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While some people frantically finish holiday shopping, John Layzell is making phone calls.

By year’s end, he intends to touch base with dozens of potential customers for his Miami-area collectible car appraisal business. “I’m close to saying my business doubled year over year and I am on a tear to make sure I get there.”

For many people, December is the most critical month of the year. It’s a chance to reach projections, finish out the year strong, assess shortfalls at work and home, and make concrete plans for the year ahead. Despite holiday distractions, those who stay focused and motivated should find the payoff significant.

Layzell already has seen results from his end-of-year push. “I am reminding people I am here to help them in any way I can, and you would be surprised that a good number of them have something they want me to do,” Layzell says.

But even if business is slow, the next few weeks are an ideal time to get in front of a dormant customer, or someone who can affect your career path. “When someone suggests getting together, your usual response might be… ‘great idea let’s plan it for after the holidays.’ The key is not to let that happen,” says Layzell, who also works as a business coach. “Be proactive and do things over the next few weeks. Touch base with people, wish them a happy holiday and ask them ‘How can I help you make the end of your year better?’”

Most people realize holiday parties and charity events are networking goldmines. But thinly staffed workplaces also provide a chance to make crucial connections. While co-workers are skiing, it’s your chance to network with managers from other departments and seek out opportunities.

Today, organizations are flatter with less middle management, which means employees either need to jump big to the next level, or find openings in different areas of their companies, said Brian Kropp, HR Practice Leader at CEB, a Virginia-based best practice insight and technology company. As much as 50 percent of people who make big jumps at work struggle, which is why Kropp who works with companies to retain talent, suggests having a conversation now with your manager about what you can do to improve your skill set.

Most professionals are so busy reacting to problems during the course of the year they rarely get the chance to actually plan without interruption. December is the ideal time to make that happen. Are you thinking that you need a change in 2017 but do not know how to transition into a new role, company or even industry? What does success look like for you, and where did you fall short in achieving it? These are questions to ask as you create a plan for 2017 — before it starts.

Julia Aquino-Serrano, president of the National Association of Business Owners Broward chapter and CEO of business consultancy All Systems Grow, will set aside four hours by the end of the month to write a work and life plan for 2017. As a business coach, she tells her clients to do the same.

“You want to be able to hit the ground running on Jan. 3,” she says. Assess what worked at work and home and what didn’t, she advises. “You need to know, because most of us do the same thing over and over without asking ourselves whether or not it worked.” Aquino-Serrano will look at where she aided her clients’ bottom lines this year, and where she fell short. “That’s the only way I am going to sell them on what I am going to do for them next year.”

If it’s a raise you want in 2017, lay the groundwork now. Ask your boss, “What do I have to do differently or better in the coming year so I can contribute more to organization and become valued more highly?” says business coach Layzell. If it’s workplace flexibility or support you seek, spark a conversation with your manager. Use the celebratory mood for the difficult conversations that will set you up for a less stressful, more successful new year.

Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life.

balancegal@gmail.com

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