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By Taylor Tobin via Fairygodboss

December is an almost-overwhelmingly busy time thanks to the Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s holiday rushes. For those professionals ready to close out Q4, it also offers a valuable opportunity to look back over the past 12 months. You can cull important lessons to carry them forward into the next year.

Successful bosses, managers, and workers tend to use these personal retrospectives to gain clarity and close out Q4. They set forth clear goals and take action steps to spring them into motion. If you’re interested in upping your end-of-year productivity and priming yourself for January, give these 4 tried-and-true tactics a whirl.

1. Clean out inboxes and contact lists.

If you work in a fast-paced environment requiring plenty of communication, “Inbox Zero” may feel like a mythical concept to you. However, successful professionals make regular attempts to sift through the hundreds of emails piling up on their servers. They will get rid of unnecessary messages and file away those that don’t need immediate attention. You may also respond to time-sensitive items before they fall into the bottomless overstuffed-inbox chasm.

Sifting through your contact lists and removing numbers and email addresses that are outdated is incredibly helpful. It will save you abundant time when the January “just checking in” messages start flooding in. The stretch of time right before the holiday break is ideally situated for these activities. It allows you to close out Q4 and begin the new year unencumbered by redundant content.

2. Thoroughly review last year’s budget and come up with ways to improve next year.

When it comes to career-related (and, honestly, life-related) stressors, budgeting tops many lists.

At the end of the year, when you’re reviewing your financial choices both at work for fiscal wrap-ups and in your personal life for the upcoming tax season, it can be helpful to sort your budgetary numbers and documents into clearly-delineated spreadsheets, which will let you track your progress over the course of the year and put together a solid plan for the upcoming fiscal year. Forbes recommends creating a financial worksheet for every month of 2019 with a proposed budget and planned expenditures.

“In the event [that you] plan to spend less on expenses vs. last year, do not reduce the overall budget by the difference. Simply increase the savings line item in the budget, or add another line item for exercise, professional development or travel– all of which are activities that foster personal growth,” Forbes advises.

3. Make a “game plan” for the upcoming year and set appointments with yourself to check in.

While your budget represents one aspect of your life that benefits from end-of-year planning, that concept can extend far beyond monetary concerns.

Successful professionals schedule time in December specifically designated for future planning, giving them the opportunity to set goals, to put plans for advancement down in writing, and to consider small, attainable steps that can be taken to move them in the right direction. Inc. suggests setting aside an hour every day in December to get your plans in order, then setting appointments with yourself in January to go over your progress and adjust future steps as needed.

4. Allow yourself to unplug and enjoy time off during the holidays.

Now, it’s time to discuss a key element of end-of-year work success with which many high achievers particularly struggle: taking actual time off to unwind during the holiday season.

According to the Harvard Business Review, 95% of workers believe that taking PTO results in better work performance, but only 45% of Americans actually take all of the vacation time available to them. If you want to set yourself up for a productive 2019, close out Q4 by shutting down. Step away from your work emails and genuinely enjoy some holiday time with your friends, family, and Netflix account.

A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.

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