As 2019 ends, even the most productive people slow down a little bit. Employees go on vacation, some organizations shut down entirely for the last week of December, and it can feel natural to run out the clock in the final days of the year.

But leaders shouldn't check out for the year--even if you are stepping away from work, you still should take the opportunity to reflect upon what's happened the previous year and to prepare for the upcoming one.

You can use the holidays to become a better leader and start 2020 in the best possible position. Here's how.

Show gratitude to your team

The end of the year is an ideal time to tell your team that you value them, especially if you have been neglecting to do this during the year. Whether it's a personal note to each member of your team, a small gift of appreciation, or even a company-sponsored reward, those small gestures will go a long way.

Showing appreciation doesn't just build trust with your employees--it can also make them more productive. A Harvard Business Review study by Francesca Gino and Adam Grant found that fundraisers who received a show of gratitude from their managers increased their outreach by 50 percent.

At our company, Acceleration Partners, we commit to fulfilling 10-15 employee wishes each year, rather than giving year-end bonuses. The wishes vary--for example, helping an employee travel to Greece to see their extended family, hiring an investigator to find their long-lost brother or giving training to run a marathon--but the key is to show our team that we value them both professionally and beyond work. This brings our organization closer together and gives our team another reason to give their best.

Give your time.

The winter holidays are a rare chance for us to unplug from work without fear of missing something crucial. Even the hardest driving leaders take time off work--but that doesn't mean you should let that time go to waste.

This time of year, there's a lot of focus on giving the perfect gift. Often, what our loved ones really want is our time or attention. We can use time off to invest in our important relationships, build our connections and create memories to carry into the next year.

This isn't just important to your personal growth--it helps you grow as a professional leader as well. Entrepreneur and speaker Jim Rohn once said, "you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." If you use your time off to strengthen your relationships, those people will help you grow. When you return to work after spending time with loved ones, you'll feel refreshed, fulfilled and ready to start the year strong.

Start with the end in mind.

When the calendar flips to 2020, the people who start with clear goals and a plan to meet them are more likely to achieve what they want than those who enter the year with no idea what they want to accomplish.

If you take time off for the holidays, take a moment for some introspection and planning. What are some personal and professional goals that are important to you for the coming year? What smaller things do you have to accomplish to achieve those overarching goals? It's not about setting resolutions, it's more about using the beginning of the year as a recalibration point.

Make sure to consider if your goals will help you reach what you want in the long-term. Your annual goals should be like down payments on your five and 10 year goals--otherwise, you will be spending time chasing achievements that don't build toward what you want in the future.

Finally, step out of your comfort zone and share your goals. Clinical psychologist Dr. Gail Mathews found that people who share their goals with friends and regularly report on their progress hit those goals 76 percent of the time. Even if you ask one person you trust to be your accountability partner, you'll put yourself on a better path to achieve more.

The end of the year is a perfect time for some rest and relaxation, but you can maximize the impact of that recuperation by using your time and energy carefully. If you share your time and generosity with others and consider what you want to do in the new year, you'll put yourself on track for a stronger 2020.

Published on: Dec 23, 2019
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.