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Transitioning from the current year into the new…

 

Tis the season when everyone starts planning for the new year, getting excited about the possibilities that the change of the calendar will bring. It makes December somewhat of a stepchild in that regard – being ignored for the new (year) baby about to emerge. But what good is looking forward to what’s new if you’ve abandoned what you already have?  My new year prep begins with putting the finishing touches on the current year. Here’s some of what I do to finish strong and start fresh.

 

1. Set lead times and deadlines for new projects.

 

I’ve mentioned before how I was spoiled at my last full time job in that we would close at the end of the year. In order to ensure clients received their deliveries in time for Thanksgiving through New Year festivities, their orders had to be placed and shipped prior to mid-August. I do the same now… by knowing how long it generally takes to get do a design project and have it ready to launch by January 1st, I have to start winding down by mid-October. I leave some room available for last minute projects (there’s always one or three), but that time comes at a premium cost. I don’t want to carry projects over into the new year, especially if the payments aren’t carrying over with it, so I make sure they’re done before Christmas.

 

2. Archive Closed Projects

 

I actually do this quarterly so that it’s not so much at the end of the year, but closed projects get moved off of my active drive onto my archive drives. Yes. Drives. Because tech happens. I have a few clients that are with me year round, so their folders are always on the active drive for easy access, but I do copy them to storage for backup purposes. This frees up room on my main drive so I can have room for all the great, new projects to come.

 

3. Review

 

– Forms, Agreements and Policies

 

I keep a running doc in Evernote to jot down changes I need to make in intake forms, project agreements and internal and external policies. The past year’s experience, new regulations, and new tools all have a bearing on day to day operations and how I deliver. End of year prep is a perfect time to do this, and if you keep track of those changes as you go, it’s a much smoother transition.

 

– Services, Pricing and Processes

 

Let go of what didn’t work. Improve on what did. Learned a new skill? Rate review. Don’t like doing a particular service after all? Service review. Had a project situation that made you want to say, “maaaannnnnnnn EFF this!”? Procedure review. Get it right. Get it tight.

 

– Memberships, Subscriptions, Tools

 

You may be subscribed to a service that you signed up for during a trial period and forgot to cancel it. You’re paying for something you aren’t using… how much is that costing you? Do you need to update software or hardware? Create your budget to accommodate these necessary costs of business.

 

4. Branding

 

You don’t have to do a full brand overhaul every year (or every 6 months). Subtle changes like updating supporting graphics, complementary fonts or accent colors can make a subtle, yet impactful difference.

 

Other subtle changes that make a big difference that many don’t often consider are how they name their files and where they are stored. Coming up with a consistent system of naming and storing ensures that even during your busiest periods you and your team can find what they need when they need it.

 

5. Digital Filing and Preparation

 

Speaking of storing files, I create new folders for the year, and then have sub-folders which correspond with my filing system. There’s something about starting in brand spanking new folders. My admin spreadsheets and PhotoShop templates get saved as new files in their corresponding new folders and the old ones get archived.

 

6. Skills Assessment

 

One should always strive to improve. Every year during my down time I commit to learning or improving on a technique or how to use a tool better… usually along the lines of at least one creative skill (new style of design) and one operational skill (becoming a CRM aficionado). This year I want to tackle my analytics (site and social media statistics).

 

7. Clean out the Digital Clutter

 

Every time you save a file, there’s a little bit left over in your temporary files. Browser search history, etc can clog up your computer and cause it to be slow. In addition to running full virus scans, I use CC Cleaner to help me clean up the space eaters on my computer. The free version is good enough for the average user, but read the instructions and make sure you check/uncheck where you want cleaned up because it’s very easy to screw it up. I will be developing a tutorial for this soon.

 

Overall, this list is something I like to keep on top of on a quarterly basis, so that it doesn’t seem like such a chore at the end of the year.

 

What are some of the things that you do to finish strong and start fresh? Let me know!

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