Pushing Ahead or Waiting to Start

By Tracy MacDonald
Dec 2016

December is one of those months that is both stressful and celebratory. On the business side, it’s the end of a calendar year, it can also be the halfway point through a fiscal year, and at the very least, it’s the end of a quarter. We can call this the “pressure” side of December. On the celebratory side, we have several holidays, the official start to winter and an opportunity to close up one year and look forward to a new beginning.Visually, it represents the end. Just like in any race, we have two ways to handle an “end;” push through with every last bit of strength and energy, or coast through with relief and place all focus on the next beginning. The former can deliver that strong sense of finishing on our own terms, the latter leads to the temptation to write off any productive efforts. As we find ourselves almost halfway through December, it’s important to keep a healthy perspective on what December can offer.

The way we see it, we have two choices for December. The first is to sit back, do nothing, and expect nothing. The second is to use the time to plan ahead and think about how to start off the new year in a stronger position than the first option offers.

hello december

On paper, the first choice may appear silly. Why sit back and do nothing? That would almost guarantee a very slow start to January which can easily roll into February before things really take off. Then, the “short” month mentality of February takes over and people start looking to March. By the time March arrives, we find ourselves at the end of a quarter and wondering where the time went. In short, having a “wait until January” attitude can turn into waiting until March, February practically skipped over entirely. Given the large number of people who are tempted to think this way, there’s also the volume to consider. Scheduling planning meetings in January will not be a new idea, or an original one, for those who waited. While on paper it may not make sense to wait, many do because they think those with whom they need to plan and collaborate are also waiting, or at the very least not in the right mindset. In reality, December is very much a month like other months in the sense that there’s always “something” that can be used as an excuse to sit back and wait. In February, many people take vacation during President’s week, or any other week, for a winter vacation. In May, people start summer vacation homes and are in their offices less often, especially on Mondays and Fridays. July and August are prime vacation time and kids are out of school so people aren’t focused. November, that’s the start of the holiday season, so why start something new? If any of these sound familiar it’s probably because you have either heard them, felt them, or said them at some point in your professional career. While there is some validity to obstacles based on life getting in the way of work, they can also present an opportunity to get started when so many others are waiting.

With regard to December, this brings us to taking advantage of the second option: use the “slow month” to plan ahead. Given the work that is done between company holiday parties and client parties and department parties, there are often “open spaces” to meet for planning and strategizing. If you happen to work in an industry or department without the pressure to close a sale, December is the perfect time to plan without pressure. While current projects will need to be completed, it’s a good exercise for the brain to think about something different, and without boundaries or the pressure of time and deadlines. Yes, we’re talking about brainstorming. Sharing ideas without limitation or restrictions and asking, “what if…” The timing, as it relates to the days in the month, is not critical but allowing time for the process is, especially if by the time January arrives it’s time to start the project planning stage. So, in this scenario, allowing for brainstorming, outlining goals and objectives, identifying target markets, acknowledging and avoiding potential roadblocks, engaging teams to be involved and deadlines for deliverables can easily happen over the course of a few weeks.

There’s another advantage to using this “slow month” in a constructive way which can be a building block for future success: morale. During a time when offices can be quiet and seem unproductive, but not closed, that environment can present an incubator for low morale. Low morale is never a good thing in an office, and especially during December as you want everyone positive in January. Taking the time and steps to generate and collaborate on new ideas gives people something creative to think through, and something to do when an office can seem extremely quiet.

While we don’t have a choice in the way in which the months go and the calendar ends before starting a new yet, we do have a choice in how to use that time. Use the time wisely to plan for future and motivate your teams to try something new, think about new ideas and plans and encourage that creative spirit in a festive environment. The results coming from a solid perspective on how to end the race amy bring about the best ideas for the next one.

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