December is basically here, which means we've nearly completed another trip around the sun. It feels like only 365 days ago we were looking at our end of year numbers, tying up loose ends and setting up our goals for 2018.
At this time of year, it's easy to get stressed out; between evaluating how we did and planning for what we're going to do, it can feel like there's barely time to look around at what we're actually doing. After experiencing that end of year panic far too often, I've come up with some tips for staying cool, calm and collected during the last month of the year. Of course, these tips can be applied at other times too.
1. Ask for help.
Yes, everyone is busy, but we all have time to help each other out. Before you ask for help, though, think carefully about who you are asking and how much you are asking them to do. As a leader, you should have a good idea of what people have going on, and who has bandwidth and who does not.
Not everything has to be transactional, but if I need help from someone during a particularly busy time, I try to think about where I can step in to help them. That help can be direct and hands on, or it can come in the form of facilitating a responsibility shift between co-workers.
2. Write things down.
This goes for everything from your 2019 resolutions to what time your flight home for the holidays leaves. This time of year is always hectic, so it's easy to forget the little things. If there's any possibility that you might need a piece of information you're receiving, write it down, either on a post-it, in a notebook, or in your Notes app.
I personally like to keep things digital. My Google calendar is my lifeline, not only for meetings and appointments, but also for personal reminders like "buy groceries" or "work out." I also try to keep my Notes app relatively organized, which comes in handy when I need to pull up a random tidbit of information.
3. Plan ahead.
This one might seem obvious, and hopefully you're doing it already, but just in case: Plan. Ahead. In the chaos that is the end of the year, something is bound to go wrong--a due date will sneak up on you, a deliverable will need adjustments, meetings will be scheduled and rescheduled. It's not anyone's fault; there's only so much we can control.
There are ways you can prepare, though. Have deliverables ready early, to leave room for adjustments. Don't be married to meeting times, and leave some extra room in your calendar in case things need to be pushed back or moved up. And when things don't go according to plan, don't focus on the chaos--focus on picking up the pieces and getting things done.
4. Reflect, deeply.
Take a look back at the goals you set for the current year, both in your personal and professional life. When doing this, the natural urge is to examine whether or not you achieved those goals, in a very yes-or-no manner. This works for some goals, like sales or customer satisfaction, but not all of them.
So in addition to thinking about whether or not you achieved your goals, try to also think about the steps you took toward achieving them. So even if you didn't necessarily accomplish them, you can point to places where you worked for them. If you didn't take any steps, then maybe that goal has become less important to you--or, maybe you'll decide to give it another try next year. Whatever the case may be, remember to examine things from more than one angle.
This can be helpful for a couple of reasons. The first, of course, is to make sure that what you are doing now makes sense with what you and your company are trying to do in the near future.
But the second reason is for a sense of comfort. Before we know it, December will be over. All of the flustered feelings and eleventh-hour e-mails will pass. Everything has an end, even that project that's taking forever to get done--try to remember that instead of giving in to a spiral of despair.