It’s December. Depending on your temperament, you’re either frantically trying to get things wrapped up, or you’re already 70% to vacation mode. Regardless of which one describes you, there are a few oft-overlooked tasks that you can take a few minutes to do — or schedule — that will help you kick 2017 off right.
Seriously— Each one will take roughly an hour, but they aren’t particularly hard. When you’re feeling lazy after lunch today, do one of these and feel like a productive human being. Then later you can guzzle eggnog with Netflix guilt-free.
#1 Clean Up Your Bookkeeping
This one is an easy win, because you don’t actually have to do anything with these papers, you just have to find them and put them together for when you need them.
Whatever your filing system consists of, you’re going to have to make room for the 2017 bills and paperwork. And, you’re going to want the paperwork for taxes all organized in one place.
What I do is just lift last years folders out of the filing cabinet, tidy and sort them, then make new ones for next year with the same labels. Boom– new year ready to roll. The old ones get put into a banker box and go out to the garage.
What’s even better is if you start putting together the paperwork you’ll need for taxes. For me, this means printing out reports from Amazon and Paypal. You might use invoicing software like Harvest, or budgeting software like YNAB. Obviously, you’ll want to wait until Jan 1 to do this particular part of the chore, but I always find it a lot easier to do it right now when the year is wrapping up than wait until April and try and figure out what information I have to track down before I can figure out my taxes.
#2 Clean Up The House (Especially Your Workspace)
Not the most inspiring thing to do, but you know what also sucks? Getting three weeks into January and having to take time away from all the absorbing new things you’re doing to put away Christmas decorations. Get stuff put away and vacuum the floor at least, or you’ll be picking tinsel off your socks until Valentine’s Day. Pull out your calendar and block out a few hours on the day of your choice. You can move it if you decide to go skiing— but at least you won’t forget it has to happen until the kids are back in school.
But that’s after Christmas. For right now: Clean up your office.
Your workspace is so important to your mental state, to say nothing of your productivity. This is both physical and digital.
Clean up the icons on your desktop. Clear out your bookmarks. Have you considered declaring email bankruptcy? Okay, you don’t have to go crazy, but seriously consider whether you’re ever going to look at that stuff again.
Then look at the physical stuff. Pull everything off/out of your desk and only put back what you actually need. Take nice before and after photos and post them to Instagram. There, don’t you feel accomplished?
#3 Pay It Forward
In the Commonwealth, December 26th is Boxing Day. Traditionally, people would box up the things they didn’t need and give them to charity. It seems easy at this time of year to look in your closets and cupboards and realized that you didn’t use or wear that thing last year… or the year before that. So pull it out and get it out of your house. Pass it on to someone who can actually use it. As a bonus, you will free up space and you won’t have so many items to keep clean and organized.
You don’t have to only donate to Goodwill or Salvation Army. Women’s shelters and homeless shelters can often make use of toys, housewares and toiletries, and animal shelters can use all the old blankets and towels you’ve got.
And if, while you’re thinking about it, you decide to donate to the foodbank or buy presents for needy kids, that’s an even lovelier holiday tradition.
#4 Make a List of Things That Will Make Your Life Easier and Acquire Them
If you’re anything like me, you spend the whole year telling yourself that your “frivolous” purchases aren’t necessary. The number of times I’ve given myself a stern talking to about whether a certain notebook or tech upgrade is a worthy investment or a motivational red herring is probably more of a waste of time than the money would be!
So since you’ve been good all year, sit down and think about what would actually make your life better or easier.
Last year I splashed out on a fully-customized ergonomic workstation to prevent repetitive strain injuries. I also bought two piece of software I’d been eying for a while— Dragon Dictation and Scrivener.
On my list this year?
- A planning notebook that nails the same daily planning process I already hand-draw in my Bullet Journal
- An power inverter to charge my laptop on road trips
- Weekly coffee-shop workdates
- A new blazer and some jewelry for when I need to dress to impress
They’re mostly little things, but little things can make a big difference.
#5 Make a Plan
After the holidays, getting back to work can feel weird. Your routines are all messed up. You’re suffering from an overabundance of enthusiasm that may make you dive head-first into projects without thinking them through. And you’re all rested up and raring to go. So make sure you steward that energy wisely.
Make a plan, ease back into your routine, and focus on the fundamentals. You’ve got the whole year ahead of you, and you want to begin as you mean to continue.
In a period of transition, completing a few small projects can get you started on the right foot. And that can make all the difference when January rolls around.
Don’t forget to download my personal checklist of financial papers to pull together at the end of the year: