Finish Strong, Start Stronger: Practical Tips for Year-End Success

Finish bannerThe end of one year and start of another can be a difficult time for organizations and for the people in them in two, almost opposite, ways.

On the one hand, you can get stuck trying to meet commitments that didn’t take into account holidays and vacation at year-end, which can be stressful and frustrating.

On the other hand, you can end up wasting almost 1/8 of the year, not really getting anything done between late-November and early-January because you don’t manage the time strategically, so nothing meaningful gets done at the end of the year and ramp up is slow at the start of the year.

At Humanizing Work, we’re all about making work fit humans and helping humans do great work together. So, given the natural human cycles at the end of the year, we want to offer some practical advice for how to finish 2023 well and start 2024 with momentum.

1. Make Your Work Resilient to Variable Capacity

Slice work into small increments of value (or at least meaningful progress). It’s hard to make predictions at the end of the year due to holidays, vacations, and winter illnesses. So, make yourself resilient to that unpredictability by slicing work small. That way, if you get less items done than you expected, you’ll still be getting meaningful things done instead of just being partly done with big things.

This is particularly important as people take extra time off at the end of the year. It’s hard to come back up to speed on partly completed work, so you’ll waste time at the beginning of the year ramping back up.

2. Take Time to Reflect and Plan

The end of one year and start of another is a natural time to look back and look forward. Consider scheduling a larger review and retrospective to zoom out and look back at 2023 as a whole. When we do this, we’re often surprised to notice that we accomplished a lot early in year and have forgotten all about it! And we often see patterns across a whole year that were hard to see at the sprint, month, or even quarter scale, which helps us set up the next year for success. Let the end-of-year review and retrospective inform your goals and practices for the start of next year.

3. Prepare to Start with Momentum in the New Year

It can be satisfying to leave for end-of-year vacation with everything wrapped up. But this can doom you to a sluggish start in the new year as you have to take time to figure out what to work on in the early weeks of January.

To avoid this, take a little time to identify your high-level goals for the first part of the new year along with the first action you’ll take to move them forward. When you start work in January, already having those first actions identified will help you hit the ground running.

This doesn’t have to be big to do the job. Richard will often leave a question to answer as a writing prompt or a single failing unit test for a programming project. Just something to facilitate immediate action.


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