The holiday ornaments are in the stores, the school year is starting up, and there is a faint hint of Pumpkin Spice in the air, therefore it is time to prepare you, your family, and your office space for the Year-End madness that is Q4.
It stands to reason that in light of the pandemic, global events, and it being an election year that this Q4 is already emotionally charged. Add to that the stress at home of providing for the most basic level of needs (food, shelter, water) for you and your family in light of shortages, shut-downs, and in many cases reduced incomes, and you are already starting off on the wrong foot. This year, companies are needing to focus more on cost-cutting measures and increasing revenue to ensure they have the means to continue to operate in an unsure economy. Oh, and you may be reading this from your couch office as you are still “temporarily working from home” all these months later.
So what can you do? What actions can you take as an employee to set yourself up for success this fall? Here are some of my favorite strategies to prepare you for the fall of 2020 as an employee.
Step 1: Review your goals and priorities for 2020
Now is the time to dust off that list of goals you and your boss agreed to back in late 2019. Do not assume you remember what all the goals and targets are. If you have your goals in an electronic system or file be sure to print off a hard copy that ideally has a time-stamp on it ASAP so you will know if anything changes. In matrix organizations, it could be your boss’ boss’ boss that makes a change and suddenly it’s in your goal list.
If you do not have any agreed-upon goals then reverse-engineer yourself some goals for 2020. Is there something that you did to help the company in terms of cost savings, increasing revenue, or efficiency gains? What contributions did you make that were above and beyond? If someone asks you tomorrow “what value did you add to the company this year” you want to be able to quickly show them what you have done.
Step 2: Start filling out your end of year review for your goals and priorities
The best time to start working on your end of year review is January 1st, the second-best time is now! Do not treat your end of the year evaluation like it is an annoying data report. These do matter and they will matter even more this year with the possibility of lay-offs, decreased budgets for merit awards, and assignment of additional work assignments. You want to be able to provide the strongest year-end summary possible.
Step 3: Work on the goals that require other people or limited resources first
An added benefit of Step 1 and 2 is that you will see if you are needing to complete any projects or goals before it is too late. A lot of employees will wait until the emails start to come out in October about completing the annual review to take a second look at their goals, and then what happens? Yep, you will see a flurry of people trying to set up meetings or fighting over shared resources. Take the time now, to complete the projects that will require other people’s assistance or additional resources. As a bonus, you will also have more time to prove out your results.
Step 4: Take back your time
This step is critical–especially if you are on a remote team. What can you do to free up time in your workday? Here are three quick ways to get back more time: Reduce meeting times. Are you drowning in meetings? There are three ways to fix meeting fatigue:
- Don’t attend un-necessary meetings. If a meeting is truly not critical for you to attend then don’t. If you are unsure if you need to attend, find a legitimate reason for why you have to miss a meeting and see what the response is from the team.
- Ask to shorten meetings. I find it more successful to ask if you can start the meeting at 5 or 10 minutes after the hour versus asking to end early. This is especially easy to do if you have a scheduled meeting before and you present it as just wanting to make sure you are able to be at this meeting the full time in case your other one runs the full time.
- Repurpose the meeting-If you cannot get out of a meeting can you combine it to your other needs? If you are in a team meeting can you use the time to update the group on your project and ask for help, can you use it as a time to drop off items to other team members, can you use the first few minutes of chit chat to confirm your calendar with the other members, etc.
Batch your work and communicate the expectations
- If you have a repetitive task can you do it at one time and train your team to expect the work from you only at that time? A great example of this in action is someone who reimburses employees for business expenses. Instead of taking time each day to review reports and release the funds, inform employees that expense reports will be reviewed and paid on Friday morning so all forms have to be to you by 8 am. This way you are batching your work which has been proven to save time, you are not chasing down people for the information, and after a few weeks, you will not have people routinely disrupting your day to day work to ask for a status update on their report they will know to check after Friday morning.
Reduce the effort needed to get the same or similar results
- I seem to always find my way into working on an employee newsletter. Newsletters can be an incredibly powerful tool but they take time. In most of my plants, the newsletters were daily and it was truly hard to meet this expectation. You have to format the columns to hold the content, sometimes there wasn’t any breaking news, and then you had to print and deliver them by a certain time. The goal was to inform employees, not to be a printing press. I asked if we could reduce it to one or two days with a special colored bulletin for emergencies and while the initial pushback was not positive by getting agreement to just try it, I was able to show it would work and saved myself a ton of time and headache.
Organize your space and plan your week
- Having your physical and electronic space organized will help you not only reduce stress but save time. Planning your week proactively will also help you focus on the most important objectives and reduce scheduling conflicts. If you would like an easy and fun way to do this, then check out 5S Fridays at http://paperandprogress.com/5s (Shameless plug).
Step 5: Plan 2021
Start planning your goals for 2021 as soon as possible. This will allow you to work ahead and if you have a savings or revenue goal you will be able to start realizing those savings early in the year setting you up for an even better and brighter 2021 Performance Review.
Step 6: Increase your creature comforts at work
There is a lot of work to be done, and it is going to be an extra hard and challenging few months. What can you do now to increase your creature comforts at work? If you are working from home maybe it’s investing in some new office supplies, storage solutions, or artwork. If you are working in an office, can you add in some new decor? Can you keep a comfy pair of shoes under your desk, a fancier stash of K cups for pick me up days, or create a computer background that motivates you on those harder days.
Step 7: Prepare your home
Take some extra time now to prepare your home for a busy season of life. This will look different for everyone. A few suggestions are: buying extra food to have on hand in case you can’t make it to the store one week; preparing meals in advance; winterizing your home early; and wrapping up your holiday gift purchases now.