In January we may understandably feel tired of the cold temperatures, the many hours of darkness and, some years more than others, shoveling snow. Yet we may also feel anticipation towards our future as we plan our yeshiva-week vacations, Super Bowl parties or spa retreats. At any rate, January is a time to reflect and offers a change of pace after the whirlwind Chanukah period.
This is a wise time to organize all your financial papers; after all, we are just beginning to receive envelopes in the mail marked “Important. Tax Document. Do not discard.” Dedicate a box or basket and immediately place these documents there as you sort your mail. Choose an attractive box or basket. A ripped box may repel you and cause you to associate even more negativity with tax documents.
January is also a logical time to meet with a financial planner and create a financial plan for colleges, a home in Israel, retirement or simply a household budget. If you don’t yet have a financial planner, ask for references from friends or associates whose opinion you respect. My husband and I found a mensch of a financial planner by asking around and meeting a few.
Typically, we get caught up in our day-to-day affairs and don’t afford ourselves time to consider if we are making the most of our precious time. For me, as a small business owner, I use January as my time to step back and review last year’s numbers, marketing strategies, accomplishments and disappointments. Along with this, I assess how I handled my life balances. Did I spend time with my business at the expense of my family? Did I stretch myself and try a new approach to connecting with clients? Happily, I did not do all this analyzing and soul searching while sitting at my desk at home. I went on a three-day business-planning retreat to Hotel Hershey in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
The trip was three days of intensive work. Participants looked backwards and forwards. We acknowledged our mistakes and celebrated our successes. We analyzed how we balanced our business life with our family life. To emphasize how important it is not to diminish ourselves while building our businesses, the program coordinator encouraged each of us to take advantage of the on-premises spa. The spa offered a variety of services and, yes, chocolate was included in the form of essences, creams and even actual Hershey kisses in the common rooms.
From the moment I stepped into the reception area, I had such a lovely experience. The staff treated each client like gold. Every effort was made to pamper us and keep us comfortable. Throughout this experience, everyone spoke in a whisper, except in the silent room where conversation was totally prohibited, like an NJ Transit quiet car. I sat in this room before my massage. Of course, this was the room where the bowl of Hershey Kisses was overly full. So, when I reached for one, several tumbled on the table making loud thuds. I was picturing myself in my own episode of “I Love Lucy,” totally expecting the two other women in the room reading their novels to report me to an attendant.
Pampering at a spa aside, the attendees at the retreat planned out their business for the coming year. We also planned our family life for the year. It was very enlightening to put everything on a calendar and visualize my next 12 months. I was careful to include the busiest family times, like Purim, Pesach and Sukkot, to forecast when I will (or won’t) schedule clients and public speaking. I suggest everyone do this for their year or at least a quarter of their year at a time. A great deal can happen in 90 days. As a result, I can prepare for what’s to come and feel empowered. To be clear, even if you don’t own a business, it will still be eye-opening to mark down all the upcoming key dates. Of course, the white board in your kitchen (or mudroom or laundry room) does not need to lay out your entire year. It should be sufficient to display the current month where the family can easily see.
In conclusion, I strongly suggest you create two plans: one plan for your family life and one for your business life. I also want to encourage you to give yourself permission to be pampered. Consider a massage, facial or mani/pedi. Then, think about inviting your sister, friend or daughter along. Soon enough we will be creating themes for our mishloach manot baskets and shopping for their contents. During and after that we will be cleaning and preparing for Pesach. Honor your needs now. Busy times are ahead.
Ellen Smith is a professional organizer and wardrobe stylist and a member of NAPO, the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals. She has been in business about 10 years and is passionate about organizing and helping people restore order and calm in their homes and their souls. She can be contacted at [email protected]