Episode 5 | Built to Market Podcast
I love the 4th quarter. I call it “sandwich” season, and I’m not talking about all the leftovers - though I do love a good leftover Thanksgiving sandwich. You know the one I’m talking about - turkey, mayo, cranberry, stuffing, and a little salt and pepper on a snowflake roll…. Trust me. It's better than the dinner itself. But I digress.
The 4th quarter sandwich is that phenomenon when you are trying to finish out the current year strong and plan for the next year simultaneously. Admittedly, it's the most challenging quarter of the year. Add in holidays and end-of-year activities, and you could find yourself on the road to burnout. Or worse, just plain giving up and saying, “It can wait 'til next year."
But it can’t wait. I will convince you that keeping that fire going in the 4th quarter is the best thing you can do to set yourself up for the next year. What you do in 10 remaining weeks of the year - 'cause let's face it - we lose three weeks to holidays. Will turn your New Year's goals into New Year's gains.
Discover four effective strategies to boost motivation and accomplish more in the year's final three months. Debunk productivity and goal-setting myths that may be limiting your success in Q4. Get my top productivity tips for achieving more with less during this wonderful season.
Break the cycle
You know the yearly cycle. It’s New Year's, and we are excited by all the possibilities in front of us. New strategies, new goals, and new quotas! We promptly push our productivity pedals to the floor, and by March, we are burnt out just in time for tax season. You regroup and try to restart in the second quarter, but that doesn’t last as the spring season begins. By summer, we are in vacation mode, things slow down, and we think, I’ll hit it again in the fall. September is a boost of fresh energy that matches the power of the start of the school year, but by this time of year, we are burnt out again. The holidays are barrelling down on us, and we are done. It can wait till next year. Right?
Your year doesn’t have to feel like this! You have 70 days left to make a difference, and last I checked, it only takes 66 to form a new habit. Let's dive into how to make that happen with simple mind-shifts and strategies you can start with today.
The ideal day
The first thing I recommend is to carve out 30 minutes and list your ideal day. You can do this for both your personal and work life.
My perfect day includes a morning routine that consists of a workout, time for self-reflection, and extra time with my two dogs, Lucy and Katie. My ideal work day is managed in time blocks with time to work on projects that move the business forward, like creating content and sales, as well as client projects that spark my creativity. My routine includes a lovely home-cooked meal, time with my husband, and snuggles with the dogs before 8 hours of blissful sleep.
If that sounds ideal, that's because it is. My every day doesn’t look like that. When things get tough, I find it's easier to choose the things that are not negotiable instead of throwing everything out the window at once.
Look over your ideal day list, and I want you to choose 2-3 non-negotiable things every day. These things should ideally ground you, move you forward toward your goals, and contribute to your overall future goals. You can apply this separately to work, personal life, or both. I find one directly affects the other.
My non-negotiables during this time of year are, first and foremost, 8 hours of sleep. If I don't get 8 hours, I can’t perform at my best, and my health declines. Pulling all-nighters and robbing my health for a short-term gain lands me in urgent care faster than you can say flu shot. This sleep habit sets my health up for everything else - exercise, eating, and work - you name it. If you need more convincing, I highly recommend the book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.
My second personal non-negotiable is an evening wind-down routine with my dogs. Do I have 30 minutes to an hour every night? No. Do I make it happen no matter what? Yes. Time with them grounds me no matter how busy things get.
My last non-negotiable is work-related, and it takes us to the following strategy to turn your 4th quarter from "forget it" to "let's do it." I don’t negotiate on implementing one new sales or marketing tactic beginning in October. No matter how hard it feels, here is why. Procrastination is the killer of what could have been. Did you know procrastination costs us an estimated $650 Billion a year in innovation and lost productivity?
The 4th quarter is a great time to roll out a new idea; it doesn’t have to be significant. I’m not talking about a high lift or a whole multi-channel campaign. Try a single tactic instead. It's not a new sales system; try a unique step in your sales process. It's not a new customer service ticketing system; try just a single survey instead.
Trying something new gives you a jump start on those bigger goals for the following year. Instead of starting the year in planning mode, you're starting the year in execution mode.
Rolling quarters mindset
This brings us to the next game-changer for your 4th quarter - the mindset changes to rolling quarters. This has to be one of the most impactful things I have done to change my attitude and productivity.
So, what's a rolling quarter? Rolling quarters consider not just the four quarters of the year but an additional quarter, bringing you to 15 months of planning instead of 12. This mind-shift makes the end of the year less traumatic because you aren’t looking at January to December anymore. It's Q4 this year through Q1 next year - in months from October of this year through March of 2025. Goals roll from quarter to quarter, not year to year.
If planning a whole year feels defeating, take the quarter approach instead. Instead of stuffing 8 goals into a year, you focus on 1 or 2 a quarter. Try it- I promise it will change your life.
If you are the planner type, my preferred personal planner that uses the rolling quarter approach is The Full Focus System. If you are a visual person or have challenges with executive functions, I also highly recommend the “Seeing My Time” planner system.
4th quarter mythbusting
I'm not convinced the 4th quarter can be this productive. It’s time for the myth buster segment - because if I haven’t convinced you yet, there is a good chance one of these myths is to blame.
- Myth: The 4th quarter is already the busiest of the year, so I don't need to put in the extra effort. Things sell themselves this time of year.
- Bust: The 4th quarter is NOT the most critical time of year for sales, believe it or not. Just 27% of US retail sales occur in the 4th quarter on average. Every quarter is an essential quarter for sales.
The next most common myth I hear is:
- Myth: Everyone is focused on the holidays; you can’t hit your sales numbers in November and December.
- Bust: Thanks to Sharon Ann Hamilton for calling this one out on LinkedIn. The holiday “myth” is ripe or busting. Your business can have strong sales through the holidays despite the days businesses are closed. What needs to change is your sales process. Are you pre-selling for next year? Are you offering end-of-year incentives? It's the most social time of year - are you having those meaningful in-person interactions to set up meetings? Not if you believe this myth.
Implementing 4th quarter success strategies
Now that I’ve convinced you that the 4th quarter can be fun and not frightening, talk about how you will implement your non-negotiables to set yourself up for a goal-crushing year ahead.
First, I want you to look at that ideal day you crafted. And on another sheet of paper or a spreadsheet, napkin, whatever you fancy - I want you to list an actual day. Be honest. After you’ve reviewed the list and recovered from what you see, I want you to highlight everything that falls under the “busy work” category. I don’t care if it's necessary - if it's not a non-negotiable or moving you toward your goals... it's busy work.
For every item classified as busy work, I want you to go one step further and see if you can sort these items into three lists: Delegable, Automatable, or Discontinue.
So, for example, let's look at a segment of my workday. It starts with sweeping my email - which usually turns into a rabbit hole of time lost as I try to sort, categorize, delegate, and answer emails. I look up, and suddenly it's past 11 AM, and I haven’t accomplished a thing. Sound familiar? That's busy work.
In my personal life, buying groceries is necessary, yes, but also it's busy work.
I understand that only some things can be delegated to someone else, automated, or deleted entirely. But some of your “busywork” can be.
Instead of checking my email first thing now, I check my email around 11 AM. It gives me a 2-hour block to accomplish something that moves the needle - creating content, a new product or offering, or following up on sales. When I check my email, I now have a system of automation that clears out 70% of the clutter, so I don't even see it unless I choose to - such as automatic notifications and promotions. I highly recommend the Lifestyle Lab's Inbox Organization class to learn more about inbox and email automation. It has changed my inbox from hades to heaven.
In my personal life, I still buy groceries. But I am more likely to order online and pick up now instead of shopping on the shelves. This also stops me from impulse buying - a bonus to my grocery budget.
There is a vast difference between being busy and being productive. Suppose you can make small shifts to delegate, automate, and delete “busy” while intentionally focusing on the projects that move the needle toward your goals. In that case, you’ll find yourself moving from reactive to proactive.
Because that's how the 4th quarter feels when you don’t make intentional choices - much reaction; you are reacting to the asks for next year's goals and budget, responding to customer feedback instead of soliciting and learning from customer feedback, and reacting to the sales quota instead of managing the sales quota.
Your best quarter yet
Challenge yourself to make this quarter your best quarter. It all starts with anchoring into your non-negotiables during busy times - choose things that ground you and set you up for success. Then, make one of your non-negotiables something small - but mighty - and new that moves you closer toward a bigger goal.
Try a new sales tactic like sending a personalized video in your emails. Or maybe you’ve never asked for referrals.
In marketing, try adding a chatbot to your website or an email to an existing sequence. Maybe you are dying to try text campaigns in your social posts. Give it a whirl - you have nothing to lose!
In service? Send out that NPS survey. Try optimizing one of your most used scripts for the team to improve service ratings. Consider creating something to send customers that covers your most frequently asked question.
And lastly, change your mentality to rolling quarters - Q4 isn't’ the end of the year, it's the start of the next 15 months. You are always at the beginning if you're present in your work.
Remember, It's about the journey, not the calendar year.