A pre-holiday end of year checklist

 Image credit: Erin Butner, IDEO

Image credit: Erin Butner, IDEO

December is upon us again, and while your head might be filled with pre-Christmas to-do’s and holiday events it’s not quite time to switch off yet. Here are five things to add to that list before you wind up for the holidays:

1. Tell the right people and pass on the right details in your place

Whether you’re a one-person operation or part of a large team, making your network aware of your time away (and who they can contact in your absence) should be the first step. Put together a list of your key contacts and send them a short note advising when you’ll be away, who they can contact in your absence and an update on any work that may be affected. For a more thorough checklist for managing office closures or time away, MYOB have a great guide here.

Given it’s the end of the year, this could also be a nice time to thank those people for their input to your business or organisation - a few extra minutes to personalise an email can go a long way.

2. Quantify your tasks

If you’re anything like us, your to-do list won’t end with the year. So spend a bit of time before you wind up for the year planning what tasks you can get done before you head off on holidays, what are ongoing and what you can pick up when you get back. If you’re taking the inbox clearout approach above, you could also use this tactic for filing your tasks ahead of going on leave by creating folders on Gmail to organise your tasks into, or creating a priority inbox.

3. Craft a killer out of office email

Who says your Vacation Responder needs to be boring? A good OOO email doesn’t simply communicate the obvious - it can even be a marketing tool of sorts. IDEO have a great guide for making your OOO sound more human, or you could take the increasingly popular approach of deleting the contents of your inbox on returning from vacation and setting your OOO to advise any contacts to get in touch after your return. Caitlin Simmons makes a great case for doing so here in the Sydney Morning Herald.

4. Plan for the year ahead

Of course there’s plenty to do before you go, but what about after you get back? Some high level planning for your return will save time and a reactive mindset down the track. Have a kickoff or strategy day set with your team and be clear on the immediate priorities / tasks to achieve in January as well as what planning you can do for the year ahead (key dates in your organisation, staff leave dates, any school holidays or public holidays to account for). Even if it’s simply buying your calendar and diary, it’s time you’ll save to get started on the more important stuff later.

5. Remember to take time out for yourself and others

In all the end of year bustle it’s too easy to get caught up in feeling stressed or run-down. Our friend Fiona Killackey listed some great tactics for coping with end of year stress on her My Daily Business Coach newsletter, but what stood out for us in particular was the power of kindness on our mindset. So take time out to do something nice for others (maybe those who aren’t fortunate enough to get time off over the holidays, or have had a rough year) and you’ll both benefit from the positive effort. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed with your to-do list, make some time for yourself - meditation, exercise or just reading a magazine - to help recharge and recalibrate. As Fast Company cover here, even 30 minutes can have tangible health benefits on your stress and improve productivity.

Melia Rayner