Saturday, August 12, 2006

Productivity - How to be productive during the holiday season

The crazy holiday season… why does it make our heart beat faster knowing we have so much more ‘to do’ and so little time to achieve it all? Why is it we both love and hate this time of year? We place high expectations on ourselves and others during the holiday season however there are ways to be more productive during this holiday season.

The holiday season is not the time to slow down your business development activities or stop networking because we still have budgets, goals and targets to achieve. How do you handle the ‘unproductive’ attitude that holiday season brings? How can you juggle vacation schedules? Historically, the holiday season may have been a time for you to take it easy, do the minimum amount of activity while you focus on what you will achieve for next year…not this year! Decide to make this your most productive holiday season ever, here are some strategies that will help you do that and continually grow your business and set up a productive 2007.

Make 2007 your best year yet. Book a two-hour appointment with yourself to begin planning for next year to include cash flows, targets and staff development activities. Determine what you need to achieve to make 2007 your best year yet. This business plan should not be collecting dust in your bottom drawer - it is a living document to be used as a guide for you and your team.

Review your marketing plan. Invest the time and resources in creating a customised plan for your business. If you are self-employed, ask colleagues and people you trust to brainstorm ideas with you. If you have a company, ask clients, staff and colleagues what marketing activities will be effective for your business. If you created a marketing plan for this year, review your progress to date and determine what strategies will be effective again for 2007.

Conduct focus groups. Invite a select number of key clients to your office and ask them about your business, their expectations and experiences, and how you can better serve them. Collate the results and seek your team’s input on how to action them.

Conduct a six-month business review. Spend two hours reviewing your business achievements for the past six months. Ask yourself these 11 questions:
1. How would I rate the past six months’ business performance (1-10 with 10 being the highest)?
2. Did I achieve my financial goals each month?
3. If not, why not?
4. If not, what do I need to do differently in the next six months to meet my annual budget or plan?
5. If I did meet these targets (congratulations to you), were they big enough?
6. Have I conducted staff reviews with my team? If not, why not? And when?
7. If so, have I rewarded my team adequately?
8. Do I need to invest more in my team or personal development?
9. Is my marketing plan on track? If not, why not?
10. If not, what activities do I need to conduct to implement more marketing strategies?
11. Have I done sufficient networking to grow my business or my connections? If not, why not?

When you have completed these questions, create a series of tasks, actions or projects to implement some of your strategies to help you really achieve all your targets for the next six months.

Clean up. You have heard of a spring clean, well this is a winter clean. This clean out could include:
v Clearing, deleting or filing those read emails in your inbox.
v Unsubscribing from all those newsletters that you don’t read.
v Allocating one hour to get your paper filing up to date (if you have more than one hour’s worth, do 15 minutes per week until it is all complete).
v Throwing out unwanted, unread journals that you have been ‘meaning’ to read, but haven’t and won’t.
v Reviewing your ‘tasks’ on your to-do list or in your Outlook file and removing those tasks that simply won’t be completed.
v Entering details into your contact management system of the business card pile that is gathering dust on your desk.
v Spending 15 minutes cleaning the top of your desk, removing unnecessary stationery, putting away files, cleaning the dust off your family photo, throwing away empty water bottles and wiping down your computer keyboard and screen. A clean and clear desk will help you be more productive any time of year!

Hold a team development activity. If you manage a team of people, allocate some time to meet for lunch at cosy restaurant with a warm fireplace and delicious food or bring food to share for lunch and conduct a meeting in your conference room. Spend time listening to your team, their challenges and achievements. Plan your next six months and how you will achieve the targets for the whole team.

Implement a product or service trial. This is the perfect time of year to try a new product or introduce a new service to your customers. Map a plan, seek team involvement and watch your customers’ reactions.

Cancel unnecessary meetings. If you have regular weekly or monthly project or staff meetings that don’t need to occur during the holidays, cancel them. Most people appreciate being given more time and spending less time in meetings.

Create a list of new business development targets. Once you have made your list, sort it into three groups: ‘spheres of influence’, those that are able to make decisions about your products or services; ‘centres of influence’, those that are already your advocates; and ‘strategic alliances’, those that you can refer business to and that can also refer business to you. Once you have your list completed, book appointments with these people to include lunch, breakfast or even a ‘tele-coffee’. Create a plan within your schedule to contact them regularly. Contact could include a phone call, email, sending them an interesting article you’ve found, inviting them to a networking event with you, sending a parcel of products or a face-to-face meeting.

Book a ‘tele-coffee’ with your clients. What is a ‘tele-coffee’? It is where you both make a coffee and meet by teleconference. It is a more productive way of meeting (and avoids time wasted in travel), especially if you are trying to avoid the snow. Just like a normal meeting you set an agenda, take minutes if required and agree on the outcomes.

Shop On-line. Avoid the stress and hassle you may feel during this busy time of year. Allocate two hours to complete your gift buying online. First make a list of those you want to buy for and some suggested gift ideas. Secondly log onto popular websites that allow you to purchase multiple products from one location (and you can save on shipping) and lastly order as much as you can from that store and request the gift-wrapping service. For a small extra charge you will receive your gifts wrapped and ready to give to someone. This is far more productive than you spending time buying the gift-wrap accessories and trying to wrap it last minute!

Select Holiday gifts for clients. Make a list of clients you would like to acknowledge this year. Firstly, set a gift budget. Secondly group your clients into three (3) categories (maybe gold, silver and bronze) and then determine how you will classify them i.e. by sales, by referrals or by repeat business? Once you have three lists determine a gift for each category and ask someone to order these, have them gift wrapped, a card written and delivered to your client. There are services that specialize in this at this busy time of year, take advantage of this. I use Tiffany & Co for holiday gifts for many reasons including quality, gift-wrapping and reliable delivery. My clients look forward to receiving their gift and I love to send them. Find something that represents you and your business and will stand out on their desk when it is delivered to them.

Conduct a client appreciation event. This does not have to be an expensive or lengthy office party, a simple elegant event is all you need to do to recognise your clients and thank them for their business. Be creative. Use your conference room and bring in an external caterer. If you are self-employed without an office space, use a popular café or restaurant and provide light refreshments. Just take the time to say thank you and invite the team and other suppliers so they can also thank your clients too.

Visit a new networking group. Many networking groups meet during the holiday season because they are serious about building their businesses and still making valuable connections. Find out which groups are meeting and plan to attend at least two new groups this holiday season. This is the perfect time to develop new relationships and valuable connections.

To continually grow your business you do need to be mindful of the seasons but don’t slow down in holidays – get more productive. Use this time to get a head start on all those 2007 meetings you can conduct when people return from vacation, ensure plans are in place to achieve your annual results, tidy your work environment so you are not distracted by clutter, and experiment with new products, focus groups and new networking opportunities. Embrace the cooler weather for indoor meetings and events and enjoy all that the holiday season can bring for your business growth.

Neen is an International Productivity Expert: by looking at how they spend their time and energy – and where they focus their attention – Neen helps people to rocket-charge their productivity and performance. A dynamic speaker, author and corporate trainer, Neen demonstrates how boosting your productivity can help you achieve amazing things. With her unique voice (Aussie accent), sense of fun and uncommon common-sense, Neen delivers a powerful lesson in productivity. Find out more and subscribe to Neen’s free monthly ezine at

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