Is anyone else in total shock that it’s December already? I can’t quite believe it. The year seems to have raced past us at lightning speed.
But even if you’re totally flabbergasted by the arrival of the silly season there’s no need to despair. With a little planning this can be one of your most productive months.
We’ve put together a December To-Do List for business owners, managers and team leaders everywhere. Spend the next few weeks productively and you’ll really earn that holiday!
1- Back-Up Your Data
It’s one of those annoying tasks you have in the back of your mind but never get around to doing! Make sure all your business data is 100% backed up and secure before the month ends. Enter the new year feeling confident that if disaster strikes you won’t lose any critical information, financial data or contacts. Private cloud-based storage systems or encrypted external hard drives can provide extra security. There are countless options available, combine them to create a powerful backup strategy.
2- Update Your Website
Is your business website full of broken links, outdated copy from 2008 and a ‘Meet the Team’ page featuring people you haven’t seen in years? Give your website a full makeover this December. Refresh your copy, update any incorrect details, fix your links, spruce up your images, and go into the new year feeling confident that your website accurately represents your business and brand.
3 - Return Borrowed Items
Remember when you borrowed that book from Jennifer in accounts, lost it, then spent three months avoiding her because you were too embarrassed to admit it? Swallow your pride and buy her a new one. And return that wandering red stapler to its true owner while you’re at it.
4 - Review Your Financials
It’s important to assess where you stand financially at the end of the year, and compare this to previous years. Generate a complete profit and loss report. Analyse your cash flow statements. Think about any big purchases you need to make and how depreciation rates will affect you. Most importantly, make an appointment with your accountant to review figures and discuss next year’s financial planning.
5 - Chase Unpaid Invoices
If you’re a Xero user you can easily view all of your outstanding invoices at a glance. Be sure to chase clients who owe you money, and if possible try to collect before the end of the year. This will help you start the new year with a clean slate and healthy cash flow.
6 - Update Your Payroll
Now is the perfect time to ensure your payroll systems are completely up to date. Check the status of all employees and tax codes; getting these wrong can cost you money and result in government penalties. Check out Xero’s handy guide to keeping accurate payroll tax records.
7 - Build a Bridge
If any bad blood exists between you and a colleague it’s time to make amends. This also applies to any overdue apologies you’ve been too awkward to address. Maybe you missed a friend’s baby shower last month and didn’t get around to saying sorry. Perhaps you mouthed off at at a co-worker during a stressful project. Even if it’s late, apologise for past incidences (send a card if needed) and go into the new year with a clear conscience.
8 - Make a Charity Donation
It’s important to show your Christmas spirit at this time of year, and part of that is being generous to those less fortunate. Making a tax deductible charitable donation is a gesture of goodwill and can help build your standing in the community. In addition to financial donations, you could organise a staff field day of charitable work, e.g. volunteering at the city mission or planting native trees. These outings are actually a lot of fun and make excellent team building exercises.
9 - Brainstorm Business Growth
As the year winds down you’re less consumed with day-to-day tasks, and this gives you more time to think outside the box. Use the last weeks of December to think about your business growth from a fresh perspective. Write down all ideas that spring to mind - like opening new stores, changing your sales strategy, reinventing your brand, taking on extra staff or potential clients to pursue. In the new year you can whittle these ideas into an actionable list of goals.
10 - Write Personal Resolutions
Business goals are important but so is your personal wellness. Don’t forget to write your own New Year’s resolutions. It’s time to finally kick that negative habit - whether it’s smoking, skipping breakfast and eating poorly, procrastinating on deadlines, or missing the gym. You should also commit to adding at least one positive behaviour to your lifestyle, like practicing mindfulness or reading a nonfiction book each month. Remember that for your business to be healthy, you need to be healthy.
11 - Reach Out to Clients
Don’t forget to wish your clients a happy holiday. Depending on your company size you might send cards, gifts, or even shout your most valuable customers to lunch. Take advantage of this time to strengthen your most important client relationships and make them feel valued. It’s also a good opportunity to ask for honest feedback - how could you serve them better next year? Can any of your services be improved on?
12 - Clear Out Your Desk
This is a no-brainer but often gets left till the last minute. It’s easy to build up piles of documents, notes, bills and forgotten receipts during the year - and sorting this mess out always takes longer than you think. Put on some sweet tunes, pour yourself a drink, and finally tackle that ominous mountain of paperwork. Personally I just love the excuse to use a paper shredder. Vroooooooom.
13 - Empty the Office Fridge
That half-eaten ham sandwich from April? The pottle of mouldy hummus, and the pointless jar of onion relish? It’s time they finally met their doom. Be warned...The office fridge excavation can be a terrifying (even traumatising) experience. Consider hiring a professional cleaner for a once-off if you don’t have one already. Your staff will be delighted when they come back to a pristine, sparkling, and above all hygienic kitchen next year.
14 - Get Feedback From Staff
Your business is nothing without its people. Make sure they’re happy, thriving and professionally fulfilled going into the new year. It’s a good idea to conduct a survey - either formal or informal - about their satisfaction with the business and their working environment. You could also arrange one-on-one sessions to discuss each individual’s career development plan. Note any points of dissatisfaction and promise to make these a priority when you return next year.
15 - Sort Your Subscriptions
Subscriptions are another thing that can build into a mountain over time, especially unnecessary or forgotten ones. Did you sign up for a stock photo library that’s just gathering dust? Maybe you’re paying for a social media app you never use? Make a list of them all, discuss with your team and ditch the ones that aren’t needed. While you’re at it renew those you want to keep.
16 - Say Goodbye to Email Spam
Email newsletter subscriptions are another beast altogether. If you’re anything like me you’ve probably signed up to hundreds unwittingly. Put aside 60 minutes to sit down, go through your inbox, and unsubscribe yourself from all those marketing lists. It’s so much more efficient than just deleting them as they come in. Don’t let their promises of free gifts, amazing coupons or clothing discounts tempt you. Be ruthless.
17 - Shop Smarter
There’s nothing more hellish than a shopping mall in the final days before Christmas. Thousands of people fighting over carparks, painfully cheesy music, and long queues for wrapping presents can drive anyone insane. Why not make your December a little less stressful by purchasing your gifts online? These days pretty much anything you can imagine is available on Amazon. Just remember to factor in shipping times.
18 - Finish Outstanding Projects
Does your team have a Trello board haunted by the ghosts of abandoned projects? Or a pinboard of post-its with half baked ideas? Gather everyone to discuss your outstanding business projects, big and small. Some will no longer be relevant and can be deleted or discarded. Others might be achievable right now. Organise dedicated sprint sessions and try to get several of your outstanding projects done by the end of December.
19 - Reflect on the Year
Ending the year with self-reflection is important for any business owner. What were your greatest accomplishments this year? What was your biggest learning curve? Have your visions for the future changed? Take some time for yourself (go bush, beach, or wherever necessary to get some quiet) and reflect on the business direction and how it connects with your own happiness. What do you want to achieve by this time next year, personally and professionally?
20 - Pop Some Champagne!
Whew! That’s a lot to get done by the end of the month. Make sure when you reach the 31st you celebrate in style. Whatever stage your business is at you’ve survived another year. You’ve faced challenges, pursued your dream and weathered bad times like a champion. So go ahead and pop those bubbles - you deserve it.