We are almost to the end of 2016 and everything you've been putting off has to be done now, or you'll start 2017 with a cloud hanging over your head. While putting some things off does cause the problem to just go away, other things just need to happen.

Everybody should have the following three conversations before year-end. Get these done and you'll start your new year off on a high and productive note.

The Boss

If your company doesn't do year-end performance appraisals already, make an appointment to sit down with your boss for a one-on-one discussion. If you are the boss, sit down with your mentor, or your board. You need this conversation. What things do you need to talk about?

  • Things that went well this year.
  • Things that were a disaster.
  • What you could have done to make 2016 a better year.
  • How well you met your goals (assuming you had goals for 2016).
  • What your new goals are for 2017.

Make sure this isn't just a casual conversation at the coffee shop. It can be at a coffee shop, of course, but take notes, and be prepared for some hard feedback. You won't improve if you don't know where you need to improve.

The Direct Reports

If you have people who report to you, you need to have a conversation with each one of them. It will be almost the same as the conversation above -- you'll just be sitting on the other side of the table. Your employees need to have this conversation so they can have clear expectations of what they need to do to make the next year awesome.

The difference between this conversation and the one with your boss is that you are going to add a couple of additional questions:

  • What can I do to help you achieve your goals? You can, of course, ask your boss what she'll do for you, but that seems a little pushy. You should, though, ask your employees what you can do to help.
  • What tasks are not the best use of your talents? Every job has parts that we aren't well suited for, but have to get done. Some of them have to be done by a specific person, others can be done by anyone. Find out what your employees don't feel is the best use of their time.
  • What tasks are the best use of our talents? This is the opposite of the last question, but also critical. When you ask both of these questions of every direct report, you may find more efficient ways to assign the work, so that everyone is focused on things they like and are good at. This isn't to say you should stop cross-training, but it is to say you should allocate work in the best way possible.

The Spouse

Or your significant other, if you have one. If you don't, have this conversation with yourself. While you may think that your personal relationships are not work related, they can have a tremendous impact. Ask the following questions.

  • Are we where we want to be right now
    • Emotionally?
    • Financially?
    • In our careers?
  • What changes should we make in order to achieve our goals?
  • Are you happy? Am I happy? If not, what changes do we need to make?
  • What can I do to help support your career?
  • Here is what I need from you in terms of support for my career.
  • Do we really have to spend Christmas with your mother, again?

OK, that last one may not be necessary, but heaven knows many couples have that conversation every December. The important thing is that you have clear conversations with each other about your jobs. If you're chasing your dream while your spouse is paying all the bills, you need to know if that is sustainable in the long run. If you want to buy a house, but neither of you is saving any money, it's time to get that on track.

Sit down, have a few conversations over some peppermint hot chocolate, and be prepared for 2017 to be awesome.