As of the publishing of this post, there are 52 days left until Christmas. Fifty-two. If you find where 2017 went, I would love to have a chat with it about slowing down. If you are anything like me, hearing that we only have 52 days left brings about a small tinge of panic. Really, once Thanksgiving hits, it’s all downhill from there. Before we know it, it’s New Year’s and we are left with a huge list of goals to accomplish in 2018.
Along with all those things we didn’t accomplish in 2017.
In chatting with a long time subscriber last week, she mentioned her catch up list and how she was going to have to really buckle down to get a lot accomplished before year’s end. During our chat we worked through a few ways to tackle that catch up list and I thought I would share them with you today.
Write It Down
Obvious right? I have this love/hate relationship with lists. I will use them religiously for a few weeks and then get sick of being depressed by how long they are. I know they help me, but sometimes I just don’t want to see everything I have to do in writing. Regardless of my disdain, she and I both agreed that writing all the things that need to be accomplished by year’s end in a place you can see every day is important.
Remove the Waste
I can not remember where I heard her talk about this, but in a talk I heard of Arianna Huffington’s, she talks about giving up on goals that no longer matter. Her example centered around learning to ski I believe. It had been a long time goal of hers but over the years the importance had diminished. She would keep it in the back of her mind and often lament over not having accomplished it until one day she realized it really wasn’t important anymore. She let the goal go.
I know that I carry things on my to do list that are maybe not as important to me or others as they once were. I carry things that my ego may want to hold on to, but accomplishing them won’t really improve anything. As HR professionals or small business leaders, we put things on our lists that we think we should be doing or we think employees want, but in reality, accomplishing those things won’t really make that big of a difference.
Comb through your list and make sure that everything there really needs to be accomplished.
Use the Snowball Method
Finance expert Dave Ramsey touts the snowball method of paying off debt as highly effective. In this method you pay off the smallest balances and then, once paid off, apply that payment to the next smallest and so on until all debt is gone. I like to use this method for playing catch up. I start with the task that is quickest to accomplish. There are often projects that are in progress and may even be close to completion. Knocking the quicker tasks out helps me know a few things off my list in quick succession which is motivating to me.
Or you could….
Use the Eat the Frog Method
Time management expert Brian Tracy would probably disagree with that snowball method. He teaches people to “eat the frog” or start by accomplishing the most important task first, even if that task is something you really don’t want to do. I’m sure he would suggest looking at that catch up list and say that the most important tasks should be accomplished first, even if it will take the longest.
I think you could do either. Context around your list will likely dictate which method you use.
Review the Risks
As you look at that catch up list there are likely things that you know are in jeopardy of simply not being accomplished. Whether it be time constraints, lack of budget or any myriad of other factors that keep people from accomplishing what they need, there is likely at least one thing on that list that you know, even with your best intentions, may not happen.
I think it’s important we are honest about those things. Rather than have to answer on January 1st why we are still working on something from the previous year, I like to be honest about the possibility ahead of time that they may be carry over goals.
You may have to review the risks with your supervisor or support team and decide together which catch up priorities can be moved to the carry over goal list. We all have things that come up that prevent us from accomplishing all that we wanted and there is nothing wrong with carrying over goals from one year to the next.
Get Some Help
If your list is longer than 52 days worth of time (let’s face it, no one works between Christmas and New Year’s) then maybe it is time to get help. Can you outsource something from your list, even if it’s just a part of a project? Can you rally the troops inside your office to pitch in on some of the higher priority items? Most items on an employee’s to do list are not things they are solely responsible for. It’s ok to ask for help and now may be the best time to do it…when people are in the holiday spirit.
Reflect and Learn for Next Year
The hardest part of this whole thing may be reflecting on how you were left with a catch up list this year and how you are going to avoid that in 2018. There were likely extenuating circumstances or fires that needed attention that pushed back goals. It may be that there needs to be less goals in the coming year or at least less aggressive ones (in quantity not quality). Whatever the reason, it’s important to think about why things were pushed to the end of the year and how to avoid that in the future.
The end of year catch up can be overwhelming. It can make what should be a very happy time of year rather stressful. Take a deep breath, get it on paper and tackle it as best you can. And then start the new year fresh and ready to get ahead instead of falling behind.