Dear 2018, you have come in so sneakily for me.  In the midst of snow, airplanes, family, and travel….you’re here!

I’m moving into this New Year slower than usual, and that is partially by design.  I’ve noticed the last few years that when I come into the New Year with a lot of force and ambition, I am burnt out by the middle of February.  No wonder I’m so anti-resolutions.

One step I’ve taken this year is to plan for the cycle.  What do I mean by that?  Well, I recognized in the last couple of years that even though our “calendar” year kicks off on January 1, we are still in the dead of winter at this point.  Winter is for slowing down and for going within.  Maybe that’s why the financial planning that happens in January for many Corporations is so painful?  Also, have you noticed that the plan is never final until March?  In GE each year, we would work around the clock to have the plan ready for January and inevitably it would get stuck in reviews until March.

Did you know that the Chinese New Year, the Astrological New Year, and the Spring Equinox are all in late February or March?  Interesting that these dates all coincide with the start of Spring – when nature starts to breathe life back into all that went dark last Fall.  No wonder things are just quiet and SLOW until then.

To plan for this, I actually scheduled vacation for the first two weeks of January.  Bold!  I know.  I even doubted myself a little as I was scheduling it.  Will it really be as quiet as it has in the past?  What will I do if there is a sudden rush and I already have this big trip planned?

Planning was not my strong point in 2017, so I’m particularly proud of this achievement.  My then fiancé and I decided last January to get married in May last year – incredible experience, harrowing to plan a wedding in such a short amount of time!  As a result, we didn’t focus on our honeymoon until after the big day – which left us with literally no space to take it last year.  Many people end up not taking a honeymoon at all when they don’t plan it for directly after the wedding, and I did NOT want to end up in that statistic!  As we were approaching the end of the summer, my husband and I sat down to figure out how we were going to remedy the situation and make sure we gave ourselves the time off that the honeymoon represented.

As I sat with it, the thought of taking time off in the last quarter felt really stressful.  Work projects were running fast and furious through the end of October/early November.  I didn’t want to be out of the country for the holidays.  It just wasn’t feeling easy.  Yet as I thought of taking the time in January, I felt a sense of ease.  That’s the moment I remembered how SLOW January is.  Everyone is just waking up from their holiday slumber.

The honeymoon was even better than we had imagined.  Los Cabos, Mexico is an incredible destination – especially at this time of year!  Imagine having breakfast every morning and watching the whales breach from the breakfast table.  It was a dream come true.  We came back refreshed and ready for everything January had to offer.  Meanwhile, business is still in winter.  We don’t feel like we missed a thing!  Honestly, it feels like an incredible accomplishment to have taken the time we needed together and to move into 2018 rested and ready for everything this year has to offer.

Now over to you: How do you plan your time off around the natural movements of your business?

If this isn’t a practice you’re doing, now is a great time to start.  Here are some ways I’ve used this principle in the past, or that you may already be doing this without realizing it:

  • Look for times where there is a change in rhythm that you can take advantage of.  The two biggest times I’ve noticed are January/February and July/August
  • If you have kids, the school year imposes a rhythm that may or may not match the cycles in your business.  When the kids are in school in January/February, this might be a good time to focus on Adult-only time away.  Likewise, look at creative options for Spring Break if that’s a time your business is just getting going.
  • The most productive months are usually April (mid Spring) and October (mid Harvest).  Try to keep these months as clear as possible from events and distractions.  You will want that energy completely focused on your business’ growth.
  • Utilize the slower times for planning and regrouping.  A year-end review and mid-year review fit really well into the energy of January and July.
  • Trust your instincts and give yourself time to organize around your plans.  Identifying your priorities for certain times of year ahead of time gives you a chance to really make the most of it.  The world around us would have us think there is no time to slow down, so you will really have to trust yourself and follow through.  Trust me, it’s worth it!

Take some time towards the end of this week to look at the slower moments of 2017 and decide how you will use that time in 2018.  Experts from Tim Ferriss to Kate Northrup say your vacation and white spaces are the first things you should plan at the beginning of the year, and if last year taught me anything – it’s that those times will get filled in if we don’t set them apart early.  Let me know in the comments how this community and I can support you!