FrankenPunkinHalloween signals the start of the year-end holiday season. Thanksgiving is close behind (in the US), followed by Christmas and Hanukkah in December. During this time every year, many people plan and take year-end vacations – often starting in early December – to get their “use it or lose it” personal time off out of the way.

For many years in my career, year-end meant planning January kickoff meetings. Some kickoff meetings were small, but often, we were planning several thousand person, weeklong kickoff meetings in Las Vegas. When planning these January kickoff meetings, many vacation days went unused since we continued working while much of the rest of the business world was on vacation. To make progress, we had to continually work around co-workers, advertising agency partners, and other external support people who were unavailable to address critical meeting planning needs.

To compensate, we did plenty of strategic thinking to anticipate when and where we would need help from people who might not be available later in the year.

Strategic Thinking – 5 Planning Tips for Avoiding Year-End Productivity Challenges

The planning tips we used are valuable as you look toward accomplishing your most important year-end initiatives. And since many people start to disappear right after Thanksgiving, it is not TOO early to start addressing RIGHT NOW where you will need help before mid-December.

1. Prioritize activities requiring attention and participation from others.

Comb through your annual plan and look ahead to early next year to see what has to be completed. If you cannot accomplish a critical deliverable on your own, get going on it now to allow others time to complete their responsibilities before vacations start.

2. Begin getting your end-of-year financial house in order.

Contact vendors early to get copies of all invoices from this year so you can charge them against this year’s budget. Work with Finance on any accruals you will need to optimize your budget situation for this year and the start of next year. If you are in a position to have vendors pre-bill you this year, work with Finance and specific vendors to coordinate these special situations.

3. Reach out to vendors you may need during typical holiday breaks.

Depending on your situation, find out which key vendors will have available people and capacity during the holidays. It is typically a good time to have these conversations when you are also talking to them about making sure they are paid on a timely basis for this year’s activities. If your regular vendors will not be available, now is the time to start identifying backups who will be.

4. Figure out what holiday vacation schedules will look like for your internal team and external support people.

Vacation schedules are typically developed listing days people will be out of the office. When you need to get things done, it is far better to list who WILL be available throughout the holidays. With this approach, you can quickly see what your team will be on any given day.

5. Start scheduling important meetings now.

Whether you need to make an important meeting happen before the year-end OR you want to get a meeting scheduled for right after the start of the year, reach out NOW to find time on peoples’ calendars. Doing so early will put you ahead of most others who will be scrambling later in the year to get meetings set.

What other strategic thinking are you doing to anticipate year-end productivity challenges?

Any other tips you would like to add to this strategic thinking list? And how soon do you start working on steps to close out the year successfully, especially if you’re already working on next year’s activities? -  Mike Brown


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