The last quarter of every year is either a mad scramble to the finish line or a relaxed coast into the new year. Companies and people alike are notorious for embarking on a wildly ambitious quest to achieve something huge by year's end or for gliding through the closing months and vowing to set new goals after the holidays.
There is an art to goal setting, and the end of the year is no exception. If there is something you want to get done--whether it's for yourself, with your team, etc.--you need to find a balance between setting the bar high enough so you aren't coasting but not so high that you end up finishing the year disappointed in yourself.
Before you go setting big goals, keep these things in mind:
1. Reflection Is Equally as Important
Setting goals to reach before the year comes to a close is great. But remember: This is also a crucial time for reflection. The end of the year is an opportunity to look hard at nine months of habits and see where and how you can improve for the year to follow.
If you make the mistake of always going, going, going, then you will fall into the trap of spinning your wheels without ever getting anywhere. Reflection time is as valuable as working time. So before you set big end-of-the-year goals, remember to pencil in a healthy amount of reflection time as well.
2. Make the Decision to Start Something New or Finish Something Old
There are always two types of projects: the one you want to start because it's an interesting idea, or the one you want to finish because it's been on your plate for far too long.
When you're setting goals for yourself, decide which sort of zone you want to be in. Do you want to start a new project? Hit the whiteboard and let the ideas run wild? Or do you want to finish a project? Sit down, look at everything you've got, and then fill in the missing pieces?
Doing both at the same time is hard. As the saying goes, "Chase two rabbits and both will escape."
3. Holidays Will Take Up a Lot of Time
If you are looking to close out something big before the year ends, just remember that November and December are full of busy holidays.
Too often, people set goals without taking into account the other things going on in their life, and then end up disappointed when things don't go according to plan.
So, plan accordingly: You'll have extended family in town, you'll need to cater to guests, maybe you'll need to travel, there might be events going on you have to attend, etc. Map all these things out, and then take a look at your calendar.
4. Group Similar Tasks and Projects Together to Be More Efficient
If you are "going for gold" before the end of the year, then put to use some best practices for being productive.
One of the best things you can do is group similar tasks together. For example: If you have a lot on your plate, don't bounce between different types of tasks. Answering e-mails while trying to read something dense while responding to texts while making edits to your blog is not conducive to getting things done. Instead, respond to all your e-mails. Then get in your zone and work through the dense stuff. Then take a break to respond to texts. Separate and focus instead of trying to multitask.
5. You Will Never Be Able to Do It All
Harsh but true: You won't be able to do it all. As much as you want to think you would be able to cover a laundry list of "To Get Done Before 2016 Ends" items, realize that things will come up. Priorities will change. That's part of the journey.
By no means should you set easily attainable goals instead, but just be conscious of what is realistic. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it's better to be clear about what you want to get done and then actually see it through, rather than make huge promises to yourself you know on some level you won't be able to keep.
Finish the year strong.