“After The First”

Posted on November 11th, 2022

Around mid-November, a phrase creeps into our daily dialogue on decision making: “Get back to me after the first of the year”. It seems as if there is an imaginary line where no new business will take place until mid-January after the holiday fog has lifted.

What is the driver of this impenetrable conference-speak barrier? Aversion to change. Hiring slows down, purchase orders are held, capital expenses are not discussed. But why?

It is far easier to move a decision to the future than to embrace positive change as it presents itself. Because all change is “messy” having a ready-made reason to remain idle for 60 days is often far too tempting to ignore.

Let’s explore some tactics to maintain momentum or use the downtime to your advantage through the end-of-calendar year:

Make a list

Add the party that has deferred the conversation or decision to a group or individual tickler file to generate contact reminder (usually email) at 12:01 AM January 2nd. Hey, it’s “after the first”! At the least it will alert the contact that the season has been enjoyed and it is now time to get back to business. This will certainly keep you top-of-mind and top-of-inbox!

Get resourced

Follow up with colleagues that have not been close to you and your circle in a while. Reconnect, if only virtually, to help shore up your network of support. Certainly, use the holidays as a reason for the contact and make sure to have a plan to follow up in the new year.


If you tend to be content with clutter, now is the perfect time to develop a beneficial habit. Clutter, physical and virtual, distracts and slows every activity. Think of “The Rock on the Counter Syndrome”: if someone placed a dirty rock from the landscaping on the corner of your desk, you would most likely say “Hey! Why is that rock there?! It doesn’t belong!”. But you do nothing today because you are busy with your agenda. Tomorrow, the rock is still there. But you have an event and meetings, and you take no corrective action. After a few days, the rock will blend in with your existing clutter and disappear. Too, if that someone came back a year later and took the rock, you might say “Hey! Who took the rock!?”. Take a fearless look at your environment and purge.

Make a plan

What wasn’t accomplished this year that should have been? What happened that could have been prevented or at least shaped for a better outcome? Make a list of things that need to be readdressed for either situation. Prioritize and put targets (the “what” by “when”) and backstops (Are we off track?). Start a playbook for the year. Then work your plan.


If you need specialty training in your position/department, seek it out and complete it now. Then end of year is a great time to utilize cancelled meetings due to PTO to start and get ahead on self-improvement activities. Spend the extra downtime getting better, you can end the year stronger and be ready for next year’s challenges. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Train as you fight, fight as you train.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics and your Sock Drawer

The Second Law deals with entropy, the fact that all systems devolve into chaos. It is their nature; it cannot be any other way. Unless energy is consistently put into the system, no system can maintain itself. Imagine it is laundry day and you have just organized your sock drawer: Dress socks, black, brown, patterns, argyles, gym socks, crews. Perfect. Tomorrow you are late and hastily grab for a pair of socks. And the day after tomorrow. By Day 3 your organized drawer has gone the way of galaxies and has devolved into chaos. No energy to maintain order of the system had been spent, hence, it will take far greater energy to rectify and bring order back than if you had just spent a little energy each day with mindfulness. What systems require a dose of focused maintenance? Identify them and make awareness of your systems a priority.

Take a different approach

The OODA Loop Col. John Boyd, USAF (Ret)
What is your department’s leaders’ decision-making process look like? Can it be explained like a recipe? Can it be followed, verified, and replicated again and again? Has the process been memorialized and trained to in onboarding and development? This time of season is a perfect opportunity to seize upon a new way of approaching opportunities.
Below is Colonel Boyd’s recipe for accurate decision-making created from dogfighting in US Air Force.


Bottom line for the end of the year

People aren’t getting back to you? List of tasks waiting for decisions to move forward? Are you being put off until “after the first”? Good. That means you are not obligated for a little while and it’s not your issue. Use this time to your advantage and make personal progress. You’ll be better for it and come out of the holiday gate ahead!