How do we plan for success during the Christmas period?
It’s very easy at this time of year to find ourselves being sucked into either working flat out in our business – if we have more demand for our product or service in the run up to Christmas – to the detriment of our personal life, or focusing solely on our personal life if this is a quiet time for our business at this time of year. I believe that planning for balance is really important.
So how do we plan for success during the Christmas period to make sure we don’t drop the ball in either business or our personal life?
Why is planning important for success?
Spontaneity has its place and it’s fun to do something off the cuff at a moment’s notice sometimes. But not if it’s a deliberate distraction from getting something important done! The saying goes that if we fail to plan then we plan to fail. We plan our wedding day, we plan our holidays but very often we fail to plan our business or if we do, often we don’t stick to it. At this time of year, with so much typically to do, planning is even more important.
Planning in business
If this is a quiet time of year for your business, or if things have slowed right down due to the Pandemic so you’re not actively delivering your product or service so much right now, what other areas of your business could you usefully take time to develop right now?
When I first started my business coaching business, my own coach advised me that if I wasn’t coaching (because I had no clients or very few), I should be selling to my pipeline. If I wasn’t selling, I could be marketing to attract new leads into my pipeline. And if I wasn’t marketing, I could be working on my personal development by learning new stuff. There’s always something to be developing.
If it’s quiet right now for you, could you be testing out new marketing for lead generation? Or working on your customer service to ensure you build stronger relationships with your existing customers?
On the other hand, if this is the time of year when your business goes through the roof with a huge spike in demand, do you have processes and systems in place to ensure you can deliver a consistently great service to all your customers so that you build a great reputation and ensure those customers tell everyone else about how wonderful you are and will come back to you again and again so that you don’t have to spend so much effort yourself on new lead generation?
Have you allowed yourself time to consider how you can celebrate this time of year with your team and/or your customers? Previously we might have invited customers in to see us and present them with a gift; we went to charity balls at this time of year and had drinks parties. Have you thought about and factored time in for planning and hosting alternative events during the Pandemic when social distancing is the order of the day?
Planning for your personal wellbeing
In his book “7 Habits of Highly Successful People” Stephen Covey gives his interpretation of the Aesop Fable, The Goose that laid the golden eggs.
The farmer, whose goose started laying a daily golden egg, becomes greedy and decides that, rather than wait for one golden egg each day, he could kill the goose so he can just help himself to the lot at one go. Unfortunately, as we know, it didn’t work out like that. The goose was empty!
Covey’s take on the fable is that if we just focus on more and more golden eggs (production) and neglect the goose (ourselves or our team that produces the golden egg, production capability) we will soon be without the asset that produces golden eggs. So we need to keep a balance between production of desired results and our production capability. This is why the so-called work/life balance is crucial.
7 ways to plan for success
At this time of year, we often have even more demands on our personal lives as we enjoy the period running up to Christmas and then the Christmas holiday itself. There are Christmas presents to buy and wrap, cards to write out, people to thank, arrangements to be made if we are to see our family and friends this year in line with COVID regs, charitable activities we may be used to taking part in … all while ensuring we maintain our own personal wellbeing.
How do we manage to get all this done (and more)?
Here are 7 ideas to help you.
In my own business I like to think big in planning my goals (5 or 10 years ahead) and then increasingly narrow that down to one year, 90 days, monthly, weekly, daily, hourly. Currently, in this Pandemic time, we have to be build flexibility into our planning (how and when we do things) but our goals will probably remain the same.
- Start with the end in mind
When you plan your car journey, you know where you’re going. It’s the same with any plan: we need to know where we’re going or what we want the outcome to be before we can draw up the plan of what we need to do.
My own view is that business is a vehicle for you to achieve your personal goals. What’s your business need to look like for you to have what you want in your personal life?
- 90 day planning
I plan my business in 90 day chunks that are going to move me forward to my longer term goals, for example my one year goals. Dividing plans up into 90 days (which is just 13 weeks) helps keep you focused. It’s also the length of time it typically takes to fully embed a new habit. My 90 day plan tells me exactly what needs to be done, by whom and when. It’s the project plan for my business.
- How we manage our time
Covey talks about the relationship between importance and urgency which he illustrates in his book as a matrix. I’ve taken his idea and made it into a time target of 4 concentric circles. The outside circle is where we find ourselves doing things which are neither urgent nor important. This is where we are consciously distracting ourselves (procrastinating) to avoid doing the things which are important and urgent. Social media is a great example of this! We need to have the self discipline to keep out of this circle.
The next circle is where we are doing things that are urgent but not important. This is the danger zone. We can delude ourselves into thinking that dealing with stuff other people tell us is urgent means that we’re doing good stuff. But if you get to the end of the week and congratulate yourself on being busy all week on urgent stuff and find that you haven’t moved your business forward one iota, you have been a busy idiot. We need self awareness to keep out of this circle!
Then we get to being in demand which is where we‘re doing stuff that’s both urgent and important. This could be urgent things that we put off for so long that they’ve moved up from just being important to being urgent too. Or it could be that there are legitimate client or team issues that need to be addressed urgently.
Finally, the bull’s eye in the time target is where things are not urgent but they are important. This is where we are in the zone: we’re working ON our business and not just IN our business. This will include sales and marketing, systemising, improving customer service, training, developing our teams and ourselves through personal development. We need to be aiming to spend more time in this zone, at least an hour a day.
- Default diary
Once we have our 90 day plan documented, we need to get activities into our default diary. Your default diary is the tool that helps you proactively design your day rather than simply reacting to everything that pops up during the day. It will include everything you need and want to do from the moment you wake up till the moment you go to bed. Before you throw your hands up in horror at being tied to a timetable as if you’re back in school, there are a couple of points to make.
- The purpose of the default diary is to make sure you create time to do the things you need and want to do. If there are things you need to do but don’t want to do, then you will find ways of not doing it – you’ll fill your time with reactive activities like looking at emails or other messages. Designing your default diary is a great way of ensuring everything that needs to be done gets done but only if you stick to it of course! This will include meal times, time for exercise, ringing a friend or family member, making time for creativity or play, reading a book. People tell me they don’t have time to read a book. Well, you don’t have to sit and read a book all in one sitting. You could instead find 30 minutes every day to read your book. This is what the default diary is for – making sure you can fit everything in. If, once you’ve filled each day of the week with stuff you need to do and stuff you want to do and there’s still stuff left over, you need to consider:
- can you delegate it? To a family member or to a team member? If you don’t have a team in your business can you outsource it to an independent expert like a virtual assistant?
- Does it need doing at all? Can you just stop doing it?
- Can you automate it to make the task easier and quicker?
- It’s called a “default” diary because this is your default position. You may suddenly have to respond to an order from a new lead or have to meet someone at short notice and so on. That’s fine. But your default diary means that when you’ve dealt with that event, you know exactly what to be getting on with – because it’s there in your default diary.
- If you’re concerned you’ll never be able to surf social media again but you love to do it, then you can put that in your default diary too. For example by taking 15 minutes in your afternoon break. But be sure to set an alarm as a signal for you to get back to your default diary!
- Daily to do list
In addition to your default diary and especially at this time of year, you’ll have a daily to do list. This will be things like phone calls you need to make or emails you need to send. It will also include shopping for food, gifts (for family, friends and customers), wrapping paper, Christmas cards and stamps, getting to the Post Office, feeding your Christmas cake with its weekly brandy, writing out Christmas cards.
Be sure to do the thing that you really don’t want to do as early in the day as possible. Otherwise it will just stay on that list to be passed over to the next day. You will feel so much better when it’s done!
- Discipline and accountability
Because we are humans and humans find it easier to be lazy (it consumes less energy) than to get out of our comfort zone, there is a significant risk that you won’t stick to your default diary: you will do the things that you like to do and the easy things and will find reasons not to do the other stuff. I have been a human being and also a business coach for long enough to know that this is true!
It’s very important that you find some form of accountability. This could be an accountability buddy who you ask if you can check in every day or once a week to share how you’re doing.
You could also try the method I learned from Marshall Goldsmith’s book “Triggers”. This is the “Did I do my best today?” technique. You write a list of all the things you want to achieve every day (like sticking to your default diary). At the end of the day you ask yourself, “Did I do my best today to [stick to my default diary]? And then score yourself out of 10.
- Cash flow
Be sure to keep an eye on your cashflow over the Christmas period. It’s easy to fall into the trap of overspending at this time of year. This is even more important this year if your business has been badly impacted by the Pandemic situation.
This time of year is supposed to be a time of joy. Unfortunately this year we have the Pandemic going on which makes it the strangest time for all of us. But, as we’ve learned, the trick is to stay resilient, be creative and adapt. How can we do things differently? Use our time more wisely? Make our businesses more attractive?
No man is an island as they say. There really is no need to prove yourself as super man or super woman. There are a lot of people around who can help you. So learn to delegate, delete, outsource or just find an easier way so you can free up your time this Christmas and going forward and have more fun in business and more fun in life. That’s what business – and Christmas – should be about!