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Making Your Calendar Work For You (Instead Of Being Its Slave) Each year tends to teach us the same lessons. Track them, take note of them, and most importantly, plan for them across your organisation.

By Taryn Hunter Sharman

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I get teased mercilessly about using my calendar frequently – and planning the year in advance every January. Besides the fact that it's probably my favourite thing to do, I have also learnt far too many painful lessons with both staff and cash flow by not looking at the year in its entirety.

Related: 3 Steps To Being Proactive With Your Time, Instead Of Reactive

Generally, staff (and I guess humans in general) don't plan their leave a year in advance, and I assure you, Gen Y and Z, (bless their souls), definitely don't. I therefore go through the painstaking process of plotting every major holiday, school holidays (private and public) as well as every public holiday on a year calendar.

Planning that works for everyone

I then work out, for the benefit of the staff, if they maximise their leave, what would be the best days to take off. From there, I work out how many players per team or business unit could potentially make use of the leave without crippling the business.

For example, this year, due to Easter and public holidays - if you take 6 days working leave - you get a full 2 weeks leave, based on the size of my business, one person per department could take advantage of the leave. These should be offered to the top employees first.

Related: How to Stay Focused When Everything Wants Your Attention

I also plot December. It's the one time of the year that South Africans really love and look forward to, and so it's imperative to work out when to close and when to open dependent again on capacity and the commercial viability of closing.

Making teams aware of the opportunistic dates or date pitfalls, as well as preparing them in advance that you're likely to remain open for longer in December, or open early in January means that they are then able to also mentally prepare themselves for the year ahead. It also allows you to provide warning timeously, and potentially eliminate any HR issues closer to the time.

Staff leave is a cost, and should be given as much time and analysis that you would given any other cost centre.

Forewarned is forearmed

Equally important is to plan the commercial pitfalls of each month. In previous years, it was imperative that you plan for a lull in January, and that it often took a full six weeks to pull yourself out of the slow start to the year.

For the last three years however, we have found that January no longer follows the typical slow month, and that it often picks up at the pace it left off in mid December, with campaigns already prepared and running at full steam from as early as the first week of January.

Unfortunately, there is a second lull period that impacts us all: Fakepril. 2019 has been no exception, with the month so interrupted by holidays that we were left with less than 14 working days. And yet we've need to turn a full calendar month of revenue into the business.

This either means that either it was your hardest hustle month, you prepared for it in your revenue projections for the year, or you're busy playing catch-up.

Of course, you have to remain agile, and it doesn't take away from the "these things happen', that happen in every business.

But forewarned is forearmed they say, and if you're like me, you don't respond well to surprises that you could have avoided – and I also only like to learn a lesson once.

I like to look for patterns, overlay the learnings, and find meaningful solutions that could save the bottom line and some HR tears.

Start working your calendar, learn the lessons each year teaches us, and plan for them going forward.

Related: 7 South African Entrepreneurs Who Went From Nothing To Global Success

Taryn Hunter Sharman

Chief Founder and Creative Catalyst of Faith & Fear

During her 12-year tenure as MD of successful integrated marketing communications agency, Ebony+Ivory, Taryn Hunter Sharman was named as runner-up ‘Business Woman of the Year’ based on building a of 40 (100% growth over 5 years) and taking the firm’s growth from R20-million to R70-million in just two years.
In 2015, Taryn launched Faith & Fear, a new breed of consultancy that combines strategic thinking with smart creative. 
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