December has crept up on us again, and you’re wondering where the time has gone. Pretty soon, it will be a new year. For everyone, that means another round of birthdays, holidays, and vacations. It also means a new quarter, a new year of business to close, and a chance to improve upon 2017’s sales and business processes. If you have plans with family or friends, we’re sure the last thing you want to think about is heading back to the office. It doesn’t have to be all bad though. There are some great, simple ways to balance work stress with holiday stress so that neither stresses you out after all!
If you find yourself working at 1am on a project due tomorrow, keep in mind that somewhere along the way a major error was made. Most likely, this error was day one – project planning. Either the project manager got the deadline wrong by not allotting enough time, or the experts didn’t speak up. We get it – stuff happens, and some projects just go wrong. However, the best way to expect the unexpected is to figure out how long the project should take, and then add in time for mistakes and technical anomalies. Provided you already planned accordingly, the likely culprit is a mountain of extra tasks the project manager failed to deflect.
When deadlines abound, letting scope creep get the better of you can be a tempting trap. You set a completion date for December 15th and then watch that date fly by while your prospect or your client or vendor leads you along. It’s easy to say, “don’t let this happen,” but it is an uphill battle following through with that.
Instead of panicking about meeting deadlines, make them a source of stability. Remind your team or your vendors that the deadline is firmly this date. All steps in the project must work backwards from there. Remind them that once the deadline is met, everyone can breathe easier and relax, so achieving it will not only complete the project but relieve stress. And if any aspect of the project (especially new suggestions) seems even remotely outside of scope, swiftly remind your client or team of the project scope and the deadline.
Stick to the (business) plan
In the same vein, sticking to your plan is paramount. Remember that Q4 isn’t just for rushing to seal deals. It is also a time of preparation for the new year. You should have created a Q4 prep plan back in October or November (earlier, if possible). This comprises figuring out 2018’s budget, reviewing project successes or failures, taking a look at the market, and evaluating assets used. Prepping for next year is high priority. If you are still wrapping up these tasks in January, you’re doing it wrong.
Whether executing your prep plan or completing projects, stick to your dates, your steps, and your deadline. If a vendor or client is taking too long to respond, give them a time limit and then begin the next step in earnest. If they come back that you moved on without them, remind them of the deadline and the plan. When you adhere to your timeline, even if third parties don’t, it will keep you grounded and take the stress off of you. Entities who take their time with feedback, content, information, or any other vital piece, will have only themselves to blame when they fail to meet their goals.
Automate what you can
Whenever possible, put your tasks on autopilot. For marketing, this will mean using a marketing automation platform, and for customer relations, you will want to use a CRM. What about tasks and documents passed around internally? For that, you will want to use an Enterprise Content Management system, like Contentverse. Searching for documents, filing documents, organizing files, chasing down papers that have left the filing cabinet, tracking a document-based task – these stressors simply melt away with an ECM.
When you need to submit your monthly expense reports to accounting before vacation, you can put them into a workflow. Accounting will receive them without question, and you will receive a notification once they have been approved. If you need to file a signed contract but you’re on the road, send a whitepaper to administration for edits, or process a batch of old paper files, Content Management is the most straightforward answer. Automating these processes cuts down on the time it takes to complete projects and meet your deadlines. Remember that when you’re enjoying a cozy fireplace or a sunny beach this holiday season.
Not all changes you can make are at the office. Most folks have family flying in, friends to meet for a cup of coffee, parties to attend, or vacation days they are scrambling to pack for. Just make sure to leave the laptop at the office. Like scope creep, overtime is tempting this time of year. Even if you aren’t compensated for it, that extra little bundle of hours every day or week seem like a present for yourself under the tree. It sounds like an opportunity to get ahead of your work and slice your timelines in half!
Well, that depends. A few hours here or there in a time crunch are necessary. But if you’re spending every night of November, December, and January poring over spreadsheets, you may be hurting progress rather than helping it. That much stress and time spent working are not conducive to accurate, high-quality results. Instead, finish what you can at the office, update your boss or team on your progress, and kick back with your family. Setting clear boundaries between the office and home will also establish a divide between work time and family time.
If you can’t enjoy the holidays because business keeps calling you back to the office, then the regular timeline needs to be re-evaluated, or you need to establish that clear off-switch when vacation comes.