The end of 2015 is rapidly approaching, and now is the time for you to consider where the new opportunities are in the new year. As a small-business owner, December is the time to take a step back from your day-to-day responsibilities, evaluate your operations and find new avenues for growth.
At the same time, however, you'll need to think about January - the month where the goals you set this month will be put into action. The start of the year is often a slow period, but it's also the most important time of the year for setting up your future performance.
To help you have a strong start to the new year, we've assembled five different strategies that can help you start the new year on the right footing.
1) Start planning in December
Perhaps the first step in setting yourself up for a productive January is to start in December. At the highest level, this means having goals, resolutions and aspirations for your company that you will be looking to achieve in the coming 12 months.
Having a strong January isn't just about keeping your objectives in mind. It's also about using this time in December to think about how you can actually implement these changes come January. For example, if you have set a goal to increase revenue by 15 per cent, boil that down to the concrete actions you are going to take to get there and then incorporate them into your plan for 2016.
Make sure to draft a list of priorities for January.
There are further ways you can prepare your office in December to set the ground for a productive January. For example, consider cleaning your desk this month so that you don't return to an untidy work environment in that first week back.
2) Draft a to-do list
It sounds simple, but there is a lot of power in the to-do list. It's rare to finish everything in December, so make sure to write out your priorities for January. Keep the list short - either by addressing as much as you can beforehand or delegating tasks that don't need your full attention to other members of your team. A brief list of five important responsibilities is much harder to ignore than 20 small jobs that need your attention.
For a more general guide on how to draft a good to-do list, here's a video from business author Gina Tripani, published by SmartCompany.
Also, make sure your to-do list doesn't get lost over the holidays or is neglected once you return to the office. A good strategy is to put your list in a place you can't ignore, like alongside your computer monitor.
3) Pack your calendar
One of the reasons for small-business owners to have a slow January is that the usual treadmill of meetings and calls with external parties slows down over the new year. With other businesses still ramping in to 2016, it becomes much harder to maintain the pace of your own firm.
If your calendar is looking a little thin in the first half of January, consider booking in meetings internally and set aside some time to tackle those conversations you haven't addressed in 2015.
Focussing on meetings internally plays a two-fold benefit. Firstly, it allows you to put time into addressing issues within your business. Secondly, it enables you to reconnect socially with staff and catch up on their own experiences over the new year.
Filling your calendar is an important step in returning to work.
4) Purge your emails
The average business person sends and receives 122 emails a day, according to the Radicati Group. Even when you aren't in the office to reply, those emails will keep coming and quickly overwhelm your inbox when you return.
An easy way to prevent this is to set up filters before going on holiday to catch emails you know aren't going to demand your attention.
When you are back in the office, consider putting time aside every day for the first week, set aside an hour a day to address emails. Having this hard limit can ensure you aren't spending hours on issues you have been cc'ed into.
More generally though, it's important to focus on your own email management skills, a topic covered by author Andy Bounds using the 'snowball effect'.
5) Involve your entire team
In a small business, having everyone on board as soon as possible is incredibly important. If a large number of your team members are taking their time to enter the new year, it becomes much harder to maintain your own focus.
Many of the tips mentioned earlier can also be used to help your entire organisation. For example, consider making to an company-wide policy to clear your desk before heading on holiday - that way you can be sure your office is clean when you return.
Simply taking time off is an incredibly useful way to boost productivity.
The goal: Maximising your productivity
The reasoning behind each of these tips is about maximising productivity. Simply taking time off is an incredibly useful way to boost performance: Research from Oxford Economics pointed to holidays having benefits for performance and morale, which is why it's so important to actually take time to rewind. However, it's equally important to have this plan in place in order to get back into your work in the new year.
There's no easy way to return to work after the Christmas/New Year period. However, having a plan in place and tailoring it to your own goals and objectives for 2016 can ensure you are in the best possible position to make the most of 2016.