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In a few short weeks, we will have officially survived 2020 – the year no one saw coming!  Like many of you, I am ready to toast a new beginning at midnight on January 1st and hope the coming year behaves itself a little more than this one has.  

In our haste to move on to whatever will come next, it may be tempting to close the door on the past twelve months like that closet you hope no one ever opens.  Not so fast!  

Before we can step confidently into the new year, there are a few items to wrap-up and some actions to take that will set you up for your best year yet.  We’ve put together the following guide with four essential areas to include in your year-end review.  

1. Organize & Downsize

A good cleaning is not just for springtime!  The end of the year is the perfect time to get organized and get rid of what you don’t need.  Start with your financials.  Organize your quarterly financial statements and receipts for the year.  Meet with your accountant, if you have one, and if this year was more profitable than expected, make an adjustment to your estimated tax or make a deductible purchase in order to avoid penalties for underpayment.  This may be the time to “treat yourself” to that new phone or computer monitor you’ve been needing.  When reviewing your finances, you should also look for trends. What type of work was most profitable?  What was more work than it was worth?  All of this information will be helpful in the planning phase of your year-end review.  

This is also the perfect time for a digital clean-up.  If inbox zero is a realistic goal – then go for it!  If not, get as close as you can.  Archive old emails that you may need at a later date to get them out of your inbox.  I have folders for each client, and each major project I perform for that clent.  This helps me access old emails easily when and if I need them.  Do the same with your digital files.  Are there old client files that can be archived or combined into folders?  The old adage “cluttered space, cluttered mind” applies to digital clutter just as much as physical clutter!  

Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, backup your files.  Yes, I know, in the age of G-Suite and iCloud we have everything online.  While these platforms are very secure, nothing is infallible!  Make sure you have both an online backup AND a physical backup, such as an external drive kept in a fire-proof safe, to cover all your bases.  Trust me, in the event that you need it, this could be the most important thing you do all year.

2. Reflect

One of my favorite activities in the Tides & Currents Retreat Box is the creation of your own personal tide chart, and year-end is the perfect time to complete this activity if you haven’t already.  Create a chart with the chronological timeline being the horizontal access and your level of success and/or satisfaction being the vertical access.  Chart the natural ebbs and flows throughout the year.  This is the easy part.  The harder assignment lies just ahead.  Think back to what was happening in your life and business just BEFORE those high and low moments?  What was happening with your physical health?  Your mindset?  Your personal relationships?  Your professional network?  Your customer base?  If you look closely, you’ll see patterns emerge in the circumstances that positioned you for high tides (big wins) and low tides (frustrating moments) in your business this year.  Understanding these trends will help you prepare for and maximize your successes in the coming year, while correcting the circumstances that lead to frustration.  Including this activity in your year-end review brings more smooth sailing in the coming year. 

3. Celebrate

While you’re reflecting, take a moment to celebrate how far you’ve come!  Chances are, you’ve already recognized the big wins, but what about the growth that came from failing?  What about the new connections?  The new skills?  The things you learned because you HAD to?  Make a list of what you know and can do now that you didn’t know or couldn’t do twelve months ago.  Who do you know that has helped you grow your business, broaden your perspective or introduce you to a big client?  What courageous action did you take in spite of fear?  All of these are worth remembering!  Taking the opportunity to remember the good opens your mind and heart to more good things to come.  So let the celebration begin!  

4. Plan

Once you’ve organized your physical and digital space and identified the lessons and achievements this year has brought, I use a simple and effective assessment to get the planning process started.  

  1. Take out a sheet of paper and draw two lines, one vertical and one horizontal, intersecting at the center of the paper to create four quadrants.
  2. At the top of the page label the quadrants “doing” and “not doing”.
  3. Along the left side of the page label the vertical quadrants “want to” and “don’t want to”.
  4. Spend an hour completing this grid with things you are doing and want to keep doing, are doing and don’t want to be doing, aren’t doing and want to be doing, and aren’t doing and don’t want to do.  

The first few ideas will come quickly.  These are the things already on your radar screen. Resist the urge to move on too quickly though.  There are almost ALWAYS changes that you need to make for the good of your business, your mental health, or your personal life.  These often fall into the “doing, but don’t want to be doing” or “not doing, but want to do” categories.  Listening to your gut in these areas can mean the difference between a year of struggle and a year of peace.  

Aress in the not doing/don’t want to do or doing/don’t want to do quadrants are great opportunities to outsource tasks that are not the best use of your time and energy.  For help determining the cost/value of outsourcing various tasks and determining what to outsource first, check out our free calculator at bit.ly/costtooutsource.  It will show you exactly which outsourcing option could benefit you most.  

This activity will provide clarity around your highest priorities for the coming year.  Pick the top two or three, develop your SMART goals and action plans, and pop the cork on that bottle of champagne!  Celebrate the new year knowing that you are prepped and ready for the opportunities that lie ahead.  

Do you have other items on your year-end checklist that have served you well over the years?  Share them below!