December always feels so far away, and yet it gets here quickly. It's tempting to put off preparing your business for the holidays and the New Year, but it's certainly not wise. If you take action on this checklist now, you'll go into the busiest time of the year with far less stress (and, you'll set yourself up for a successful 2020).  

Examine your 2019 goals. 

There's still time to isolate a particular goal that's important to you and make it happen.

  • Create or revisit your plan and devote an assigned number of hours on it every week. Follow these tips to keep the focus.
  • Put time on your calendar that's strictly reserved to work on your goal.
  • Say no to putting out fires if someone else do it (even if it means letting go of some control). Or, just say no and let it put itself out.
  • Don't pick up the phone or answer emails immediately. Instead, assign a time of the day to return calls and answer emails. 
  • Stay off of social media.  Yes, even if you own an ad agency you probably spend more time on social media than necessary. 
  • Close your browser. 
  • Go to sleep and wake up early. 
  • Eat a healthy breakfast and get in a workout. You'll have more energy when you do.

Make a list of everything you have achieved in 2019 (so far). 

Entrepreneurs tend to brush their small successes under the carpet, since there's always something more to do. Seeing a list of the things you've achieved isn't just a feel-good thing, it is inspiring and motivating. You're probably not as far away from the finish line as you believe you are.

Do your year in review now, rather than wait until December.

One benefit of doing an early review is that it gives you an opportunity to act on problems, rather than take them into the following year. Consistent issues with an employee, systems and processes that aren't working well, or a prospect list that hasn't been well-nurtured are only a few examples of situations you can remedy now.

Follow up with business to business prospects.

If you are a B2B, now is the time to nudge your prospects and clients to spend. In larger corporations there is often money remaining in certain budget categories and they aim to spend it prior to the next year. 

It's not too early to ask them about their 2020 budget, especially for training and education, since such events are planned well ahead of time. 

Anticipate your clients' needs going into the New Year. 

What might your clients need from you during the holidays and in the New Year? Do you have creative ideas or special services and offers for them? As a coach, I know that entrepreneurs experience an extra dose of stress in November and December, so I am developing a special offer to address that problem. How can you help your clients out this season? 

Create your 2020 marketing plan and budget.

What worked in 2019, and what bombed? I like to book myself for a weekend at a nice hotel that's just far enough away from home. I take this time to review and revise my financial goals and marketing plan. 

This is also a good time to finalize your marketing push for the holidays. Offer holiday specials, create festive Facebook ads, and write the emails that you'll send to your list in December. 

Review your financials.

Entrepreneurs who follow their numbers are far more likely to succeed than those who avoid them. Your financial reports will tell you how you're doing, and you may be able to make some adjustments prior to year-end if necessary. If you are not completely savvy about your financials, now's a good time to schedule an appointment with your accountant. And don't be embarrassed to ask questions. In my experience, most small business owners need help in this area so you're not alone.

Review your tax situation.

So many entrepreneurs begin feeling the tension of tax season now, since they know they will owe money or have no idea what they owe. I've worked with countless entrepreneurs who committed to a sizable boost in revenue during Q4 so they can get ahead of their tax debt, and many of them have succeeded. It's not too late to pull off a small miracle. 

Also, ask your accountant if additional deductions would benefit you. Better to spend more money than get taxed on it all. 

Holiday planning.

It's time-consuming and challenging to plan for the holidays once they are upon us. Do it now to cut down on your holiday stress.

  • Begin client gift and greeting card shopping now, especially if they are customized. 
  • What about holiday parties for your clients and/or employees? Recruit help to plan your event and book venues before everyone else in the area beats you to it.
  • Employee gifts and bonuses are important. December is a good month to offer extra acknowledgment whether it's in form of a gift, bonus time off, or monetary rewards. Employees have a way of knowing gifts and rewards are an afterthought, which never bodes well for morale.  

Cross-train to get ready for holiday vacations now.

Whether you work solo or have employees or contractors, the number of man-hours available for your projects will soon begin to lessen.  Organize vacation time now. Look at the whole puzzle and make sure there's a plan for every possibility. Cross train yourself and employees, find other resources if possible, and think about what can be shut down and for how long. 

Pre-planning will also make your employees happy--no one likes last minute news that they can't get all of the time off they'd hoped for.