No other month evokes such mixed feelings of joy and dread, especially for professionals trying to wrap up tasks before the New Year dawns. There’s so much to do, and it’s hard to maintain year-end momentum.
Sure it’s a wonderful time of year, what with the holidays and the parties and visits from friends and family.
But there’s no denying we’re smack in the middle of the busy season — a time when visions of sugar plums are too often supplanted by nightmares of missed opportunities.
So how can you end the year with a proverbial bang instead of whimpers? How can you shop, ship, wrap, pack, and keep up your holiday cheer without losing sight of the people, projects, and processes you nurture 11 other months of the year?
While it’s easy to succumb to real and imagined pressures this time of year, you’ll thank yourself in January if you stay focused and finish December with clarity and purpose.
Make a List – and Identify What’s Important
We’re not going to belabor the obvious, like suggesting you organize your inbox. In all seriousness, it’s a little late for that.
If you haven’t come up with a system to keep your email organized by now, odds are low you’ll come up with something before you duck out for the holiday party.
But even if it’s impossible to clear the 5,897 messages you’ve procrastinated about since the first quarter, you should attend to anything critical. Scan your unread mail, identify anything important, and send at least brief responses.
Then set up a thoughtful vacation responder to alert anyone else who messages you to have patience because your responses may take a bit longer this month.
Take a Look Back
Margaret Wise, VP of Strategy at Arke, suggests taking a look back to get ready to move forward.
“One thing I do at the end of every year is to take a look back through my calendar. It reminds me of people I met with and would like to check back in with again
“Since I use my calendar for all of my time management, my tasks are organized into time blocks. I can make sure I carry over any efforts that didn’t get completed into 2018. In other cases, I may decide they aren’t important enough to carry forward,” she said.
In addition to creating an opportunity for reflection, Wise said the exercise also makes her realize how much she accomplished throughout the year.
Jack Macko, VP of Operations at Arke, said a little realism goes a long way this time of year.
“Don’t plan on actively working on anything new like a software release or product launch beyond Dec. 15. Once the holiday weeks hit, you’ll be juggling vacations, illnesses, travel, and unexpected work that has to be done to close out the year.
“Those issues will create enough distractions — and opportunities for something to go wrong. Finish as strong as you can by the middle of the month, then use the rest of the month to recharge and plan for next year.”
Be Respectful of Everyone’s Time
Arke Co-Founder and CTMO Chris Spears said it’s important to remember everyone is busy this time of year. So be respectful of everyone’s time and workload.
If you need help to complete something before the year closes, take a minute to explain the situation. “Strive to educate the people around you and those whose help you need. It makes you an advisor and not a pest,” he explained.
That kind of thinking goes a long way to build positive relationships. So does “waking up every morning willing to ask those closest to you how you can be of service to them that day,” Spears said.
Focus on Personal and Professional Growth
It’s easy to get bogged down in minutia when the clock is ticking. But balance your to-do list with your mindfulness and sanity to maintain your end-of-year momentum.
“Yes, Virginia, it’s OK to say ‘No’ …”
Instead of fretting the small stuff, Brian Rudolph, executive director of digital strategy at Arke, suggests using the waning weeks of the year to make a list of people you want to learn from in the coming year. “Make a list and check it twice. Ha!” he said.
Rudolph also suggests welcoming 2018 with a sense of optimism and adventure.
“Plan one activity for the New Year that takes you out of your comfort zone,” he explained. “It can be a small step, like joining a group you would never typically join, or a big one, like speaking in front of an audience or skydiving.”
No matter how you chose to spend the dwindling days of 2017, all of us at Arke wish you peace, happiness, and limitless opportunities.
May you end the year with a sense of fulfillment and joy. And may you welcome 2018 with a sense of hope and enthusiasm.