Ho! Ho! Ho! Happy end of Q4, where work slows down in anticipation of the holidays. As Customer Success professionals, this time of year is exacerbated by customers who are off the grid, spending time with their families, working relentlessly to tie up loose ends before the end of the year, or are already focused on 2019.
If you’re anything like me, you may find this “extra time” more stressful than a jampacked 40 hour week. It’s an attempt to sort through the laundry list of “things you were going to get to” while trying to catch your breath as you head into the final turn and ease across the finish line. Throughout the month of December, contributors at CCSP have offered up great tips on how to proactively support your customers, prepare for next year, and even shut it down and recharge your battery. While I agree wholeheartedly with all of those tactics, I have my own approach to seasonal downtime that I would like to share as well. Getting all of this sorted allows you more time to focus on your customers and their success.
Review and Reorganize
As the year comes to a screeching halt, my first order of business is to reflect back on 2018, understand what worked, what didn’t, and reestablish my priorities as I head into 2019. Speaking truthfully, this year presented a lot of challenges and thus, a lot of chaos. I started a new job, in a new role, at a new company and it has been full throttle since day 1. One thing I want to improve on is my organization and resourcefulness, particularly when it comes to prioritization. Though I’ve kept my head above water and have managed to accomplish the tasks I’ve been presented with, I’ve looked both inward and outward for some tools that can help me be more efficient.
I’ve been using Evernote for years and it allows me to keep all of my notes in one safe, centralized location. Though it serves as my single source of truth, a day’s worth of notes can quickly turn into a linguistic abyss. I don’t have any statistical analysis to back this up but I can comfortably say that 80% of my notes consist of nonsensical details, while the remaining 20% house all of the important information. With that in mind, I have been exploring and creating my own templates within Evernote to better organize my thoughts, helping me easily find the information I am looking for when I need it. Evernote offers a number of pre-built templates for common tasks but also offers guidance on creating your own.
This tool was recommended to me by this month’s podcast guest, Patrick McPartland, as the “tool he cannot live without”. I am still green when it comes to OmniFocus (I’m on day 1 one of the 14-day free trial) but have been amazed by the flexibility and customization built into this app. You can create, tag, organize, flag, and schedule your task list in any way imaginable. This is a paid tool though it doesn’t appear that the trial access limits any of the functionality and early on, I have already realized the full value. My initial goal with OmniFocus is to tag my tasks by priority level and use it to objectively tackle my day. I am notorious for “knocking this out because it’s quick and easy” even though it’s a low priority item. Consequently, I find myself working longer hours or rushing to get things done.
Education and Growth
During the holiday season, my goal is to learn more about two topics: one professional, one personal. If you didn’t figure it out by the first paragraph, I am the type of person that has a hard time sitting still, so I always try to funnel that nervous energy into something productive.
Earlier this month, the Analytics department within my organization sent out a great list of resources on Artifical Intelligence and Machine Learning, the foundational elements that powers our flagship product. Though it isn’t required for me to learn the nitty-gritty details for my day-to-day, I find the technology fascinating and trust that it will enable me to more intelligently speak to our customers about our products and services.
On the personal side, I have recently taken a deep dive into the biological and ecological benefits of mushrooms. These spongy little guys come in all shapes and sizes and boast benefits that range from boosting mental acuity to detoxifying contaminated soil (and literally everything in between). Though it will likely provide little benefit for my career (lest I hang up the CS life and become a chef or a soil scientist) it allows me to broaden my horizons, remain productive and engaged, and make me a more well-rounded individual. With personal growth, I have two rules that I follow without compromise:
- Learn something foreign or unfamiliar
- Pursue it ONLY if you enjoy it
The goal is to reduce stress and frustration, not compound it. It’s your time to pursue something you enjoy. Best case scenario, you pick up a new hobby that changes the world. Worst case scenario, you have an interesting topic to cover with family at the dinner table.