No one knows a business’s unique rhythms better than the business owner themselves, but we nearly all experience a busier life across the last quarter of the year. Business gets even more frantic in the last few months, especially in December, as the holidays hit.
At this time of year we start to notice seasonal cycles and changes, like seasonal client demands and so on. One major thing we should concentrate on though is maintaining personal energy throughout the chaos.
Read on for more or listen in as I discuss it on this podcast episode.
Buying into the drama
My clinical practise experience is with children, families, and educators. So naturally, term four was nearly always nuts. Just when we thought we’d seen it all, we saw more. It’s busy. It’s frantic. There’s lots going on.
When we see this finish line at the end of December, we tend to overdo it. We potentially overreach ourselves and even sometimes overservice our beautiful clients. We say yes to things when we should probably say no, or “not now”.
Because we’re a little fatigued physically, emotionally, and mentally, we’re more vulnerable to drama. It’s natural to get a caught up in the December whirlwind, and the urgency of things. The more common issues we face are schools wanting things, referrers wanting things, suppliers wanting things, other funding agencies needing this, that, and the other.
I’m not disregarding those requests. Some of them absolutely need your attention, but we need to prioritise and decide what comes first. Stephen Covey designed a Time Management Matrix to help people decide what action to take with requests that tear us apart, which can be extremely useful.
Overloading the body and mind
The other major factor in our major end-of-year problem comes from overcommitting ourselves. Perhaps we say yes to a few too many parties, get-togethers, and other seasonal social activities. Whilst that is glorious I do wonder whether that just overloads the body and mindset.
As a result we use more energy than we have in the cup, and rather than stopping to think about how we fill that cup, we just keep serving. Mentally, what I think happens is we shift to operating out of a larger cup only to realise at some point we’re still operating out of that very, very empty bone-dry cup that we had in weeks previous.
As clinicians and allied health business owners, do we have an opportunity to do this final quarter of the year differently? I think we do.
Perhaps we should approach it with more optimism, with different decision-making frameworks, with different prioritisation, and perhaps even more energetically, more mindfully, and with more care and peace in mind. Think of it as the quarter where less is more.
Less is more
Of course it’s easier said than done. As allied health professionals, we need to be useful and available at all times. But that comes at a cost. I think it takes its toll on our energy the most.
What if you paused now and reviewed your capacity? How many hours do you have available to work between now and switching off for the summer break? These questions apply to your personal life, your business life, and your team. A little bit of ‘capacity mapping’ could provide some strong data for your decision-making framework.
The important thing is to be realistic. Everybody has to-do lists that are miles long. By breaking it down into say, three must-do items to be done by 3:00pm, it becomes a lot more manageable and less overwhelming.
Personally, I love the notion of three by three – three not-negotiables to be done by 3:00pm. If you have more to give, up it to five by 5:00pm. Write them down and work through them.
Make a to-don’t list
One of the biggest problems people have is deciding what, if anything, to remove from their to-do list. In my past workshops I’ve talked about the to-don’t list. These are things that could be delegated, freeing you to concentrate on more pressing items.
Instead of worrying about those activities, build a self-care plan for the next few months. What difference would that make to you finishing out the year?
As business and life gets hectic towards the end of the year, we tend to forget about personal maintenance and the self-care activities that help us maintain our regular routine. The exercise gets cancelled, nutrition gets a little patchy, and hydration becomes an afterthought. They’re all the very things that you need at a cellular level to be the best version of you that your business and your team require.
It might be that you have to decline various invitations, or push back extra work like a new referral and leave it for January. Instead, stick to your normal routine as much as possible, and maintain a steady workflow.
Making mindful decisions about what will support you, what will deny you, what you can do business-wise, and what just can’t be done right now, will all serve you better for the holiday break.
Don’t just stop at yourself, though. Extend this self-care plan to your team. Create an energy management plan for your whole team month by month, or even week by week. That way everyone in the business isn’t depleted come the end of the year.
Stay on top of things
Imagine stepping into your summer break feeling absolutely on top of it all.
Personally, I am much happier and have a much happier family by doing these very things. I also have a team that is in really good shape to be able to take their summer break and know that it’s all secured.
More importantly, remember to think about what December means for you; it is about sunshine, and celebrations, and wrapping up the year. It’s very optimistic and joyful for the vast majority of people. It should not be a state of exhaustion that is so often the state allied health business owners and clinicians find themselves in.