Getting the Most out of Your December

It’s that time of the year. Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s time for the trees and lights to go up, for the Christmas drinks and desserts to start making appearances, the panicky Christmas shopping to begin, and the Christmas music – well, let’s be real, the Christmas music has been playing since sometime shortly after Halloween. Basically, it’s the time of year where everyone’s mind is essentially somewhere else – on thoughts of family, gifts, the hustle and cheer of the season. As a former TA at a major university, I can attest to the majority of students coming back from Thanksgiving break with glazed eyes and minds clearly displaying the notice, “Out to lunch. Back sometime in January.” Returning to the grind for two or three weeks never seems to be good enough motivation, when everything an eighteen year old wants is at home – old friends, free food, and plentiful sleep.

Now, we’ll assume that your employees (unless you happen to employee young college students) are a bit more mature and self-motivated than your average eighteen year old. But still. December is just a different kind of month. December may be a time that business owners are tempted to just let things slide, tumble, or limp through the end of the year as best they can. If it’s been a good year, you may just feel like riding that wave, and not doing anything to rock the boat or your employees’ relative good moods. If it’s been a not-so-good-year, you may be wavering between counting your losses early, and seeing what kind of production you can beg, cajole, or threaten out of your team. But is there a happy medium somewhere?

Rather than letting 2017 rattle out the rest of its course, relatively unchecked, here are a few purposeful things you can do towards the end of the year, to make sure your 2018 is as good as it can be.

First, December is a good time to conduct a review of your business – you may have in your head general ideas of what worked and what didn’t work for you. Likely it is easier to remember what went wrong during the year – or what wasn’t as successful. And while that is important to note and learn from, so you don’t make the same mistakes again in a new year, it is just as or more important to catalogue what did work. Your successes may not have just come in the form of profit. Maybe you ran a new and successful ad campaign that opened up a different demographic to your business. Maybe you created a new employee position that finally seamlessly melded different sides of your business and helped everything run more smoothly. Successes come in many forms, and all should be catalogued. You cannot plan to do things even better the following year, if you don’t actually have a good sense of what you did right this year.

Reviewing the old year then, should lead naturally into planning for the new year. Stopping at just a review will not help you put anything that you learned from that review into practice. If December feels busy, it can be easy to just push off planning for 2018 until… well, 2018. But by that time, you are starting the year on the same model as the old year, and when you do make a more concrete 2018 plan, if you do, it will already feel like a game of catch up. Implementing that new business plan suddenly involves putting on the brakes, curtailing whatever practices are no longer profitable to your business, maybe some reorganizing, and starting over again on the new tracks you set out for yourself. You will lose momentum at the beginning of the year, instead of starting out that first week of January with a fresh, new perspective and plan. So don’t look at the time you spend business planning in December as wasted time, or time you might have spent squeezing a few more sales out of your team. Look at it as time saved in January – and really, the whole of 2018, when your team is ready to launch into the year without a hitch.

Finally, make sure your employees are aware of your expectations for the month. Whether you have a specific, heightened sales goal for them to meet. Or just want them to keep chugging along at the same great pace they’ve been moving. Also make sure they know well in advance what their holiday schedule will be, and what kind of focus you expect from them.

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