Countdown to the New Year
Anytime a new year approaches, many of us are keenly aware of the countdown. What is a countdown, anyway? It can be 1) a sequence of backwards counting to indicate time remaining before an event, or 2) the number of months, weeks, days, hours, and seconds until a date.
As of today, December 4, 2017, our countdown to the new year stands at 27 days, 648 hours, 38,880 minutes, and 2,332,800 seconds until January 1, 2018. Here’s a current new year countdown:
Using a countdown in football
As a former football coach, I used countdowns in a different way. Everything we did was scripted, based on the countdown to the final buzzer, whether in practice or in a game. We had complex options to determine what we did when we were behind in the fourth quarter, or ahead. Every practice and game was defined not only by the hour and minute, but also by the second. As special teams coordinator, it was my job to manage our kicking game, and everything I did was based on the clock. Before the game, I’d walk around with my stopwatch and time the opposing team’s punter as he practiced in the pre-game warmup. I carefully measured the time it took from the moment the ball left the center’s hands until the punter’s foot kicked it. That time would determine the attack of our special teams unit: if it was .7 seconds or longer, we’d rush to block the punt. If it was .6 seconds, we’d focus on a good punt return. Our whole game plan would shift according to that tenth-of-a-second marker.
Counting down to your New Year
2017 is winding down like the fourth quarter of a football game. Are you ahead or behind? As a coach, I had a call sheet with plays written on it. In the fourth quarter, depending on the time left and the score, we’d shift the plays to adjust our game and have a better chance of winning. Do you have a game plan for the remaining days before the new year rolls in?
Grab a sheet of paper, and let me show you how to keep score. Answer each of the following questions in as much detail as possible:
1. Do you have every day planned between now and the first of January?
I do. It’s okay to take time off, but plan for it. One challenge we face during the holiday season is that people drop in, impromptu festivities pop up, and you’re invited out for long lunches. Guard your time. Be careful of how much time you spend on non-business things.
2. Do you have a target list with phone numbers and emails of prospective clients with whom you want to book meetings?
There’s a misconception that December isn’t a good month to schedule things. Don’t you believe it! December is actually a great time. People are more likely to take a longer lunch or coffee break, or close up shop a little early. Capitalize on this extra flexibility and schedule meetings now.
3. Do you have your follow-up list?
Review all the business you’ve done since last January, checking carefully to see that you have followed up on every proposal, every contract, and every meeting. Book any follow-up meetings that are needed to complete the year.
4. Do you have a bullet-proof process locked in that runs your business, especially for the remaining days until the new year?
Review your processes, including your daily start time and your effective routines. Set goals for how many meetings you want to schedule this month.
5. Do you know what to do if you lose a client?
When this happens, people may sulk, get depressed, or even consider quitting. A better approach is to have “next-up mentality:” when one client drops out, look ahead to see who’s up next. Every day, your goal should be to replace every client. Be constantly putting more in the funnel should one change their mind.
6. What days are you taking off this month?
As the new year approaches, we all have family events and visitors, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But do you have it planned? You can do so much if you’re organized and manage your priorities. What happens in January and February is in direct proportion to what you do in December.
7. What days are you working this month?
Plan them, and work full days. It’s amazing how few people work a full day anymore, especially during this season. When you’re working, be present and productive. You don’t want to feel guilty during the holidays. Guilt doesn’t come from your days off: it comes from the days you’re supposed to be working and you’re not fully present.
8. What are your non-negotiables?
List five things that are absolutely essential to the growth of your business and your career.
With a new year approaching, there are more demands on your time, but you still want to be productive. So evaluate everything on your plate and be willing to cut down on the total amount of things you’re doing, then focus on the most important ones. On days when you choose to negotiate with the non-negotiables, you lose momentum. Then when the new year starts, you come in flat-footed without anything on your calendar. My goal is by the end of this week to have January booked solid so there’s nothing open. Start the year with a bang!
9. Do you have clarity?
Clarity is knowing what you want, why you want it, and when you want it. Have goals for what you want to accomplish, both before the new year and in 2018. Set specific dates and timelines for benchmarks.
10. Are you keeping score?
Years ago, a former partner taught me something that changed the way I do business. He told me to start every week with a look at my numbers, which can be difficult and painful. You might think you’re having a great year, but the numbers may tell another story. Examine them carefully to learn if you’re making more or less money this year, or have more or fewer clients. Count the numbers of phone calls, leads, sales presentations, and meetings. Compare them with last year to see if you’ve improved. Analyze your income and your expenses. Go back and look at goals you set at the beginning of 2017: did you hit the mark? Begin planning for this new year, looking for areas in which you can improve. This is the time to consider where you’re strong and where you need to get better, which might mean investing in some resources for next year.
Remember that small things can make a huge difference. Back in my coaching days, I found success in a tenth of a second. In 1988, my team led the nation in blocked punts and in punt returns for touchdowns. Both achievements resulted from our ability to shift our game plan based on one tiny marker.
In your business, you can learn to do the same. Devise plays to call if you find yourself nearing the end of the year and behind on the scoreboard. Implement practices that will propel you to success. Learn to keep score effectively so that you can measure your success and continue to build toward a brighter future.