Ah, the end of the year – it’s a magical time! Not only do we get swept away by the excitement of the holiday season, but our creative brains also start thinking ahead to all of the wonderful things we hope to accomplish in the new year. (Hi, my name is Laura, and I’m a goal setter – you?)

In order to give your business the best start in the New Year, there are a number of tasks I always recommend tackling either before you sign off for eggnog and sugar cookies or first thing when you get back. This practical to-do list will help you kick off 2018 stress-free so that you can channel your refreshed energies into new exciting projects.

1. CLEAN OUT YOUR INBOX
This means catching up on all of those pesky emails that have been collecting during the pre-holiday madness. Take some time to write back to everybody in a meaningful way so that when you come back to work in January you only have fresh messages to address.

Delete emails you no longer need, update your email labels/filters, tweak your email signature if it needs a change. Email is one of the most important modern day business tools and taking the time to tidy it up at the end of the year will be immensely satisfying and useful, I promise!

2. TIDY YOUR DESK
Purge, organize, dust and tidy the good old desk. Get those stacks of papers filed away, dismiss the clutter and basically reset your work space for a fresh start. (It feels so so good!) Bonus points if you clean your keyboard (mine always gets filthy and is currently filled with cookie crumbs!)

3. PREP YOUR TAXES
Womp wa! Yes, yes I know – we’ve all been programmed to think that taxes are the worst thing ever to prepare for, but if you’re organized and give yourself lots of time to get organized, they really aren’t a stress-fest. Finicky? Yes. Time consuming? Sure! Which is all the more reason to get them out of the way before the busy new year arrives.

Sit down and go through your receipts, sort them into categories (for example food costs, travel costs, supplies costs, subscription costs etc), gather all of the documents that you need and book your 2018 appointment with your accountant. Right now!

This way, when January arrives, you can focus solely on your new projects instead of getting bogged down by tax anxiety. (Note: some tax documents aren’t available until February or March, but don’t worry – do the bulk of the sorting in advance to buy yourself a ton of time in the new year).
4. SET YOUR “OUT OF OFFICE” MESSAGES
Program your email with an out of office message and pop an out of office notice on your social media channels if you’re going off the grid for the holidays like me. This will let anyone who is trying to connect with you know what’s going on and when they can expect to hear from you. It also presents your brand as the professional entity that it is.

5. CHASE DOWN OUTSTANDING INVOICES
Politely, of course! For those projects that are wrapping up and due, don’t be afraid to send out gentle reminders that a balance is owing. It’ll make your book keeping far smoother and means no loose ends to keep track of in the new year and new quarter.

6. HAVE A STRATEGY SESSION FOR THE NEW YEAR AHEAD
This – is – my – FAVOURITE! I absolutely adore the opportunity to sit down and dive into planning out each quarter for the following year. Ask yourself what you want to realistically accomplish and schedule those building blocks to make it happen.

Plug in launch dates and work backwards with your related deadlines. Set your sales goals for each season. Study what worked and didn’t work for your business this year and strategize accordingly to strengthen your business. Crunch the numbers, do the math, brainstorm marketing ideas and write it all down! Creating this business blue print for the following year helps you to keep on track, boost your productivity and grown a business.

If the idea of mapping out an entire year feels too overwhelming for you, don’t worry! I used to map out just a season at a time, which is a less intimidating place to start.

Need help putting together your manageable action plan for your business? I can help! Ask about my Revenue Development Package or Business Coaching Services and schedule your January appointment today! I’ll work closely one-on-one with you to develop a manageable action plan for your brand/business that will deliver results.

7. WRITE YOUR BUSINESS PLAN
Take your notes from your strategy session and write out your business plan for the new year.

8. DO A WEBSITE CHECK UP
As many of you know, my websites were hacked in March this year and I lost a lot of content, which now makes me a huge advocate for completing website check ups (something I never did before). These check ups are essential to keep websites safer and more security from threats.

How do you check up? Call your hosting provider or website person and request a site audit – in other words, ask whoever does your site maintenance to make sure everything is up to date, current and secure. Run your site yourself? No problem! WordPress users, log in to your dashboard and make sure all of your plugins are up-to-date, as well as your hosting. Maybe change your password if you haven’t done it in a while too, just in case. Take care of your tech and your tech will take care of you.
9. PLAN YOUR JANUARY AND FEBRUARY BLOG POSTS
The new year is a very busy time, because more often than not the entrepreneur has to hustle to land new projects and clients. Planning out your January and February blog editorial calendar makes the life of future you so much easier.

Write down the topics you really want to write about and share with your audience so when you come back to work you don’t have to wrack your brain for ideas – you’ll be good to go!

Planning editorial calendars is a task I love to do by creating my very own coffee shop at home. I put on a pot of tea, choose my favourite decadent TEASE blend (a wonderful Canadian tea brand that donates a portion of every sale to organizations that empower women), set out a plate of cookies, put on some music and dive in! Creating a fun setting to work in makes the actual task a lot more enjoyable, especially during the hectic holiday season.

10. SEND OUT HOLIDAY OR THANK YOU NOTES
I recently wrote about the undervalued importance of sending out end of year holiday cards and thank you notes. Without the people who support your business and invest in your services, there is no value. Take time to express your heartfelt thanks and appreciation. It’s good karma, a kind thing to do and adds personality to your brand on a personal level.

11. BACK UP YOUR DEVICES
Backing up is a habit that most of us are really bad at – we all think that our devices are invincible (guilty!), but the reality is that everything can potentially fail. Back up your documents, contact lists and photos from both your computer and your phone onto external harddrives or to the cloud. And label everything by the year so it’s easy to find in future should you need it. Why run the risk of having all of your hard work in 2017 disappear should a device fail? Back it up.

12. DO NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT TAKING TIME OFF
Last but not least, do not feel guilty about taking time away from your business over the holidays. Trust me, I completely understand how nerve-wracking it can feel to step away for multiple days – but please hear me when I say this, it will be all right!

If you worked for anybody other than yourself, you would expect time off over the holiday season where you don’t have to check email or do anything related to the office. You are entitled to this same guilt-free getaway time as a self-employed entrepreneur. Savour the time you have away, decompress, de-stress, don’t fret and you’ll come back freshly inspired in the new year.

Help your business thrive in the new year by tackling as much of this to-do list as possible. It will help you start 2018 in the best way possible – relaxed and ready to take on the world!

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