The end of the year presents a natural time to look back, for individuals and businesses alike. At work, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season brings its own unique challenges; between year-end reports and compressed work schedules thanks to holiday vacations, the pace in December can feel frenetic. The most careful time managers can feel unfocused in the race to December 31. You may feel lucky simply to make it through the month and wrap up the outgoing year, much less think ahead to the next one.
While looking back is important, looking ahead to the new year right now can help you hit the ground running in January. Here are a few tips to help you plan ahead:
Map Out Your Must-Do’s for December. Plan for what must be accomplished in the remaining weeks of this year. (One of those must-do’s should be allotting time to plan for next year, by the way.) Now is a great time to sit down with your CFO or accountant to look at how revenues and expenses are shaping up for the remainder of the year, make any last-minute adjustments, and talk end-of-year taxes. You may want to take some time to review your business goals and any strategic personal priorities you may have set. If you can delegate some of these must-do’s without overwhelming other team members, that can free up more time to help you plan ahead.
Set Your Strategic Plan for the Upcoming Year. With any luck, you’re well on your way to strategic planning for next year, for both yourself personally and your company. If so, that’s great! Make sure your priorities and goals are clearly laid out for your team and that you share that plan with them. If you need time to develop these priorities and goals for next year, book time on your calendar for these remaining weeks now, so you don’t lose precious time in January. Use 5-Year Plans, financial statements, and your current strategic plan to help you think ahead to next year. Then give yourself—and your team—time to reflect and reevaluate before setting anything in stone.
Plan Key Initiatives for Q1. Whether it’s a carry-over project from the current year or a new initiative, what projects are at the top of your list for the first quarter of the new year? What will those projects entail in terms of resources? Get project plans in place if they’re not already, and set goals for deadlines and deliverables for each. Brainstorm with team members to bring them into the process, get feedback, and make sure you’re all on the same page. Getting a jump start on these Q1 projects now can give you and your team a leg up in the new year.
Think About Your Human Resources. The end of the year can be a time of change for your team. You may be offering salary increases, bonuses, or promotions. Will any of your staff be transitioning to new roles or leaving the organization? Where are there gaps in your team, and might now be a good time to consider restructuring in some way? For those team members who will be staying in their current positions, think about doing a pulse check to make sure they have what they need to succeed as the new year begins.
Evaluate Operations & Logistics. The end of the year is also an ideal time to review benefits, insurance, and other providers and vendors for the upcoming year. With health benefits, your organization has likely gone through open enrollment, but confirm with your benefits provider they have everything they need from you and your team. You might also want to review your 401K or other benefit plans, to see if any changes make sense. If you outsource any functions like accounting, audits, HR, or marketing, consider your satisfaction with the support and if it is a logical time to make any changes. Allow time to renegotiate any contracts or agreements, or to research and secure new providers and vendors if needed. Make sure all pieces are in place and that you notify team members as necessary with as much lead time as possible.
Planning for the new year now gives you time to work through and research your ideas, and can make the transition to January a smooth one. The nature of business is always volatile, and we know to expect the unexpected. But beginning the year with a clear, thoughtful list of goals and priorities will help set you, your team, and your organization off on the right foot—no matter what the next 365 days may bring.