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Most all of us can start things well – if we really put our mind to it – but ending things well? That’s a whole different matter.
In today’s video blog I talk about how starting next year with a bang depends more than you might think on how you end this year. Check it out:
So it's December 1st as I'm recording this and so here in the US we have just completed our big Thanksgiving holiday and are now caught up with everybody else in chasing headlong towards Christmas.. uh, well... actually, (as there's been a debate for as long as I can remember), we started chasing towards Christmas even before Thanksgiving got here.
Or so it seems anyway.
I'm a bit of a traditionalist. I like to hear my carols in December and not before, but anyway, be that as it may, we're headed towards Christmas and towards what is one of, if not the, key pivot point for many organizations, which is when the calendar flips from one year to another.
And you know, in theory that shouldn't really make any difference whatsoever, because time is a continuum.
And the fact that we have a calendar that says this day is in this year and this day starts a new year shouldn't actually make any difference, except that for just about every organization I've ever worked with, the year is the unit by which we measure our performance in its largest sense, although of course we also look at days, hours, minutes, quarters, weeks, all sorts of units of time.
But the year is really the unit we use to measure our medium and long term goal achievement.
And you know, one of the things that sorta happens is that we get a little fuzzy when we start thinking about an upcoming year thats hurtling towards us in this sense: It feels like a big, vast, open pasture, you know - it feels like it's a large bucket to fill.
But here's what I've noticed over the years.
You've actually only got 45 days to set in stone most of what's going to happen in your organization next year - the first month and a half.
By the time you hit Valentine's Day (ironically enough), most of the plasticity around what you can achieve in terms of medium and longterm goals is already baked in.
We often continue to have the illusion of some degree of control and flexibility when most of it has been taken from us by what's happened in those first 45 days.
Those first 45 days set stuff in motion that then causes the rest of everything to play out.
Now, of course, we can change stuff as the year goes along, but it's to a much lesser degree than you might think.
Those first 45 days are absolutely critical and I'm going to talk a little bit more about those in some future videos between now and the end of the year.
One of the things that happens in those first 45 days in my observation - and it happens a lot - is that we get so bogged down or distracted by tying up the loose ends of things that were really last year's, that we don't get the momentum that we really, really want.
We don't really get that push that we're looking for at the start of the year, and I just wanted to pass onto you a couple of year-end routines.
They're very mundane (you've heard me say over and over again 'brilliance is built on the mundane'), but there are a couple of mundane things I do every single year, and they've stood me in really good stead in terms of achieving my goals, particularly in the early weeks of a new year, that I just want to share with you - and the ones you want to share today are really Mundane!
Here's the first one. Get a bunch of these. It's your basic cardboard storage box. I get between five and 10 of these every year and I fill them with everything that's moveable in my work area that is to do solely with the outgoing year.
So all of my old files, all of my dead tech - you know that stuff that we got that just doesn't work anymore. (I have an old Mac mini that I don't use. It's going there - I'll probably do something with it - donate it somewhere, but it's going.
I'll even look at the walls around my office and see what little tchotskes or mementos I've put up and I'll make a conscious decision: Are they 'so last year'? Are they going to stay part of my environment?
I find it really important to refresh my environment at the end of the year. And I know it all sounds a little Mari Kondo (if that doesn't make sense to you, go look up K O N D O - Mary Kondo. Um, but it's important, I believe you've got to have your environment as current as it needs to be to keep you fresh and keep you focused.
And I do the same thing - I have the equivalent with my electronic files, which are these days much more important. I'm old enough to remember when putting paper files in these boxes used to take me maybe 20 boxes worth at the end of each year.
Now most things are on my hard drive and I do exactly the same thing. Every client folder, every project folder has got two sub folders. I've got an archive folder and I've got a current year folder and at the end of every year - during this month - I'll move everything that's currently in the current year folder and I'll put it up into the archive folder.
That means it's all still available - I can search and find it, but when I go into my current year folder to work on my client work or a particular project, I've only got the current stuff there.
My brain isn't cluttered with all of the stuff from the previous year.
And for each project and for each client. I'll do a single text file that where I'll just list the stuff that I need to remember or recall from the previous year's if necessary.
And that's also by the way, just a great exercise to do at the end of the year anyway and I'll give you a great opportunity to review whether some of those projects shouldn't even make it into the new year (and indeed maybe even some of your clients).
The second thing that I want to pass on to you is this old standby here, which is a big legal pad and a big fat marker.
And I'll tell you why this is important: Any of you that know me well will know that I'm a productivity nerd. I mean I really geek out on productivity, particularly electronically based productivity, and I have a productivity stack that's quite complicated.
There are big moving parts that most people will have heard of at sometime - For me they're OmniFocus, Evernote and Gmail. And between all of those I really manage my life.
But there's something about an electronic list that takes the urgency away and for a number of things I'll always use an actual written big fat black marker - a handwritten list - and at the year end that's when I find that most important.
This pad will go with me everywhere between now the end of the year and I will typically cover probably about a third of the pad in total with big moving parts, big things that I want to have finished by the end of this year, and not bring them into next year because I don't want them cluttering up my start to next year.
Now for me (your list is going to differ from mine), just looking down at this, there are a couple of things that I want to close off from a client point of view because it's just going to help me an awful lot to not take that that particular project into the new year.
There's a ton of stuff on my website, been bugging me all year to get round to. Uh, I've got a note here to go to Upwork or Fiverr and get two or three things, just punch list items done - gone so that I don't carry those into the new year.
It may be a different list for you. Maybe you need to really put the hammer down to get all your performance assessments done in your organization before the end of the year.
That's one of the things I see handed over a lot in a lot of organizations. And can you imagine the sense of entropy that's brought into a new year if you haven't done your performance appraisals for the previous year, so it hangs over everything.
Maybe there are accounting, bookkeeping, legal, other routines. Don't let them distract you in your new year. Get them done now.
Next week in the next video, I'm going to look a little more deeply at what it means as a leader from a behavioral mindset point of view to start to move from one year to the next.
See you then.