The pace of the business owner’s work-week can be so fast and so relentless that it can be hard to even conceive of what you’d do with two whole weeks of downtime. As a founder myself—of the smart study app Brainscape—my work ethic burns like a bonfire in my belly, so I’m all-too-familiar with the desire to be productive over the holidays. (After all, my competitors sure aren’t taking it easy and neither are yours!)
So if you want to get ahead while the rest of the world drowns itself in tinsel and eggnog, I’ve got some great tips on how you can build out that holiday to-do list, which’ll then empower you to attack the new year with a refined focus, better organization, and a clear road-map to realizing your ambitions.
1. Zoom out on your business
For me, the holidays are an opportunity to extract myself from “the weeds” of my work—the mentally exhausting grind of endless emails, calls, and Slack messages—and to zoom all the way out on my business for that healthy 30,000-foot view. And from this lofty vantage point, I can start strategically planning for the coming year.
Sometimes this looks like writing out spreadsheets’ worth of lists for goals and new projects, which I break down into the smallest achievable steps; other times, it looks like me staring into space over a cup of coffee as I deeply consider my company’s challenges, opportunities, and resources. (And often, a combination of both.)
Either way, I emerge from the holidays with a robust view of Brainscape, our team, goals, and directions and a solid strategic plan for continuing our steep upward trajectory.
Please note that at no point in any of this do I sit up until the wee hours of the morning typing emails, writing reports, or engaging in the more tedious “grunt work” of my role. Rather, my focus is firmly on strategy, and that gets me incredibly excited for the coming year.
2. Plan so that you don’t have to think
A part of this strategic planning, I find, is designing an effective meeting schedule for the new year that allows you to maintain efficient, systematic communications with your team, while taking the “think” work out of running your business.
Make sure that you review the time you’re spending in meetings, either delegating the responsibility of overseeing them or changing their frequency and length so as to tighten the belt on your time expenditure.
Also, let’s not forget that with all the strategic thinking and reflection you’ll be doing during the holiday, you’ll probably have some new ideas to dig into with your team. Jot down notes for meeting agendas so that you can hit the ground running when you return to work.
3. Prepare your thought leadership for the coming year
If you’re like me then you probably have notebooks worth of ideas for blogs, podcasts, and speaking engagements that you’d love to begin working on; ideas that would help to promote your company’s mission and establish you as a thought leader.
Of course, the perpetually time-starved entrepreneur doesn’t have time for that during the year but the quieter holidays are the perfect opportunity to sit down and just write.
This isn’t work for me. I am inspired to write, and the more words I fill my screen or notepad with, the faster the ideas come and the more excited I become for what’s next for Brainscape.
So use the holidays to take all those ideas you’ve been toying with for weeks or months and start crystalizing them. Begin with a brain dump of ideas in a Word or Google Doc and then flesh those out into more detailed written pieces, plans, or proposals.
You can always get someone else to perfect them—a professional writer or trusted employee—but the general idea is to capture your insights, which can be refined later and then broadcasted to establish you as a thought leader and industry authority.
4. Take stock and share your gratitude
Every year-end holiday, I reach out to all the people who made my success—and that of Brainscape’s—possible to thank them sincerely for their support and contributions.
The science of gratitude is real: it’s incredibly beneficial to our mental health and well-being. But also, it goes a very long way in maintaining great relationships with the people—the advisors, investors, partners, business owners, friends, and family—to whom you owe so much.
So, finish the year off on a good note and lay fertile soils for future growth by sharing your gratitude with these people.
An injection of motivation and focus
All of my suggestions may sound like “work” to you and, sure, they do require you to think and put in some kind of effort. So, if you’d prefer to spend your holidays comatose in a pool floaty with a piña colada in your hand, by all means knock yourself out.
But the fact that you’re reading this tells me that you’d like to use the holidays for something a little more productive than the usual hedonism; and the suggestions I’ve made are the perfect compromise because they take as much time and effort as you’re willing to invest in them, while paying huge dividends.
Remember, entrepreneurs are fueled by a love of building something from nothing, and these suggestions allow you to get back to the heart of what you do, to reinforce your vision for the coming year, and craft a plan of action that will ensure a steep trajectory towards success.
If anything, you’ll find these tasks invigorating, which’ll empower you to return to the helm of your business more motivated, focused, and refreshed than before.