How to Finish This Year (Or Any Year) Well

As you hit these last few weeks of the year, how’s your head doing? Are you full engaged and ready to finish well? Or are you starting to slow down and ready to coast into next year?

Are you on track with your goals? Slightly behind? Or way behind?

Are you thinking about the holidays and vacation? Or are you dialed in at work and pushing to end the year well?

If you’re like most of the people I know, you probably flip back and forth from side-to-side, day by day, but the overall tendency is probably more toward the slowing down than the pushing forward side.

So, what can you do to break that cycle and make sure you finish this year well? If you’d like to discover five ideas for how to do just that, make sure you keep reading

Note: let me be clear, there’s nothing wrong with being excited about the holidays, wanting to spend time with your family and getting a break (if you’re taking some vacation time in the next few weeks). This post is about how to be fully at work when you’re at work. It is not an anti-family or anti-vacation post :-))

I. Let Go of The Noise

Unfortunately my Wisconsin Badgers lost this past weekend but one of the phrases that their head coach, Paul Chryst, has been drilling into the minds of his players all season long is to let go of the noise—to not let what other people think (“Should the Badgers be in the playoff even though they’re undefeated?”) influence their play. Their job is to stay in the moment and play the down in front of them, not to worry about the past (a missed tackle or interception) or the future (how will this influence our playoff hopes) but to stay fully focused on the present—that’s not bad business advice.

As you know, we all have head noise that affects our current performance

  • “I’m so far behind, I’ll never hit my numbers this year (or quarter)”
  • “No one likes to buy in December (that is, if you’re not in retail)”
  • “I only have 13 actual work days left in the year. No one can get much done in 13 days.”
  • “I’m tired. It’s been a long year. I deserve a break.”
  • “December is always a slow month. Everybody knows that. Why fight what everyone knows?”

Any of that sound familiar? Well guess what, that’s all head noise and the thing about head noise is—it’s only true if you let it be. If you feel like “no one buys” then you won’t do what’s necessary to close a deal so you’ll feel justified in your belief—but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t have closed several deals.

Likewise, if you’re so far behind on your goals and give up, you won’t do what’s necessary to get more done and set yourself up for a great next year. Or if you buy into the industry belief that nothing happens in December, you’ll allow that belief to hinder your ability to get more done. Bottom line, it’s all noise.

Beliefs are just that, beliefs. If you change them, you can change your actions. If you let go of the noise and start staying fully present then it doesn’t matter what happened in the past (like the past eleven months). Nor, does it matter what will happen over the next few weeks. All that matters is that you stay fully engaged today, in this moment.

So, if you want to finish well, what’s the next thing you need to do today to keep your business moving forward? Stay focused on that. Let go of the noise and stay focused on each moment in front of you and you’ll find yourself finishing the year well.

II. Run a Sprint

If you haven’t picked up my guide on how to run a 30-Day Sprint, make sure you do so now. If you have, then this is the perfect time to run one (albeit a less than 30-day sprint since there are only 26 days left in the year from the day I’m publishing this).

Sprints are great. They’re like a longer version of the “Day Before Vacation” principle (you know the one where you get more done in one day than you normally do in a week).

Since you’ve let go of the noise, what are the top one to three most important projects you need to complete by year’s end?

  1. ____________________________
  2. ____________________________
  3. ____________________________

Once you write them down, pull out some Post-it Notes® and write (in a thick marker) all of the tasks that need to get done to complete that part of the project by 12/31.

Once you have those tasks completed, put them up on a wall or board into the column called, “Hopper” or “On Deck” for those tasks that need to be completed this week or “Doing” for those tasks you’re going to work on today.

Each day for the rest of the month, your job is to move as many tasks as you can from the left to the right (and as soon as they’re done, move them to the “Done” column). It’s almost like a game.

However, what you’ll discover is that if you’re doing this every day you will accelerate what you get done this month and it will help you finish well. Sprints are you.

So, what are the top three projects you need to focus on this month?

III. Touch Base With Your Pipeline

My guess is that you have a ton of people that you know you should’ve contacted over the past few months or year. At this point it’s easy to let the noise get in the way and say, “Well, I’ve missed the boat for this year, I’ll contact them sometime next year.”

However, there is a better way. December is a very relational month. Even if you haven’t reached out to someone over the past few months (or even years) it is totally acceptable to reach out to them in December.

Now, the goal of these calls or contacts shouldn’t be to close business (that may happen, but it shouldn’t be the goal). In general, people do business with people they know, like and trust. So, view these calls as an opportunity to catch up. “Hey, I was just thinking about you and wanted to see how you’re doing.” No one will think that’s an unusual call in December.

If something comes up in the call that opens the door for a deal, great. But the key here is that you’ll have moved the relationship forward and you’ll have put a nail in the coffin of that noise in your head that keeps you from calling people more often.

When I finally get clients to make these calls, they never tell me, “The people I called were upset with me.” No, they ALWAYS say, “The people I was so afraid of calling because so much time had gone by were excited to hear from me.” And sometimes, they even initiate a business conversation (“You know, I was just thinking I need someone to …:).

So make a list of all those people you “know” you should have contacted this year and haven’t. Then, once you make the list, prioritize them and then divide them up by the number of days left and make a few calls per day. You’ll be glad you did (and you’ll feel better at the end of the year that you didn’t leave those open loops open).

IV. Pre-Wire Next Year for Success

One of the frequent mistakes that many business owners and entrepreneurs make at the end of the year (that keeps them from finishing well) is that they allow the calendar to dictate their actions. Since December is the last month of the year, they tend to view December as an end—when, in fact, it’s simply another month on the ongoing journey of the earth circling the sun.

We use calendars as abstracts to mark years (as well as to record fiscal results) but the reality is that December is just another month like any other month. And January is a coming.

So, one of the best ways to finish well each year is to use December, not just as a month to finish well, but as a month to pre-wire success in the next calendar year.  Too many people wait until January to get started on the next year. Wise people use the end of one year to set up next year for success so that when they hit January 1, they hit it in full stride.

This is one of the reasons why you should touch base with your pipeline now (i.e. you’ll be set for January and February calls).

If you’re in a business where you either sell time or products with a net 30 payment plan, then December is even more critical than you might think for success next year. For example, if you’re a law firm and bill on net 30, it’s easy to get lulled into thinking, “It doesn’t matter what I do this month because none of it will be collected until January,” you’re not thinking properly.

If you want until January to get fully engaged, then you’re effectually shortening your “year” into 11 months (since only work completed by Nov. 30th will be collected in any given year). If, on the other hand, you want revenue for 12 months, crank it in December and collect it in January for a 12 month year. Why not start every year off with a bang!

The other main way to pre-wire your next year for success is to look at some of those projects that you didn’t completed this year that if you did would set you and your business up for success next year. For example, I bet there are some marketing projects that didn’t get completed this year because you (or your people) were just “too busy.” Well, now would be a great time to complete them before January rolls around so you can unleash those marketing campaigns the first week or two of January (rather than waiting another month or two or more).

So, what can you work on this month that will set you up for success next year?

V. Be Extremely Generous

When you’re trying to get a lot done in a short span of time, it’s easy to get very self-focused and be self-absorbed in your own projects and work. However, being a leader isn’t just about what you do, it’s about what you’re able to accomplish through others. As you’ve probably heard me say often before, leadership is all about accomplishing results through other people.

That means that for your business to finish well this year, December is a great time for you to be generous.

  1. Be generous with your time (who needs some help from you to end the year well)
  2. Be generous with your praise (who needs some extra affirmation to finish the year well)
  3. Be generous with you money (how can you incentivize year-end behaviors and results)
  4. Be generous with your knowledge (who can you help short-cut their way to a solution)

Remember, December is a month of giving and generosity. For those of us who follow Jesus, it’s a month where we remember that someone who didn’t have to do something, chose to sacrifice everything to become one of us. But even if you’re not a follower of Jesus, you still get the idea. Generosity is based on the ideals of love and sacrifice, not convenience and comfort.

So, how can you make a number of generous sacrifices of your time, praise, money and knowledge this month so your people can produce at a higher level and finish the year well?

Well, there you have it. Five ideas for how you can finish this year (and any year) well.

  1. Let go of the noise
  2. Run a sprint
  3. Touch base with your pipeline
  4. Pre-wire next year for success
  5. Be extremely generous

If you do these five things over the next few weeks, I have a feeling you’ll feel very good about how you ended this year. Plus, you’ll be set for an incredible start to next year.

To your accelerated success!


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