And just like that, it’s December. December tends to be an unusual month in business. It’s the holiday season, which means an increase in promotions, sales, and shopping. It’s the end of the calendar year, which means you are probably thinking about meeting quotas for 2015 and writing budgets for 2016. It’s also a time when team members and clients take vacation, which means keeping projects on track can be more challenging. These various distractions can make December feel like a whole month of Fridays (and we all know what it’s like to try to get work done on a Friday afternoon).
What is the best strategy for making December as productive as possible?
1. Plan your media calendar in advance. When I’m more distracted than usual and when I know that my readers are more distracted too, the first thing that takes a backseat is blog and newsletter planning. Avoid this slump by planning your blog posts and newsletters in advance. At Spring Insight, we set aside one hour per month to plan and schedule our media calendar. We like to work about six weeks in advance. Keep in mind that you can always tweak the calendar later (it’s easy to overestimate the amount of time you’ll spend working while visiting Grandma in Chicago during the week of Thanksgiving. The best laid plans…), but having a clearly laid out plan helps keep you and your team on track. So, find a groove and stick to it.
2. Schedule social media posts in advance. Just because your social media specialist wants to get away from her desk for a few days, that doesn’t mean your tweets and Facebook promotions have to stop. There are some great resources for scheduling social media ahead of time: HootSuite is a social media dashboard; HubSpot has a helpful marketing platform and offers marketing tips too; and Sprout Social includes market research to back up their services. Remember to check back in on the advance posts though. Depending on how long in advance you schedule a post, it may not make sense once the publication date rolls around, so you may need to tweak it.
3. Schedule emails in advance too. You can draft and schedule emails ahead of when you want them to go out. There are some great apps for pre-drafting individual emails. I use Boomerang. It’s easy. I just write the email and click the ‘Send Later’ button, then a calendar pops up allowing me to choose when to send. Email blast services, like Mailchimp, allow you to schedule your email newsletters ahead of time too. But, as with social media posts, it’s important to put someone in charge of monitoring scheduled emails. News events can really throw a wrench into plans. I remember back in 2012 when the mass shooting happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT there were companies whose email blasts made them appear disrespectful and insensitive to the tragedy. That is not the kind of publicity you want.
4. Plan to do some brainless work this month. Well, “brainless” is not exactly the right word. But we all mentally categorize tasks as work that requires a lot of problem-solving ability or as work that is more routine. Save as much of the routine stuff as you can for times when you know you will be feeling less enthusiastic about being productive.
5. Make lists for 2016. Santa (or that damn Elf on the Shelf) is making his list and checking it twice, why not join the club? This month is also a good time to start setting long term goals for 2016. Take another look at that list of books you’ve been wanting to read to help your business (I recommend Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business). Make a list of possible blog topics for the first six months of the year. You’ll be amazed at how productive this will make you feel. Making wish lists for the future is probably one of the best ways to use your time when you’re feeling mentally taxed.
Finally, don’t feel badly about slowing down a bit this time of year. If you’ve been working hard at building your business (and following my brilliant advice) for 11 months, it’s perfectly natural to feel like you need to recharge. Take it easy and you’ll be ready to hit the ground running in January.
Ready or not, 2016, here we come!