A Prescription for Eliminating 4th Quarter Panic

Posted 09.25.2019

Yesterday, I was starting a call with a long-time client I hadn’t talked with in a few months. In a somewhat breathless tone of voice, the first words she said after hello were, “I can’t believe it’s already the end of September! Where has this year gone?”

That’s a question that I and, probably, most of us in the corporate world could have easily asked. Back in January, we and our teams set out goals and objectives for the year. It all seemed so promising back then, didn’t it? Time was plentiful and the list was long. Hopefully, you’ve accomplished a lot so far but the impending beginning of the 4th quarter can create a sense of panic.

If you’re feeling stressed by all that’s left to do this year, know you’re not alone. Know too, though, that the stress you’re feeling is creating a state of chronic fight or flight that is counterproductive to making good decisions. Get yourself out of fight or flight and into a productive frame of mind by taking some deep breaths, stepping back and applying this four-step prescription for eliminating 4th quarter panic.

Review – Start by reviewing your goals and objectives from the beginning of the year. Give yourself credit for all that you and your team have accomplished. That includes the objectives you’ve completely checked off your list as well as the progress you’ve made toward other goals.

Reset – Next, reset the board by considering what’s left on your list.  Get your team or trusted advisors together to take a realistic look at where you are now and what you can realistically accomplish in the next 90 days. Apply the “Will this make a difference?” test to what you’re considering keeping on your list. What can you drop for good or defer to next year? Negotiate or reset stakeholder expectations where needed. Focus on how you can use what’s left on your list to set yourself up with strong momentum to move into next year.

Take Account – Now that you’ve got a tighter and shorter list, take account of the resources you’re going to need to move forward. Consider the time and talents of your team along with your budget and deploy your resources accordingly. Perhaps some targeted investments will give you the push you need to complete the big priorities this year. Or, maybe there are investments that will help you build a foundation that carries into next year. If you have budget resources that are limited to this year, consider the best ways to invest them to sustain progress well into 2020.

Take Action – This last step is pretty straightforward. Use the focused plan you’ve developed for the next 90 days and take the actions that will move things forward. Start by sharing your plan with your team, stakeholders and internal and external partners and asking for their help.

Here’s the thing – most of life and business isn’t like a football game. For most of the things we do, there isn’t a clock running down to 0:00. Sure, there are financial and other metrics that close out on December 31, but most everything else just rolls over. The calendar is a construct for measuring and managing time. Don’t let it freak you out. Stay calm and keep taking steps forward. You’ll get there and arrive without the stress effects of 4th quarter panic.

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