How to Finish Your Year Strong
With the holiday season coming into view, it’s tempting to take your foot off the gas and cruise towards the year’s end. Don’t. These last few weeks are when you should be making the most of those lessons learned and preparing for the year ahead. So, rather than just watching the clock wind down by going Secret Santa shopping and taking bets on who’s going to photocopy which part of their anatomy at the office party, finish your year strong!
Here are your practical tips to make the most of what’s left of 2014 and end on a high note.
Review your year
- Write down your biggest success and shortlist the actions you’re going to take to replicate that success next year.
- Do the same for your biggest failure and write down what you’ve learned. Shortlist the preventive actions you’ll take to guard against a repeat. You might be disinclined to dwell on the year’s lowlights when you’re feeling all festive and frothy, but bite the bullet and do it or you’ll miss out on the wisdom to be gained.
- Arrange a year-end wrap-up with your manager to get their feedback on how you’ve performed and to establish objectives for next year. Sure you may have covered some of this ground already; nevertheless, go for a final sit-down to make sure you’re on the same page and that your priorities are aligned going forward.
Review your relationships
- As we all know, having strong professional relationships is key to business success. Some connections come naturally and easily; other don’t and take more work. Year’s end is an opportune time for some relationship housekeeping. Here’s an exercise to try:
- List the stakeholders whose contributions most directly impact your performance.
- Then, identify the relationships that are misfiring and not delivering their full potential.
- Find time to talk to the individuals concerned and share your thoughts with them. Be clear on what you need from them in order to improve collaboration and performance. Don’t assume that anyone already knows or shares your priorities. Let them know about what matters most to you so that you can either align goals and thinking, or you’re at least clear on each other’s priorities and can work together more effectively.
- Ask how you could better support your teammate, and what they see your part is in improving the relationship. Positive teamwork is always a two-way street.
Finish strong as a team
- If you manage a team, ask them for their highlights and lowlights of the year and get their ideas on what they’d like to see new or different next year. Do this as a group exercise rather than a succession of one-on-ones. You could take a long pre-holiday team lunch—or find somewhere away from the office where people can engage in more frank, free-flowing dialogue. This is a great way to set your team up for a more positive work environment in the New Year—and a productive one, too.
- Ask your team what they’d like from you in the New Year, and what you can do better or differently to improve their work life and performance. To encourage team members to feel comfortable giving you honest feedback, try asking them to jot down a few bullet points anonymously and drop them in a suggestions box you provide. And then share the results. The team will appreciate your transparency and the commitment to change—and they might even help/nag to keep you honest!
- Say thanks! Maybe you’ve done a grand job of recognizing hard work and good performance through the year, but now’s a great time to reiterate that and show your appreciation.
- If you’re a team member, get together with the others on the team and review the good and the not-so-good of the year. Remain focused on how collaboration can be improved to deliver team success in the New Year. Agree and record at least one takeaway action per team member. Distill your broader good intentions down to specifics that team members can take ownership of and deliver against.
De-clutter—mentally and environmentally
- Make a concerted effort to whittle down your to-do list. The shorter that list is, the more you’ll enjoy your holiday. Clear the decks of any I-really-must-get-round-to-doing-this. Delegate whatever you can. If there are tasks on your list that have been there a long time, consider whether they’re worth doing at all and if not, donate them to the trash bin. After all, if they were really going to add value, you’d have already done them, right?
- Any gnarly tasks or difficult conversations you’ve been putting off? Get them done. You’ll feel so much better starting the New Year without these waiting for you. Plus you may find a difficult conversation goes smoother than feared with most of us being in good spirits ahead of a break!
- Tidy desk = tidy mind. Unless you really are inspired by those ever-growing piles, get rid of them. Clear out that desk draw; clear off your desk top. The same goes for your inbox, other electronic documentation, computer files, etc. Do whatever you can do to start the New Year journey with as little baggage as possible.
Write it all down
- All those lessons learned, good ideas, objectives etc.—record them somewhere. Don’t just try and “remember to remember.” Otherwise, chances are you’ll forget something along the way. Especially if you have a really, really good holiday. And losing those hard-won lessons is like letting gold spill out of your pockets.
Plan for next year
- Set your goals and objectives. Business objectives might already be determined for you and your team, but look to your own values and set a short list of your personal improvement targets. We can all get better at something.
- Think S.M.A.R.T. You need to plan the How not just the What.
- Don’t turn up unprepared and let the New Year just happen to you. Decide what you want out of it and plan how you’re going to get it. Then, go get it!
Start your year committed to mastering your career. To help you get there, download “The Ultimate Project Management Guide for New and Accidental PMs“
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