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Some business housekeeping projects to fill the holiday lull

Is it just me or did the holidays just sneak up on us? For many businesses, the pace slows down a little as our personal lives speed up, around the holidays. Here are some ways to take advantage of a little downtime.
  • Schedule a cleaning day for your work area.
Go through the stacks of magazines that have been gathering dust, tear out only the articles you really want to read and throw the rest away. Go through your files and throw out anything you haven’t referred to in the past year. Get rid of dead or dying plants (I know you have one). Replace family photos with current versions and dust and shine everything. There’s nothing like a fresh new work area to make you feel in control and ready when the starting gun goes off in January.
  • Schedule networking breakfasts and lunches.
During the rest of the year, it’s easy to let your networking slide. If you’re like most people, you tend to get sucked into your job and forget to keep your contacts alive. In this era of here-today-gone-tomorrow jobs, you can’t afford to let your grapevine shrivel and die. Go through your contact list and select at least four people with whom you want to stay in touch. Call now to schedule a breakfast or lunch, while their calendars are still open.
  • Take advantage of the holidays to add to your "employer of choice" status.
Employees want more balance and less stress in their lives, so here’s an opportunity you shouldn’t miss. Why not give your staff a long lunch hour?  How about thinking of a time this year when your staff would especially appreciate your scheduling a half-day off? Perhaps after they complete a large project? Some teams rent a van or a bus and make an outing out of it, complete with bagels and coffee.  Plan an office party, or food day. Think of easy, fun things you could do to make the next holiday season easier on your employees and more fun. Perhaps cookie exchange: willing participants bring in two dozen cookies in four containers and then swap. Want to be a hero?  How about planning and scheduling a half-day off to shop, for next year’s holiday season?
  • Job hunt now during prime time.
Contrary to popular belief, the holidays are perfect for finding that new job. Budgets have been approved and managers often have more time on their hands. There are fewer meetings and projects slow down to accommodate vacation schedules. Start calling and networking now to land a position while your competition is taking time off to make merry.
  • Take a Team Time Out.
Use the slower schedule to plan a half-day or full-day retreat. Examine the past year and ask, "What did we do well?" "What could we have done better?" Discuss new expectations and how they will affect every person’s job. Identify a few key goals for the coming year and develop some practical action steps. Build in some social time to get to know each other on a more personal level.
  • Thank each person for his or her contribution.
Take time to personally thank each person in a special way. Write a letter to your key person, expressing your thanks. Take your assistant out to lunch and talk about his or her interests, not yours. Walk around the office and take the time to talk to each person along the way. Nothing feels quite as good as knowing your contributions are valued.
  • Be aware of diverse personal beliefs and traditions.
Some of your employees may not celebrate Christmas. Find ways for them to be included in some activities. For instance, many organizations have a "Holiday" party instead of a "Christmas" party.
  • Take some time for yourself.
Recently, while I was leading a retreat for the leadership team, the managers were brainstorming ways to create more work/life balance and less stress for their employees. I asked the question, "When was the last time you did something special for yourself?" Silence. Finally, one woman gingerly raised her hand, "Well, I went to a day spa and had a massage…but then I felt guilty about spending the money and the time on myself." Perhaps this leads me to the most important point of all. Take some time to recharge your own batteries.

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