The Christmas period impacts different practices and business units in different ways. For most, January is very quiet, February is a little quiet, and by March everything is in full swing. Most practices shut down for at least a week, often two, and sometimes even three. As part of the Kaizen approach, we’re always asking: Why? Is this the best approach? Could it be done differently?
With great uncertainty in advice, education requirements, and more… it’s understandable to be emotionally and mentally exhausted at this time. With January ahead, you may not be certain exactly what will have changed and what won’t have.
Rather than get bogged down, let’s look at what we can do.
When asked why we spend January in shutdown, the answers that come to mind are:
- Staff are going away – Some do, but unless you give them the option you can’t know for sure.
- Clients are away – Fair, it’s not the best time to be approaching clients, but that just means one (albeit key) function can’t be done.
- Everyone else is closed – Partly true, but as above, that limits what can be done, but that’s not everything.
What doesn’t come to mind is, these present answers to the common complaint: We’re so busy, we have no time. If you’ve been guilty of uttering that phrase, then pay close attention.
A woodsman was once asked, “What would you do if you had just five minutes to chop down a tree?” He answered, “I would spend the first two and a half minutes sharpening my axe.”Unknown
This article is a call to all of you out there to consider January an opportunity to be considered and taken advantage of.
In this article, I’ll be covering:
- A chance to focus
- Checklist for a major January project
- New year resolution project ideas
A chance to focus
I’ll share a little secret. I almost always lie with my out-of-office messages. Out until Friday? I’ll tell you I come back Tuesday. It’s simple, set the expectation, and then exceed it. Or, better still, get a day to focus on progressing important items (Quadrant 1 & 2) before moving on to urgent and unimportant (Quadrant 3). (See Covey’s Time Management Matrix if you don’t get quadrants reference.)
The Christmas period provides an unparalleled opportunity to go even further and really dedicate time to focus on initiatives that will genuinely move the needle in your business for 2020.
So, instead of returning to work on 13 January, consider doing so on 6 January. Or, if you would normally return on 6 January or earlier, tell the world you’re coming back on 13 January.
Next thing you know, you’ve got an opportunity to get elbow deep in making big improvements. No clients. No phones. No marketers. No BDMs. No distractions. Phones stay on redirect, out-of-office messages stay on, nobody needs to keep an eye on reception, meeting rooms can be dominated with whiteboards full of plans, casual attire can reign supreme as we’re 100% in build mode.
Major project checklist
For everybody in their busy lives, you need to invest in sharpening your tools, and you need to invest in longevity.Ryan Holmes
If you’re going to do this, you’ll need to get your ducks lined up so that serious doing can take place.
- Check leave – Ask for leave requests up front so you can plan projects accordingly
- Check availability – If you will need access to anyone key outside of the organisation, check their availability. This could be your licensee, software vendors, professional advisers, product providers. See if they plan to take leave. If yes, do a little work up front to get what you need in advance.
- Use what you have – With some staff away, not every project idea will be an option. Carefully assess how that time can best be used. Individuals staying back may have their own ideas for how they would like to use such time.
- Structure – A work breakdown schedule to cover everything that needs doing is critical. Especially when you operate to short deadlines as a habit, a week feels like infinite time to get something done. So, clear deadlines for each day is critical. The amount of pressure should be no less in January than any other month, if we’re to have as much breathing room as possible throughout the year. (I regularly use Asana for this.)
- Leadership – Motivation is an important consideration here. Set some time aside for the first day back, and some morning teas as the others trickle in. Some dedicated time to genuinely catch up can go a long way when we need the rest of the time to knuckle down and kick goals.
New year resolutions
It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?Henry David Thoreau
Some great opportunities exist over the new year break.
Any changeovers from old ways to new ways of doing things is perfect at 1 January. The pipeline is at it’s smallest, and it’s a clean date that is easy to remember when you’re looking back. New filing systems, new review processes, going paperless, all present great opportunities.
One of my favourites in advice is the change of review process to gradually improve things over the course of a year. Update the data in your CRM, go to paperless, adjust FDS process, move clients over to new fee models, and more. They are all something that would be a big job done at once, but slowly over twelve months, while team members are working on the file anyways isn’t such a big deal.
New tech is another great option to go live with as early in the year as possible. No significant change in tech ever goes perfectly, so scheduling this for when the business impact is at it’s minimum just makes good sense. Similarly, any client service process changes can be confusing at first and presents cracks in the process until understanding sets in.
Manage your reviews, don’t let your reviews manage you
If you don’t already know what your review schedule looks like in terms of numbers, get your head around it. For most practices, an export of your review dates should make this very simple. Once you do know, don’t let chance drive how busy you are over the year. Take control and move appropriate clients to the timing that suits you and your client base overall.
So, I urge you, plan now so you can go into the new year with the sharpest tools possible!