When someone asks me how I’m doing the last few weeks of December, I tell them, “Oh, you know, I’m pushing rope.”
It’s that time of the year: We have projects to wrap up, reports to finalize, and…no one seems to be around. Some take off early for an extended vacation. Some roll off the team or their contracts simply end. Others have their own panicked end-of-year tasks to complete. Any way you slice it, December can be murder on your productivity!
I feel like I’m on a roller coaster: at times working on five high-priority items simultaneously, then all of a sudden there’s nothing left to do and I’m just…waiting. Waiting for someone to respond; waiting for an action to complete. (There are only so many times you can ask for a status before you get patently ignored…)
As someone who is energized by multiple competing priorities, this “pushing rope season” feels even worse than it sounds.
So how can you finish the year strong?
By leaning into the slow-down.
I’m sure you’ve been super busy through the year. You’ve made great progress on your projects, even completed some (congrats!). But I bet there are items and areas you’ve pushed aside till “later.” Guess what? Now is an excellent “later.”
Ideas to keep motivated today and ready to hit the ground running in January:
- Can your team find everything they need? This is a great time to move files and folders, organizing them logically. Sometimes I start a project with one team and it expands to others. While I might be able to find all the information in their original locations, newer people may not.
- Speaking of info, how’s your documentation? If an auditor comes knocking tomorrow, will you be prepared? Give it an end-of-year review: does it exist, is it finished (and signed, if necessary), and is it accessible (see above bullet point!).
- Are your processes as efficient as possible? When I absorb a new task, the initial focus is “can I get this done?” Once I’ve done it a few times, I know more about the “what and why,” so I can focus on the “how.” December gives me space to think through the process, not just get it done.
- If you’re responsible for an application, did an enhancement come out mid-year that is a good idea to implement…but you just didn’t have the bandwidth back in June? Use the quiet to check it out. You may even find it’s an easy one to put in place—knock it out before January hits!
- Finally, what are the biggest pain points from this year that will repeat in the next? Said another way, what do you wish was a whole lot easier the next time you have to do it? Think through why these were so challenging. You will probably find a pattern. You may not be able to do anything to resolve them before the new year, but you’ll gain clarity and you can proactively set a few meetings for when everyone is back and rested from the holidays.
You may have noticed I didn’t mention a formal wrap-up for the past year or creating a north star plan for the next. Both activities provide great value but are necessarily theoretical in nature. The goal of this post is to focus on tasks that can keep you motivated today and help you be more productive starting tomorrow.
What do you think? Do you have something to work on in between the crazy periods this week? Finish the year strong by leaning into the slow-down.