Halloween is here, and cold weather is upon us. As we wind down the year and head into the holiday season, it’s time to start thinking ahead to 2019. My approach to almost everything is to make a list. Vacation? List. Moving? List. Every single work day? List. When I think about what I want to get accomplished next year, it’s only natural for me to bust out a pen and paper and start making bullet points. It may seem like it’s too early in the game to start planning for next year, but Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and New Year’s will be here before you know it.
The next 8 weeks will fly by, so my advice is to start digging in to your strategy now so you’re ready to roll come the first of the year.
— Evaluate your 2018 performance.
What worked? What fell flat? What goals or opportunities did you miss? You’ll want to incorporate the 2018 practices that worked back into your plan, and potentially ramp those efforts up. You should also make notes on anything that didn’t go exactly as planned, or maybe were complete misses by your team (yikes), and how to prevent any recurrences moving forward. It’s also a good idea to do some research on what your competition did in 2018 and ask the same questions.
Some advice: Keep a list of notes in 2019 where you flag these wins, losses, and missed opportunities. It will make this exercise easier in 2020!
— Make a wish list.
Did you want to re-brand in 2018, but ran out of time? Do you want to add a new service to your company’s capabilities? Do you need to add a new member to your team? Imagine all of the things you would get done in the year if time and resources were limitless.
Thinking up this list can also be a great group brainstorming activity for your department or office. Once you have your annual budget in place, you can revisit this list to see how you can translate your ideas into achievable goals, and get the most bang for your buck.
— Review your big opportunities in 2019.
Did you miss the boat on the perfect networking opportunity in 2018? Did you realize too late that it was #NationalDonutDay? Avoid missing these moments next year by putting them on your radar now. Outline tradeshows, conferences, holidays, and fun promotions that fit your organization. Prioritize which ones are a “must”, and which ones you’re hoping to squeeze in as “wants”.
Are there any events that you host annually that need a boost in performance? Look back at your “missed opportunities” list from the first question to help you brainstorm on this. Flag these event improvements as major items, they will need a lot of your attention when it comes to planning in the future.
— Utilize your planning tools.
Start building your content calendars and project timelines NOW. Your future self will thank you for this. As you research and brainstorm on numbers 1-4, it’s the perfect time go ahead and pop those dates and events into your content calendar or timeline tracker.
Once you’ve populated your calendars and timelines, you can start to set reminders to get you going on promotions or events. For example, if you wish you had started 2018 holiday planning in September rather than October, set an alert as a prompt to get that discussion started sooner. Additionally, populating these planning tools early can help you see where you might run into project overlap or staffing issues ahead of time, so you can prepare accordingly.
— Align your goals.
What are the goals for the other departments in your organization? How can your team contribute to the health of the company? Has the business’ place in the competitive landscape shifted? Take some time to talk to other departments and discuss their answers to some of these questions. Being on the same page with them might seem obvious, but we often get busy with our own individual to-do lists, and forget to look at the bigger picture. This level of coordination will only strengthen your efforts and goals moving forward.
Forecasting your entire year can be extremely overwhelming, and let’s be honest, there will always be last-minute “fires” that pop up and need to be addressed. You can’t plan for everything, but you can set yourself up for success by starting the conversation now and be ready to kick off the new year with a bang!