If you’ve got any work ethic, it shouldn’t matter what day/date it is, you should be ready to kick ass any day of the week. But even if the calendar doesn’t matter to you, it does to the government, state and most people that operate on the calendar based system. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Move all your 2010 mail into it’s own folder.
Your inbox should only have 2011 / current stuff. But wait! Once your mail is moved to the 2010 folder, sort it by attachment size and nuke anything that you don’t think you’ll ever need to refer to again that has already been archived, backed up twice and otherwise put away.
Personally, I don’t allow any of my employees to create Vlad mail or move my mail to a “Vlad” folder. Maybe it’s indulgent, but as long as I’m signing your paycheck I expect you to give my email a priority. I don’t forward fart jokes or 419 scams, if I’m sending you an email I have a reason for it.. For one, because I don’t ever want to hear “Oh, I didn’t see that email…” and because we use Outlook and it’s easier to setup Search Folders than Outlook rules. Get in a habit of routing your receipts, automated mail, lists and other non-actionable mail to a folder automatically. Inbox is for the correspondence, and with 2010 over, it’s time to start fresh.
2. Review 2010.
Once 2010 is in a folder by itself, move on to your analog stuff: notes, drawings, whiteboards, notebooks, postits, filing cabinet, pile of papers in the to-do bins, so on and so forth.
What you do with it is very subjective. Some people are really good at catching up. I’m not. I recently threw out boxes of “Cool Marketing” that I thought we should be doing at OWN. Some of it had included launch collateral for Office 2003. Yeah..
Personally, if I think it’s important I’ll give it to someone else. If it’s really important, I’ll find a way to get it done in the bigger picture.
3. Set your 2011 agenda.
Get your important dates on the board.
Annual health checkups. Doctor. Dentist. You know you have to do it so put it on the board. Vacations – ditto. Conferences – same.
Once you have a better idea of when you’ll be in the office and when you’ll be out of the office, you can arrange the rest of your schedule.
4. Get the obligatory crap done first.
You know you have 15 days to pay unemployment taxes, 1 month to send out all 1099’s and W2s and less than 3 months to send your personal taxes. I am not an accountant so don’t take these dates to heart: instead focusing on what is most fun or easiest, focus on what’s required.
It’s fun to procrastinate. Until the time that something is due. Then you’ll have to do the task, the dozen tasks that your boss gave you and another dozen fires that you’re putting out. If you know you’ve got obligations, take care of them now! They will not get easier the closer you get to the deadline.
This is possibly the most important point because missing it means huge fines. Taking care of things now also gives you extra time to have things reviewed, audited, obtain additional information that you thought you had but don’t, getting information from incompetent people, digging for information in archives, etc.
5. Focus on the process.
I always get asked why working the last week of the year is so important. Isn’t that when everyone slows down? No, that’s when the losers quit. Let me put it to you this way – I have a girl that takes the last two weeks of the year off every year to go away and hang out with her family. Guess how much work she drops while she is out? Zip. Zero. Nada. Deals are being done all the way up to New Years Eve and they are always accounted for.
So if you work to exhaustion through the holidays – what do you do now? Well, there is a common misconception that you use the holidays to clean up, slow things down, rearrange, etc. Personal life, yes. In business, it works a little bit differently. Sales people will not be calling you this week – they have a new quota and they are likely in training and meetings. Good luck getting managements attention for anything – they are dealing with the books, audits, direction, reviews and the last quarter/year.
This is common knowledge. Nobody is calling you because nobody expects important people to have the time to pick up the phone. The only folks calling right now are the ones that made some lame New Years resolution and are looking for a job.
Get to work.
Mute your phone.
Stop reading this blog.
Once 1-4 are done, get to designing your process. This is not a 5 minute drill or throwing a dart at the wall. This takes days/weeks to put together. For example: Which emails will you reply to and which ones will you forward. How do you set expectations of when you’re available and when you’re not. How can your clients contact you (407-536-VLAD)? Remember that 2010 review you did – did you write the same emails over and over – if so make them into canned responses or blog posts or KB articles. When will you be meeting with your staff? With your boss? With your clients? When are you available for phone calls? When will you be taking lunch breaks?
From basics to advanced, this is planning time. Don’t jump into things head first or try to make business goals without establishing expectations, review intervals, goals and objectives (if you don’t, how do you know if you’re on the right track or not?). If the goal is to make $100,000 off Service B then at what point in the year should you have made $20,000? When do you quit?
Process is the biggest part of the game because your ability to wing it diminishes in effectiveness the bigger or busier you get.
6. Save this blog post.
I’ll leave it to my buddy Karl Palachuk to write and sell you a huge checklist you can tape to your wall. I don’t have the time or the insight to give you the 300 steps that you need to take right now. Actually, if he writes it I’d buy it. But I will offer you this for free: Save this blog post and come back to it every month. Why? Even with the best of intentions, you’ll likely only act on one of the ideas you get here. We’re impulsive beasts – if you found this valuable print it out. It’s OK, pick a really small font and go hug a tree. Write down the notes or ideas that you got about what you should be doing this year. Then come back to it in a month and see what remains unchecked. Again and again, over and over.
Whether you’ve got a job or own a business, your success is ultimately dependent on how you manage yourself and your time.
Whether you’ve got someone kicking your ass or you need to kick your own ass, it’s up to you to become a success. Work ethic, planning, evaluating, execution, review and process are the way you move forward regardless of external issues.
It’s January. You’ve got the benefit of a bit of a breather before things pick up – use it to step your game up. I certainly hope this helps! Happy New Year!