The Art of the Pause: Propel Your Business Even When You’re “Off”

Holiday sales like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Small Business Saturday often characterize the year's fourth quarter. However, some small business owners, particularly solopreneurs, may opt to take it off and not participate in these events. While it may seem counterintuitive to skip these opportunities for sales, it can also be a chance to take a break and work on other tasks that may have been neglected throughout the year.

If you're a small business owner planning to take the fourth quarter “off,” this blog post is tailored just for you. In the following sections, I'll explore effective and strategic ways to utilize this downtime, setting a solid foundation for your business to thrive in the coming year. These tasks are not daunting chores but golden opportunities to pause, reflect, and propel your business to new heights. Let's get started.

Before We Start, Please Check Your Energy

What I don't want you to do is to look at this list and feel you have to do it all. First, check in with yourself. Is this something you have the energy for? Do you have time and the capacity to give it your full attention? If not, please don’t be hard on yourself. Maybe you need to take care of yourself before jumping into a project. 

It's okay to take a break from the hustle and bustle, especially during this season when families usually gather together. If your energy or attention is not at its peak, take that as a cue to rest and recuperate. After all, your energy and well-being should always come first. 

You're free to go outside and touch the grass.

What Are Considered High Energy Tasks?

These tasks are more demanding and typically require no more than a weekend to complete. They necessitate a moderate to high level of focus and concentration. That said, don't overwhelm yourself trying to do them all in one go. Instead, pick one and take your time with it. Pace yourself, take breaks in between, and enjoy the process of enhancing your business operations.

Examples of High Energy Tasks

  1. Financial Audit: Review your financial statements for the year. Look over your income and expenses, analyze your profit margins, and identify areas for improvement. 
  2. Marketing Strategy: Revisit your marketing strategies and examine their effectiveness. Identify what worked and what didn't, and plan for innovative ways to reach your audience in the coming year.
  3. Website Optimization: SEO tasks can be pretty intensive but yield long-term results. Update your website with relevant keywords, improve site speed, fix broken links, and ensure mobile-friendliness.
  4. Product Development: If you have new product ideas, it is time to flesh them out. Conduct market research, create prototypes, and plan for their launch.
  5. Networking: Reach out to industry peers for collaborations or partnerships. This could be guest blogging, hosting webinars, or joint marketing campaigns.

What Are Considered Low Energy?

By contrast, low-energy tasks are less intensive and require minimal focus and effort. Examples include catching up on emails, responding to customer queries, or scheduling appointments. These tasks don't require much energy and can be completed quickly. 

Examples of Low Energy Tasks

  1. Catching Up on Email: Prioritize emails based on their importance and respond promptly. 
  2. Responding to Customer Queries: Show customers you care by promptly responding to their inquiries and feedback.
  3. Scheduling Appointments: If you provide services such as coaching or consulting, use this time to book appointments in advance for upcoming weeks or months. 
  4. Organizing Documents: We all have a lot of documents, so why not organize them now? Create folders in Google Drive or Dropbox and keep all your documents in one place. 
  5. Self Care: Take this time to nourish your body, mind, and soul. Pamper yourself with a massage or yoga session, go for a walk in nature, or take some time off to read a good book – whatever makes you feel rejuvenated and energized.
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Productive Yet Restorative Task List

Here is a list of tasks you can do during this “off” period, depending on your energy levels. Remember, your well-being is paramount, and completing these tasks should not be at the expense of your health.

1. Removing Redundant Products or Services From Your Business Offerings

The end of the year is an excellent opportunity for you to declutter your business offerings. In your high-energy mood, consider critically evaluating your product or service line, identifying items that aren't performing well or aligning with your business vision. This might involve a comprehensive analysis of your sales data, customer feedback, and market trends. After this, you could strategize and plan for new products or services to fill the gaps. 

If you're feeling low on energy, review your current offerings, identify redundant products or services, and consider potential replacements or improvements. This could involve basic analysis and making notes for further exploration when feeling more energetic. 

Both approaches aim to refine your business offerings, ensuring they meet your customers' needs and contribute positively to your bottom line. This also helps with auditing your financials. 

High Energy Tasks

  • Conduct a comprehensive evaluation of your product or service line to identify the most profitable and least profitable ones. 
  • Analyze sales data, customer feedback, and market trends.
  • Strategize and plan for new products or services to replace the redundant ones.

Low Energy Tasks

  • Review your current offerings and identify any redundant products or services.
  • Make notes about potential replacements or improvements.
  • Do a basic analysis and defer deeper exploration for a more energetic day.

How I've Removed Redundant Products or Services From My Business Offerings

As the business grew, I needed to reassess my product offerings. These offerings can generally be categorized as courses, workshops, templates, presets, and client work. It goes if the offering doesn't fit into one of these categories. Also, courses and workshops could be under one umbrella: education. 

I've realized that offering one-off templates and presets is great for people who need a quick solution. However, I found that long-term clients prefer a suite of resources that can be used together.

2. Audit Financials

Auditing your financials may seem daunting, but it is essential to managing your business effectively. A thorough audit gives you a clear picture of your business's financial health, helping you identify areas of strength and potential improvement. 

If you're feeling high energy, consider diving deep into your income and expenditure statements, looking for trends and patterns that could inform future business decisions. Alternatively, if you're on the lower energy end of the spectrum, review your current financial statements and list questions or areas you'd like to investigate further when you're feeling more up to it. 

High Energy Tasks

  • Take a thorough look at your financials to review your earnings this year.
  • Start budgeting for the coming year.
  • Analyze your expenses and consider investments or changes to increase cash flow in 202x. 
  • Investigate any anomalies or unexpected results in your financial records and consider potential causes and solutions.

Low Energy Tasks

  • Make quick notes on changes you’d like to make in 202x. 
  • Take some time each day to review and analyze your financials. 
  • Reflect on and document lessons learned from this year's financial highs and lows.
  • Begin planning financial goals for the next quarter, even if they are broad strokes.

How I've Audited My Financials

I usually start with a quick glance at my financials. This helps me understand where I am regarding income, expenses, profit margin, etc. Then, I look closely to investigate any discrepancies or anomalies. 

I use this time to ask myself questions – What's working? What could be improved upon? What are my priorities for the next quarter? Answering these questions helps me to stay focused and motivated, even when I'm feeling low on energy. 

For this end of Q3/beginning of Q4, it's calculating taxes, planning out my budget for the coming year, and creating a plan of action to reach my financial goals. 

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3. Refine Your Marketing Strategy

Refining your marketing strategy is another task you can tackle during your downtime, depending on your energy levels. If you're feeling invigorated and ready to dive in, consider deep diving into your current marketing strategy. Evaluate its effectiveness, identify successful campaigns, and analyze areas that need improvement.

Look at your customer feedback and incorporate it into your revised strategy. You might also want to explore new marketing channels and trends that could benefit your business in the coming year. You can take a more relaxed approach if you're feeling less energetic. Review your current marketing campaigns, note what's working, and jot down some ideas for future strategies. 

The ultimate goal is to ensure your marketing efforts align with your business objectives and effectively reach your target audience.

High Energy Tasks

  • Deep dive into your current marketing strategy to evaluate its effectiveness 
  • Analyze successful campaigns and identify areas that need improvement.
  • Incorporate customer feedback into your revised strategy.
  • Explore new marketing channels and trends beneficial for the coming year. 

Low Energy Tasks

  • Review current marketing campaigns, note what's working, and jot down ideas for future strategies.
  • Make a list of marketing tactics that could bring more value to your business.
  • Reassess the content on your website and social media accounts, if necessary. 
  • Research new campaigns and determine how they can be adjusted for your target audience. 

How I've Refined My Marketing Strategy 

One of the most important marketing strategies I used to refine my business was creating a content calendar for 202x. This allowed me to plan ahead and be consistent in my messaging. I could focus more on successful campaigns by looking at past campaigns and identifying what resonated with my audience and what didn't. 

Additionally, I took a step back and evaluated the effectiveness of my channels, such as e-mail, social media, and search engine optimization, to determine where I needed to allocate more attention or reduce investment. 

Paying close attention to customer feedback, both positive and negative, helped me create a more personalized experience for my customers, which is especially important for selling services and products. 

4. Optimize Your Website for SEO

Optimizing your website for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a crucial task that can significantly affect your online visibility and customer reach. If you're brimming with energy, consider doing an extensive SEO audit of your website. This could involve identifying and fixing broken links, analyzing your keyword strategy, evaluating your site's mobile compatibility, or revamping your content to be more SEO-friendly.

Review your website's current SEO health if you're feeling more mellow. Look into basic aspects like meta descriptions, title tags, and keyword usage in your content. This is a perfect time to plan future content around SEO-friendly topics that can attract more traffic to your site.

High Energy

  • Perform a comprehensive SEO audit of your website.
  • Identify and fix broken links, and analyze your keyword strategy.
  • Evaluate your site's mobile compatibility and revamp your content to be more SEO-friendly. 
  • Conduct a competitor analysis to understand their SEO strategies and look for opportunities to improve your own.
  • Implement schema markup on your website to help search engines better understand your content and improve your visibility in search results. (Use online tools like Rank Math, Yoast SEO, or SEMrush.)

Low Energy

  • Review your website's current SEO health. 
  • Look into essential aspects like meta descriptions, title tags, and keyword usage in your content.
  • Check for broken links or images on your website and update them as needed. 
  • Plan future content around SEO-friendly topics.
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How I've Optimizing My Website for SEO

I started by doing an in-depth SEO audit of my website, which included identifying and fixing broken links, analyzing my keyword strategy, evaluating my site's mobile compatibility, revamping content to be more SEO-friendly, and conducting a competitor analysis. This gave me a better understanding of the current SEO health of my website and what I needed to do to improve it. 

I also implemented schema markup on my website to help search engines better understand my content and increase its visibility in search results. Finally, I made sure to review all essential aspects like meta descriptions, title tags, and keyword usage in my content, as well as check for broken links or images on my website and update them as needed.

  • Rank Math – a popular WordPress plugin that helps users optimize their website for SEO. 
  • SEMrush – a powerful tool used to analyze competitors’ pages and track keyword rankings. 
  • Pretty Links – a WordPress plugin for creating and managing 301 redirects that can help SEO rankings. This tool also sends me a weekly broken links report. 
  • HotJar – a tool used to track website visitors and their behavior.
  • Google Analytics – an online analytics platform that helps you measure the success of your campaigns.

5. Continue Your Education

Continuing your education is a crucial task that fuels personal growth and keeps you abreast of industry trends and advancements. If your energy levels are high, dedicate time to deep learning. This could be through attending webinars, enrolling in an online course, or reading up on the latest research in your industry. You could also invest time in learning new skills to enhance your business’s operations. 

Alternatively, if you're feeling low energy, opt for light learning activities such as watching informative videos, listening to podcasts, or reading blog articles related to your field. The key is to stay curious and open-minded.

High Energy Tasks

  • Attend webinars or enroll in online courses related to your industry.
  • Read up on the latest research or trends in your field.
  • Learn a new skill that can help enhance your business operations.

Low Energy Tasks

  • Watch informative videos or listen to podcasts related to your business.
  • Read blog articles to stay up-to-date with industry trends.
  • Spend some time to review and reflect on what you have learned this year. 

How I'm Continuing My Education

My bookshelf speaks for itself. I'm always reading up on the latest trends and advancements in tech, business, marketing, and self-development. 

When feeling drained, I enjoy light learning activities like listening to podcasts or watching informative videos. I need to stay curious and open-minded to remain up-to-date.

Additionally, I take some time to review and reflect on what I have learned this year. Taking a step back allows me to process the information, connect the dots, and apply it meaningfully. It also helps me gain perspective to make better future business decisions.

As of now, I am in the process of considering which TEDx conference to attend.

6. Personal Self-Care

Taking care of yourself should always be a priority, not just in Q4. When energized, set aside time for activities that help you grow and nurture your well-being. This could include attending workshops or retreats related to self-development, meditating regularly, or practicing mindfulness techniques such as yoga and journaling. 

If you're lagging energy-wise, prioritize simple activities that bring joy and peace to your life. This could be going for a walk in nature, listening to music, or spending quality time with family and friends. Sleep and doing nothing are also valuable and should not be overlooked. 

High Energy Tasks 

  • Attend workshops or retreats related to self-development. 
  • Meditate regularly and practice mindfulness techniques such as yoga and journaling. 
  • Make time for creative activities like painting, writing, or playing a musical instrument.
  • Engage in physical activity, such as a workout, a long walk, or a hike. (I love hiking!)
  • Cook a healthy and nourishing meal from scratch. (I'm breaking out the crock pot early.)
  • Organize a space in your home that has been neglected.

Low Energy Tasks 

  • Go for a walk in nature, listen to music, or spend quality time with family and friends. 
  • Take a break from work to watch a movie, read a book, or play board games.
  • Enjoy a cup of your favorite tea or coffee, and DO NOTHING.
  • SLEEP.
  • Treat yourself to an at-home spa day with pampering rituals like face masks and bubble baths. 

How I'm Practicing Self-Care (in Q4 and as often as possible!)

October is my birthday month, which is the start of my annual “sleep mode.” I take a break to focus on myself. I tried to maximize the holidays with events and activities in previous years, but now I'm all about taking it slow, spending time with family and friends, and catching up on much-needed rest. You can say I got on the “no” train. If I'm not up to it, I skip it and use that energy for something that truly interests me.

I've learned that I am not my business. I'm in a great space, going at my own pace. Hey, that rhymes!

Besides prioritizing sleep, I practice yoga and meditation to stay grounded, focused, and creative. It helps me restore the balance between work and rest. I also make time for creative endeavors like writing, playing the piano, or learning a new language. And plenty of snuggles with the doggo and husband.

Conclusion

As we near the end of the year, it's vital to remember that it's perfectly acceptable to take it slow, pause, and even do nothing. I've provided a range of potential high and low-energy tasks; however, the most critical task is checking in with yourself and understanding your current energy levels. 

Do what feels right for you in this moment. Allow yourself the grace to move at your own pace, learn, grow, and rest. After all, the art of the pause is equally as important as the tasks we accomplish.

I'm ready for soup.

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