Monday, December 27, 2010

Making the Most of Lame Duck Week!

I hope you’re gearing up for another good week – the last week of the year. You may wonder what I mean by the title of this post “Making the Most of Lame Duck Week.” This is a term that I use to describe the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  

I don’t know the specifics of the origin of the term “lame duck” but it’s used to refer to a transitional period in which one party yields control to another party, making the party currently in control a “lame duck.” In athletics, when a coach is in the final year of his/her contract – one that will not be renewed – it is often stated that he/she is a lame duck coach. So these coaches are essentially fulfilling the terms of their agreement but will not return the following year in the same capacity.

In the United States, whenever a November election is held, the winners aren’t sworn into office until January. President Obama won the 2008 presidential election but he didn’t officially assume his role as leader of the country until the third week of January 2009. Therefore, President Bush, the outgoing leader, was a lame duck president. Just last month, mid-term elections were held in both houses of Congress. The winners of these elections to the House of Representatives and the Senate will not be sworn in until January. Likewise, the incumbents who lost the election will remain in office until the winners are sworn in.

Throughout my years in the professional world, I think that the slowest time period is this Lame Duck Week. There’s not much happening from a business standpoint. There are few industries (i.e. retail, auto) that have significant business during this last week of the year. Otherwise, it’s pretty slow. During this week, many people take vacations to really enjoy the remainder of the holiday season with their families. Some take ski trips to close out the year, while others take a Caribbean or Hawaiian getaway trip before returning to business as usual.
There are different ways to view Lame Duck Week. For some business owners, they can’t wait for the week to be over because they have fixed expenses (i.e. rent, payroll) and not much business is taking place. Some employees, on the other hand, love it because they do minimal work but still get paid the same.
Based on my experience, this week can be viewed in the same way that we treat the question, “Is the glass half empty of half full?” It depends on your perspective. When I was an employee, I loved it. Little work, light traffic, no overtime – it was perfect. But now, as a business owner, I have developed a different view of it. This period can be very slow for a company trying to grow.

What I’ve done over the past few years is take this week to do some forecasting for the coming year – both professional and personal. In the business world, corporate budgets are proposed and finalized at the end of the year. It is during this time that strategic decisions are made concerning the direction of the company. Just as in athletics, you could call the end of the year the pre-season before the real season begins. And as in athletics, the overall strategy is laid out during the pre-season. When the season begins, you want to know what your strengths are and how you will make the most of the opportunities that present themselves.
Last week I wrote a post called Year-End Inventory. In that post I challenged us to take inventory of our family relationships and determine what we need to do to get the most out of these relationships.  This week is an excellent time to forecast where we’d like to be in our family lives. Here are some tips:
1.   Set family goals – This is the most important thing you can do for your family at this point. Consider and write down the things you would like to accomplish in the coming year. If you’re single and you’re in a relationship, perhaps you may plan to get married. If you’re married without kids, perhaps you may want to start a family. If you’re divorced with kids, perhaps you’ve lost a connection with them and need to re-establish the loving relationship you once shared.

2.   Plan family dates – Isn’t it amazing how, when we’re courting someone, we say and do everything to impress them? We always make time for them and take them to the fanciest restaurants and show them a nice time. Then comes real life – marriage, kids, work, and bills. It’s easy to become so overwhelmed with life and just trying to keep up that we lose sight of the most important things – spending quality time with those who mean the most to us. Maybe you can plan to have a special family date every Friday night. And while you’re at it, why don’t you schedule some time for you and your spouse – without the kids. That time can be pretty special and a good way to reconnect with your spouse.

3.   Establish a budget – Budget setting is an essential part of any functioning business entity. The home functions are a business, in a sense. We have revenues and expenses that are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our “home-based businesses.” There are various types of software available to help your family plan and forecast your financial lives for the coming year. Perhaps this is the year you will actually take that family vacation to Disney World that you promised the kids. With proper budgeting and planning, you can make it happen without becoming financially strapped in the process.

4.   Expect the Unexpected – This tip is the most difficult of all. That’s because life happens – and much of what happens in life is out of our control. Some of us will find true love this coming year. Some will lose a relationship to divorce or separation. Some will lose loved ones. These are things that we cannot adequately prepare for. The reason I give this tip is to encourage us to treasure each moment that we have with each other. Some of us may have relationships and friendships that we need to make right. Some have taken loved ones for granted, especially our kids and spouses. Tomorrow’s not promised so by making the most of each moment, we can live life to its fullest with minimal regret.

I hope that these tips will help as you get ready to close out another year. Interestingly, you may have seen on the news that in Washingdon DC, Congress, during the current lame duck session, passed more bills than during any lame duck session in decades. The lame duck period is truly one that can set the course of great things to happen.
Let’s make the most of this week as we prepare to welcome a new year that’s full of promise. Get going today and see how much progress you can make these next few days as you forecast a successful year for you and your family. 

Enjoy the day. All the best to you and yours.
The Upbeat Dad

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