscriber engagement resources to boost adoption.”
Andy Crestodina, the sage leader of Orbit Media, dives into his report on net promoter score (or something similar). “It helps me understand client happiness so that we can know how we’re doing and we’re we can improve. That way we can go into the next year working to improve the quality of our service!”
A good planning process attempts to answer two questions: where are we going and how are we getting there? Take advantage of the pause in the day-to-day hustle of your professional life and map out what you want to do with the next year.
Gini Dietrich, my favorite PR maven and author of Spin Sucks collects and collates for the next year. “It’s less about a metric and more getting everything into Google Data Studio so we don’t have to manually dump everything into a spreadsheet. Tracking it will help save time that will allow us to focus on other areas. We’re also going to start using Watson Personality Insights to build training for our internal teams.”
Joanna Wiebe, the copywriter extraordinaire behind Airstory and Copy Hackers, is looking at her team. “One plan I make for the next year is to actively hire. Hiring great people is the hardest part of my job, so I tend to put it off the longest and get quickly frustrated with poor results. But I can’t keep growing without hiring more talent, so I simply have no choice but to taking recruiting, hiring and training very seriously in 2019.”
When you catch your breath at the end of the year, it’s common to see some parts of your business and life that you haven’t spent a lot of attention on. Maybe they need a little love. Or there might be some activities that kept falling to the bottom of our to-do list. Now is a time you can catch up
Dan Golden, head of Be Found Online and orange blazer aficionado, cleans up his act. “At the end of the year I do a full purge of my to-do list and examine whether all of the activities should still be on there. I use that extra time to re-prioritize all of the little things I’ve been chasing so I can start from the top down instead of the bottom up.
Andy Paul, founder of the Sales House and host of Accelerate!, takes it a step further. “Something I don’t usually get to do during the year is cleaning up my data (files, CRM, email subscribers, clearing out inboxes, cleaning my workspace, throwing away old magazines, etc.) By clearing things out I can really start the year by being more productive (and spending less time looking for information.)
The holiday season is also a great opportunity to take some time for yourself. Whether it’s a hobby, a passion-project, or just something you enjoy doing, take some “me time” this holiday season.
Leslie Marshall, the financial marketing leader at Morningstar, is spending the extra time on a new passion. “I am looking forward to continuing to take art classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. I started taking classes in 2017 during a sabbatical and I have kept at it. The classes help me get comfortable with “not being good at something” – and moving past the discomfort and trying new things. Tapping in to my creative side helps me expand how I see opportunities and how to tackle a project (“sketching it out” in my mind). Through painting I am more creative and happier, and less stressed out day-to-day. (Check out her Monet sketch and her woodblock carving!)
Michelle Mazur, the head rabble-rouser at the Communication Rebel, wants to start some good physical fitness habits. “I know it will help my business in 2019 because I’ll feel better and have more energy. But also, by developing the habit of working out, it will allow me to develop good habits for my business!”
Will Barron, the dynamo behind the Salesman Podcast, is focused on spending some time away from the business. “Every year I make a promise to myself have at least 2 full weeks off at Christmas. It enables me to decompress, put everything into perspective and come to the same conclusion every year that a business is just a means to an end. It provides you with the freedom financially to make decisions in life. My ego gradually gets tied into the company over the year and this 2-week period spent with my family and friends pulls it back out for another 12 months.”
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 the article was published, he passed quickly and suddenly.
I included his tip last year and in reading it, I realized it’s the perfect way to wrap up all of these ideas. So I include it again:
“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 2019!