All around us, a change is taking place. The days are getting noticeably shorter, leaves are beginning to turn, and there’s a distinct chill in the air. It can only mean one thing. The fourth quarter is in full swing.
Business leaders know how tricky Q4 can be. Whether you like it or not, the end of the year brings with it that inevitable holiday lull, and it can be tempting to take your foot off the gas. But the best companies and top performers know that the end of the year is a prime opportunity to generate momentum to slingshot into New Year’s success.
We’ve just wrapped up our Q4 quarterly planning over at SnackNation, and ending our year strong is definitely top of mind for me. So here are seven of my tried and true tips for ending your year with a bang -- and setting yourself up for success in 2017.
1. Review your goals from earlier in the year.
Remember those goals you set way back at the end of 2015? It’s time to bust them out again.
Some people shy away from reviewing their yearly goals in Q4, afraid of a lack of progress they might find. Worse still, when they don’t see the progress they’d hoped for, some throw up their hands and give up. They think, “I’m so off track from where I wanted to be, I'll just start again in the new year.”
To me, that’s crazy. When you think this way, you’re essentially throwing away three perfectly good months of the year. Three months is plenty of time to reassess what you can realistically accomplish and to set Q4 goals that make an impact and track back to your yearly goals.
Perhaps more importantly, you need momentum in Q4 to have a great Q1. Think about -- it’s almost impossible to go from a standstill to a sprint. Life just doesn’t work that way.
So even if you aren’t on track to hit all your goals (and you probably won’t be), look to create some momentum by figuring out what you can accomplish in the time remaining. Create quarterly goals and get after them to set yourself up for success in next year's Q1.
2. Create your New Year’s goals now.
This might sound crazy, but trust me, it’s a game changer. Create your goals for 2017 as soon as you can in Q4 -- certainly by early November at the latest. Why is this so important? Because doing so allows you to absorb and live with your goals, and gives you time to tweak them if need be.
Goal-setting is a bit of an artform, and really, there are a ton of ways to do it effectively. Here’s a formula that I love for its simplicity and because I know it works. We call it the 5-4-3-2-1.
Come up with goals in the following format:
five things you need to do
four things to STOP doing
three new habits
two people to hold you accountable
one new belief
Going through this process as early as possible in Q4 ensures that you have time to check in and reevaluate your goals before January 1st. You can download our 5-4-3-2-1 worksheet.
3. Don’t just create your goals, get started on them early!
If you’re like most people, you probably begin each New Year with the best of intentions. You come out of the gate hot on January 1, determined to keep your New Year’s resolutions, but right around the 15th, your goals start to go off the rails. You grow frustrated and let your goals lapse, or start feeling guilty. Eventually, you just give up.
You see, it’s not enough to merely set your goals early (although, of course that’s important). You also have to get started on them in Q4 so you can practice them in a pressure-free environment. Use November and December as a training ground for your goals, before they go live.
The thing is, you will fail. New Year’s goals are a practice. Allow yourself to succeed and fail early, without that added pressure and self-judgement that the New Year brings. You need to give yourself ample time to take hold of your aspirations, so you come out of January 1st at the correct angle of attack.
4. Make sure you give yourself a break the last week of the year.
Reserve that last week between Christmas and New Year’s for active rejuvenation -- a chance to recharge for the big year you have ahead of you. This doesn’t mean you can drop everything when that last week rolls around. Ideally, you’ve planned ahead so you don’t have to catch up during this period.
Part and parcel of rejuvenation is taking care of yourself and being smart about your health. During the last quarter of the year, be sure to
Eat alkaline foods (all illness thrives in acidic environments)
Wash your hands like crazy, give fist bumps more than high fives, and keep Purell at your desk
Get enough sleep, especially during holiday party season
Take vitamin C (I take it in the morning and during the day)
5. Offset indulgences with healthy choices.
Don’t start the new year behind the eight ball! With the endless parade of holiday parties and decadent meals this time of year, it can be tempting to engage in some seriously unhealthy habits. Avoid falling into this trap by replacing unhealthy choices with healthier ones.
Remember it’s all about momentum for Q4. Avoid a holiday hangover and don’t eat and drink to the point of feeling sluggish, tired and awful in the new year. Notice that I did not say don’t enjoy yourself or be social. I’m a strong believer in giving yourself a bit more dietary leeway during Thanksgiving and over the December holidays. Just make sure you offset indulgences with healthy choices.
6. Reset your internal clock.
The fourth quarter means the end of daylight savings time and a rapid decline in daylight. Ask yourself how the shorter days impact you? For many, limited daylight corresponds with a decrease in energy and a downtick in mood. If this applies to you, you definitely want to get ahead of it.
One thing is for sure, you don’t want to waste what little daylight you do have! Personally, I prefer working out later in the day during the winter because it gives me an extra boost to close out the day. The point is, do what you need to do to adjust to limited daylight without losing a step.
7. Go into the holidays with clear personal objectives.
Finally, don’t forget what the holidays are really about: Maintaining our most important relationships. I find it ironic that many leaders, who can be so methodical in all aspects of their business, leave one of the most important aspect of their lives -- their relationships with their closest friends and family -- completely up to chance.
That’s why you should go into the holidays with clear set objectives when it comes to the relationships in your life. It doesn’t have to be complicated, either. It can simply be a mindset that you’re going to make a concerted effort to work on one or more of the relationships that are important to you.
Remember, just as having a great day is dependent on having a good morning, having an amazing new year is all about having a fantastic and well-thought-out fourth quarter. Practice certainly makes perfect, and failing is all a part of the process.
For a more detailed exploration of this list (and two extra tips), subscribe to The Awesome Office podcast on iTunes.