As we approach the end of the busiest time of year for online shopping, a lot of business owners in the ecommerce space are asking themselves one question:
“What do we need to do to be ready for next year?”
It’s not an easy question to answer. There’s really no standard equation that will prepare you for the year ahead. The plan that you’ll need to put in place and execute in order to avoid burnout, maintain success, and grow your business over the next twelve months will look different than any other business.
So where do you start?
For many entrepreneurs and ecommerce business owners, the first step involves taking time to intentionally reset and refocus. The holiday shopping season is a stressful, chaotic time of year. It can take a lot out of business owners, entrepreneurs, and even entire teams.
Without taking time to reset and refocus after your busy season, you risk burnout, damaged family relationships, and a general loss of passion for the work you do. You also put the future success and profitability of your business at risk.
Here’s the thing though: resetting and refocusing doesn’t look the same for everyone. One entrepreneur’s idea of relaxing and gearing up for next year might look completely different from someone else’s.
So in order to come up with some actionable ideas that you can use, I recently interviewed 20 successful entrepreneurs, founders, and hustlers and asked them what they do to reset and refocus after coming out of a busy season.
Here are the 9 tips I came up with based on their responses:
1. Go offline
Not surprisingly, a lot of people start by unplugging from the internet and technology in general. Here’s what Susan Su, Ryan Ruud, and Christopher Gimmer had to say:
“My “busy season” typically consists of a lot of writing / publishing / producing and other forms of outward expression. When that season wraps, it’s important for me to spend some time being quiet and minimizing the content in my life. So, during my reset period, I intentionally spend zero to minimal time producing and even less time consuming other people’s media, and go inward. This means a week or so of dramatically less time on Facebook, minimize reading other people’s stuff, and generally going on a media fast. It’s a great way to rest and start fresh and strong for the next cycle!” — Susan Su (@susanfsu), Head of Marketing at Reforge
“I disconnect, we’re blessed in Minnesota to have spectacular wilderness areas. I leave for the north shore or the boundary waters for a long weekend or a week and unplug, read and write. Coincidentally, the wilderness is where I was inspired to start and name my business. Lake One is an actually place in Minnesota. I find lots of inspiration when I connect to nature, we are after all animals! :)” — Ryan Ruud (@ryanruud), Founder & Managing Director at Lake One
“At the beginning of the year, I take a personal retreat. This usually consists of a weekend getaway somewhere 1-2 hours outside of my hometown. I use this alone time to take a step back and evaluate the past year of my business and personal life and establish goals for the next year. Having this time with zero distractions really helps me focus on what’s truly important and what will make up my top priorities for the coming year both on the personal and business side.” — Christopher Gimmer (@cgimmer), Co-Founder at Snappa
2. Look at the numbers and set new goals
Some entrepreneurs like to ramp things down by looking at the numbers and setting new goals for the next busy season. Here’s what Sid Bharath, Ashley Faulkes, and Eric Siu like to do when they reach the end of a busy season:
“To refocus we have a look at the numbers and data from the past season. This allows us to evaluate what worked and what didn’t, and what we need to focus on moving forward. It also helps to take a step back, look at the big picture, and let the creative juices flow. That might mean taking a break. Personally, I like traveling or engaging in creative activities like writing or improv. If you have a team, running a brainstorming session with some beers can be a fun, yet surprisingly productive activity.” — Sid Bharath (@Siddharth87), VP of Growth at Thinkific
“After taking significant downtime like over Christmas, I like to get all aspects of the business back on track. For me, that means figuring out the short and long term goals of my business and website for the year (something I may have done in December if it was quiet) and how I am going to achieve those in smaller steps. Having goals is key to moving forward, otherwise you are just flailing wildly around with no real purpose. I also do the same for clients and potential clients so that I know the steps we need to take to reach our goals for the coming months or year. Personally, I also like to have a think about a couple of achievable goals for my growth – whether it is fitness and health, skill development or just fun, friends or family. There is only so much time in the day/week/month and you have to prioritise (or kill yourself doing it). All in all, setting goals and priorities are the key!” — Ashley Faulkes (@madlemmingz), Founder at Mad Lemmings
“I review my goals from the past year and see what I was able to accomplish. Then I reset and go through a strategy session for the next year. Where do we want to be? What do we want to accomplish? What are the key tasks to get there? Then I put it in an Evernote and try to review it daily so I’m on task.” — Eric Siu (@ericosiu), CEO at Single Grain
3. Get a change of scenery
Travel can also be a great way to refocus and prepare for the new year. Josh Frank and Syed Balkhi shared the value of travel as an individual and as an entire team:
“For me, a change of scenery is extremely important. It doesn’t have to be far, but in order to do a good post-mortem on what went right vs. wrong you need to be off site. Also, do this as quickly as you can while your ideas for improvement are fresh in your mind.” — Josh Frank (@joshfrank), Founder & Head of Optimization at Test Triggers
“The first week of January, we do a partners retreat. In 2017, we will be meeting in Savannah since we’re a 100% remote company. At the partners retreat, we review the key metrics from last year such as sales, churn, overall growth, etc. We use those to set goals for the upcoming year and re-align our product roadmap to match our goals. This helps us all be on the same page so we can communicate with the team and start the new year full steam ahead.” — Syed Balkhi (@syedbalkhi), CEO at OptinMonster
4. Spend time doing the things you love to do outside of work
It’s important to remember that resetting doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or require a lot of planning. Oftentimes it can be as simple as investing in the hobbies you love to do when you’re not working. Ajay Paghdal, Alex Chaidaroglou, and Sujan Patel all illustrated this idea in their responses:
“My guilty pleasure ever since grade school has been watching Anime. After a particularly stressful stretch, I take a personal day and binge watch a new series. It’s one of the best ways to help my mind relax and recharge for the next challenge.” — Ajay Paghdal (@ajaypaghdal), CEO at Youth Noise
“Personally, I prefer to first do the work that needs to be done and don’t do anything else at all and then chill out 100%. I like going to dinner, seeing friends and play some video games for 3-4 consecutive days (max 7 days if there was a very tiring week). When I have fully recovered, I like to get back to work, catch up on some light work the first day and then strategize and start going all out.” — Alex Chaidaroglou (@achaidaroglou), Cofounder at Altosight
“I travel a lot for work, which I love, but when the busy season is over it means I finally get to spend some quality time with my wife Amy. I try to completely switch off from everything I usually do so I have time to refocus. At the same time, I can’t sit still for long, so chances are you’ll find me on the slopes snowboarding at the first opportunity!” — Sujan Patel (@SujanPatel), Co-Founder at Web Profits
5. Get closure
Intentional closure can also be a helpful way to wind down your busy season and prepare for the next year. Brittany Berger had this to say about closure:
“I have a drastic need for closure when it comes to busy seasons – a result, accomplishment, or event or something to kind of end with a big finish, or mark the ending. If the busy season doesn’t have something like that built-in, like a launch at the end of a busy time of campaign planning, I try to create one. I just like having something in my planner that can mark the ending, whether it’s an event or launch or just a mental health vacation day to reflect and relax.” — Brittany Berger (@thatbberg), Writer at BrittanyBerger.com
6. Work on bigger picture projects
When you’re in the midst of a busy season, you don’t always have time to focus on the bigger picture. If you’re like a lot of ecommerce business owners, you spend a lot of your busy season in the weeds getting your hands dirty. The end of a busy season is the perfect time to take a step back and get a bird’s eye view perspective of your business. Here’s how a few professionals I talked with approach this idea:
“After my company’s busy season, I try to focus on projects that are more intensive and have a longer-term impact. These are projects that I may not have the time to do when I’m super busy, but can make a huge difference for the company. For example, right now I’m working on a revamp of our website. This takes a lot of time and effort, but is perfect to do during our slower business season.” — Cara Hogan (@CaraHogan27), Content Marketing Manager at Rentlytics
“I subscribe to the Gary V “Dirt and Clouds” mindset. When it’s the busy season, I’m getting grimy in the dirt with constant execution. When the busy season is done, I go into the clouds and think up our next strategy. Defining those patterns helps you go all-in and get the right work done.” — Sean Bestor (@sbestor15), Head of Content at SumoMe
“The end of the busy season should be a valuable opportunity to take yourself out of the day-to-day and evaluate your overall business strategy. Since it’s so rare to have time during the week to think more broadly and strategically, we take it seriously and devote as much time as we need to evaluate the the past 3 – 6 months, compare our original strategy and goals to how things ended up going, and adjust course from there. We also use that time to do the important but less time-sensitive tasks that always get pushed down the to-do list. These include things like digging into analytics to make sure we’re tracking everything properly and looking for new tools to adopt.” — Shrad Rao (@wagepoint), CEO at Wagepoint
7. Get active
To succeed in life and work, you need a healthy mind and a healthy body. If you’ve been slacking on either during your busy season, now is the time to recommit and reestablish healthy habits. Here’s what Kieran Daniels and Jason Quey focus had to say about the value of being active:
“Yoga. It sounds cliche, but it’s changed my life. I submitted to the theory of time blocking a couple years ago and I’ve never looked back — Committing to an hour of doing absolutely nothing, but focusing on yourself and your thoughts allows you to attack new ideas from different perspectives. At the same time releasing loads of physical stress. Namaste!” — Kieran Daniels (@kierankyle), Growth & Development at FieldPulse
“One of the things I enjoy the most has also been the greatest way to reset my day: the Israeli martial arts Krav Maga. By doing this mid-day, I accomplish 3 things: (1) I can focus on more productive tasks in the morning. If something doesn’t go quite right, I can recharge at the gym. Usually an idea will pop up on how to take things from a better approach. (2) I peel away from the computer, where my mind and eyes can glaze over. (3) Krav Maga gets my blood pumping again, which allows me to feel energized and ready to tackle the 2nd part of my day.” — Jason Quey (@jdquey), Founder at The Storyteller Marketer
8. Evaluate yourself
Learning from the mistakes and shortfalls that occurred during one busy season can an incredibly effective way to improve and increase success during the next time demand and sales pick up. Here’s how Shayla Price and Nathan Resnick like to approach evaluation at the end of a season:
“To refocus and reset, I evaluate my past successes and failures. It helps me recognize how far I’ve come as well as learn from my mistakes. Then, I compile that knowledge into a plan to move forward.” — Shayla Price (@shaylaprice), Freelance Content Marketer
“To reset after the busy season, I look into what we did well and, more importantly, what needs improvement. Looking where we fell short, I can tell what aspects of our business needs work and then strategize for the new year to make our weak parts, stronger. I also take about a week off to unplug and look at the big picture in terms of my business and my life.” — Nathan Resnick (@naterez94), CEO of Sourcify
9. Align your team
Finally, it’s important to remember that you’re not just in it alone—your team needs help refocusing and resetting too. Here’s how Derric Haynie likes to make sure his team is ready for the months ahead:
“Every season is the busy season. The best thing to do is have a weekly team meeting every Monday to align business goals. After the meeting breaks, every team member should take 10-30 minutes to map out their week and set 3-5 key tasks to accomplish. This helps align everyone and ensure we are moving forward (and not just staying busy).” — Derric Haynie (@sixpeppers), CEO at SplashOPM
What do you do to reset and refocus after a busy season? Share your ideas in the comments below.