It seems that every year Q4 comes quicker and quicker. Even when I do my best to prepare in advance and anticipate the end-of-the-year rush, I’m always baffled at how it’s already October.
If you haven’t prepped for the mad dash that is Q4, hope is not lost. Let’s talk about ways to set yourself up to crush the last three months of the year—from reaching current goals to planning for the year ahead.
Get your personal affairs in order
Whenever anyone says, “Get your affairs in order,” I think, “What affairs? Should I have affairs?” We must take the first month of Q4 to arrange our personal schedules. The last three months of the year are jam-packed with end-of-year reports, yearly planning, and every single holiday party or event you can think of. So it’s time to get real about our personal calendars.
We know that life will get a bit hectic in November and December. So let’s plan in advance. Before doing any event scheduling, think about what you need as a foundation in your life. Just because the holidays and Q4 get busy doesn’t mean we can skimp out on the self-care that brought us this far.
Take an hour to map out the next few months. Make sure your workouts, nightly routine, daily walks, 20 minutes of reading—whatever you do to stay sane and sharp—are scheduled. Now more than ever, it’s time to prioritize you. While you’re at it, evaluate what’s working and what’s not. What worked for you last season might not work for you this season. Don’t be afraid to change.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to look at the personal events and obligations you have coming up. Pencil in anything you know will pop up: your yearly holiday party with the girls, your trip home to your family, or your time to go holiday shopping. Get it all on your calendar, so you don’t have to worry about it popping up out of nowhere. (Believe me, there will be enough surprise events coming at you in the next few months!)
Take it to the office: Review your team’s scheduling
Now that you’ve planned for your personal needs and obligations this quarter, let’s take it to the office. While it may seem early to begin planning around holiday vacations and out-of-office emails, let me tell you: It’s not.
Now is the time to look at your calendar and the days you need to take off. Then, go to your internal team or bosses and discuss everyone’s availability. Make sure coverage is in order, and everyone is on the same page about holiday planning. (So, you know, you can actually enjoy the gingerbread cookies and mulled wine when you have them!)
Now, let’s take it a step further. Once you have all of your vacations planned, it’s time to loop in any external companies or contacts you work with. The last thing you want is for your client to need something from you when a majority of your team is out of the office. You don’t want your client emailing you about something they need while you’re out skiing the slopes.
Connect with critical people to communicate days off and company holiday schedules. Then, plan accordingly. As long as it’s well planned out and transparent, usually, all parties involved will understand.
Plan additional time for reporting
While pulling together unexpected reports seems to be an inevitable part of the workplace, there are things you can do to mitigate the end-of-year fire drills.
As you get into Q4, think about the different end-of-quarter and end-of-year reports that will need to be pulled. Begin putting together templates and pulling data from last quarter or last year. So, once you can input this year’s information, you are already ahead of the game. Discuss with your boss or clients when their internal and external deadlines are for end-of-year reporting or presentations. Ensure they know you are around to help out—and that a heads up for planning is always appreciated!
Anticipating what your boss or clients may need or want is a simple key to success and how you can stand out in your career.
Here are some simple questions to ask:
- What reports will be needed?
- What are their internal and external deadlines?
- What template should reports be in?
- What date ranges are they looking for?
Now, before you ask these questions, I’d challenge you to take it a step further by having ideas for the answers. For example, suggesting a PowerPoint presentation to show year over year growth of your company’s social media accounts and asking for input is better than simply asking, “Hey, what do you want for this report?”
Plan additional time for planning (Yes, we’re planning to plan)
In addition to considering what reporting is needed, it’s time to think about what planning needs to happen for the following year, especially the first quarter. What worked this year? What didn’t? What goals need to be met to surpass this year? Begin to think about these questions now and get plans in place for the new year.
If you don’t know what your goals are or don’t have the expectation to set them, ask! I will be shocked if your boss or client doesn’t appreciate you asking them what the organization’s goals are so that your work can play a key role.
Once you’ve done that, break your planning for the new year into these key steps:
- Review your goals and performance from this year. (If you don’t have those, review what was accomplished and what it resulted in.)
- Review what is on the horizon for the next year in terms of company goals and industry shifts. (What is trending? What are competitors doing?)
- Begin planning for what goals you need and want to hit, as well as what initiatives will get you there. (Loop your boss into the conversation if you need to!)
- Break it down into the first quarter. What can you do in January, February, and March to move the needle and set the tone for the rest of the new year?
All of this planning will help you maintain boundaries throughout Q4 and enjoy yourself while you’re at it!
Make time for the unexpected
Last but not least, you can plan and plan and plan, but such is life—curve balls will come your way. Your boss will need a report by EOD. Your client will need something by Friday. Try to anticipate that things will come up. If you can, have some time allotted for when they do.
Q4 can be a stressful time as budgets need to be used up, planning needs to be in place, and end-of-year reports need to be picture-perfect—not to mention you are also probably trying to buy all the perfect gifts! Use these tools to get ahead of the game and make the next few months more joyful than overwhelming by getting a step ahead today.