One of the things I love about the internet is that you can answer any random question you have with just a few keystrokes.
And this year I wanted to learn what Yule was…as in the Yule log and Yuletide and all of the other references that pop up in Christmas songs.
It turns out that it was a 12-day festival that started right after the winter solstice in German and Nordic countries when they were still pagan. A lot of their celebrations morphed into our current holiday traditions.
Twelve days of celebrating with some food, music, and liquid cheer makes a lot of sense when it’s cold and dark all of the time. (Here in Chicago, the sun sets around 4:30). And it can certainly be hard to motivate yourself to work in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day
So how can you make that last week of the year an effective one?
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 that can be more challenging than we realize
When I had a sales job, there was a mad dash to hit end-of-the year quota. But offices are half empty and customers are hard to get in touch with. It won’t help that in 2019 a lot of people are going to take off the 26th, 27th, and 30th to give themselves an 8-day vacation (nine if you acknowledge that nobody gets anything done on the 24th).
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.
Instead, do one of the following:
- Take the week off. Be one of the people who take a 8-day vacation. 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.
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 vacation. You’re coming off a month of holiday cheer, parties, decorating, shopping, and running-around. And it can be hard to get fired up when there is less sunlight.
Then, walk into December 26th with a clear plan for the remaining days of the year. 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
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.
Andy Paul, founder of the Sales House and host of Accelerate!: “I believe it’s important to periodically re-evaluate your overall life goals. Does your work make you feel happy? Do you find it fulfilling? Can you see yourself still doing it in 5-10-15 years? If the answer to any of the previous questions was no, what could you imagine yourself doing instead? What’s standing in the way of making that happen?”
Judy Hoberman, the head honcho at Selling in a Skirt: “At the end of the year I go through a process I call the 3 Rs: REVIEW, READJUST and RELEASE. This will apply to your programs, your talks, your message, your brand and yes…sometimes your people. If it isn’t working try and fix it. If it isn’t fixable it’s time to release it.”
Douglas Vigliotti, author and head idea-guy at DVWriter: For me, four months is the perfect amount of time to analyze, add, or remove business activities—April, August, and December. This helps me to not get distracted by the inevitable noise any other time during the year.”
Mark Bealin, founder and principle at SearchLab Chicago: The biggest regrets I have tend to be about risks we didn’t take. I’ll reflect on those regrets a little bit during the holidays. It do an analysis to figure out what we were afraid of. Money? Failure? Was there any common thread to the good ideas we didn’t try?”
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.
Andy Crestodina, the sage leader of Orbit Media: “I update the DON’T DO list. Every year, I give up on a few low-value activities and it makes all the difference. If you want to add a goal or activity for the year, make some room for it by dumping something else.”
Ellen Rogin, mindfulness teacher and financial author: Every year our family has a goal writing ritual. We started this when our kids were very young (their first goal list I wrote for them) and have continued every year since (they are now 21 and 24). We write goals we would love see come to reality during the year. We make two copies. One is kept in a special goals box I keep and one set we burn in the fireplace to “seal in” the goals with the blessing “this or something better!””
Darcy Eikenberg, coach and ringleader at the Red Cape Revolution: “For me, writing the story of the new year as if I’ve already completed it is useful. I just pretend it’s a year from today, and I’m jotting down all the things I now see around me, and what I’m proud of creating or doing. It’s a powerful exercise to get clear on what you really want–and what you don’t.”
Heather Bennett, the president of Creative Brand Coach: “I plan where I’m going to spend my time. I create a concept map that outlines all the organizations, businesses, stakeholders, individuals I work with. By visualizing my personal and professional time commitments and responsibilities on one page, I quickly learn which ones bring me joy and fulfillment and which ones do not. Any obligation not bringing out my best, I work towards exiting as quickly as possible.”
When you catch your breath at the end of the year, it’s common to see 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.
Michelle Mazur, the head rabble-rouser at the Communication Rebel: “It may not sound sexy, but I run my P&L. I want to make sure I paid enough in taxes or see if I need to run a special payroll to pay Uncle Sam. It makes tax time a whole lot easier and less stressful.”
David J.P. Fisher, the handsome author of this blog: “I take a day to clean my online closets like my overstuffed Dropbox folder. I organize and archive hundreds of files that accumulated over the year. It makes it easier to find things in the new year and I always stumble upon a good idea that feel to the wayside. And then I’ll usually go and clean my offline closets as well and purge those, too!”
Dan Golden, head of Be Found Online and orange blazer aficionado: “There’s a lot so people that are still on my contact list that I couldn’t get to during the busyness of the year. The last week doesn’t have to be a dead week for B2B prospecting! While you shouldn’t expect to be closing deals or book meetings over new years, the tail end of Q4 is actually a great time to make connections with prospects to tee up conversations and follow-ups for Q1.”
Greg Mischio, the content master at Winbound: “I try to catch-up on “personal” content – watching new movies, listening to new podcasts, and checking out some new writers. Why? Because I’m always amazed how art on the personal side tends to teach me lessons on the business side. So I like to keep the mind engaged, but separate from business to get some perspective.”
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.
Tony Jalan, business coach and leader at the Leadership Crew: “I plan a week on the beach! It gives me time to relax and spend time with my family. And I have to the space to reflect on what I learned in the past year, how I did on my goals, and recalibrate my goals for the next year.”
Danny Schuman, author of The Worst Business Model in the World: “I’m planning on doing lots of yoga around the holidays to store up good karma for the first part of 2020. I’m also going to take a lot of deep breaths. Slow down. Appreciate. And get a tattoo that reminds me of all of the above.”
Gini Dietrich, my favorite PR maven and author of Spin Sucks: “I run so hard and so fast to the end of the year that the only thing I do at the end of the year is hang out with family, ride my bike, read, and drink wine.”
Will Barron, the dynamo behind the Salesman Podcast: “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 2020
When I first started writing these year-end wrap-up articles, I had included a submission from my colleague, 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 away quickly and suddenly.
The idea he shared was prescient and such a powerful reminder to us all that I include it every 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 2020!