What to Do During a Slow Period: Shift From Worry to Opportunity and Strengthen Your Business Strategy

08/11/2014 11:07 am ET | Updated Oct 11, 2014

During slow summer months or winter hibernation, it's easy to find an excuse to drift in late, check out early, and let a lack of momentum slow your whole roll. Even if you're not on vacation, your clients are sipping margaritas on the beach, which can mean meeting-free mornings and afternoons spent shopping online instead of sharpening your online presence.

Instead of letting slowdowns make you lethargic or frustrated, view the time as an opportunity to invest in your next phase of growth.

After your first few years in business, you'll have a good idea of your activity calendar. Now it's your responsibility to budget for the slow months, not just with profits from previous pushes, but with your time and focus.

As scary as slow periods can be, what's scarier is not taking full advantage of the gift of extra time and attention to move from playing defense to playing offense on your business strategy, making it stronger for the next busy season.

Want to emerge from a slow period with a stronger business? Here are my top 10 recommendations for what to attack and where to focus your attention:

1. Create a one-page business plan.
Forget the old-school approach. Can you distill what you do and who you serve into just one page? How about a simple image or diagram? Understanding your business at its most elemental level helps you better communicate its value to potential team members, partners, and customers.

2. Organize your ideas.
If you're an idea person, it's easy to get distracted by your latest creative vision. Avoid idea ADD by creating your own custom system for evaluating your ideas. Try this: drop your ideas into a spreadsheet and add priority columns to create a hierarchy of attack and ask yourself questions like "How much do I love doing this?" and "How much work is this?" Assign values for the amount of time it will take or realistic income forecasts. Sort by these criteria to identify which ideas hold the most value for you and compel you to action.

3. Create and deepen relationships.
Who do you need to meet in order to grow your business to the next level? The most fruitful business developments are born from genuine relationships, so start building those connections with people you like and respect now -- don't wait until you need something from them to begin a dynamic dialogue. Find out more about who they are and how you can help them move forward as well.

4. Get client feedback.
Businesses are measured by more than just money -- are your clients happy? What do they value most about you? What else do they wish you could provide? Create a simple survey to find out where your next revenue stream might be hiding, or simply to reinforce the idea that your customers' opinions are vital to your business.

5. Streamline your marketing.
Is it working? Keep it. Not working? Eliminate it. Kinda working? Tweak it. Then build a healthy Marketing Habit Checklist: what actions will you take on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis to stay in great promotional shape? Schedule those actions and stay committed.

6. Take the next step on your Big Project.
Whether your goal is to write a book, produce an event, start a business, build an app, or learn a skill, long-term projects can be overwhelming to the point of paralysis. Create your game plan by breaking the project down into digestible stages, then focus your actions only on the next step so you can make meaningful progress.

7. Train your team.
Look ahead: do you have a new project or potential client that will demand a higher level of results? Look back: are there challenges that seem to sabotage your team's potential? From interpersonal relationships to next-level sales skills, there are incredible resources and trainers that can transform the performance of your team.

8. Hire a bookkeeper.
What's that thing that you dread doing each month -- would taking it off of your plate create more space for efficient and effective work? Don't be afraid to hire an expert in your weakest or most time-consuming area -- finance, tech, marketing -- it may be an additional expense, but the savings in sanity is often worth it.

9. Do an online audit.
Google yourself and your business and see what comes up -- are the profiles you control current, consistent, and on-brand? It's easy to forget to update that old blog or take an old promotion offline, so be sure you actively monitor your manageable online presence.

10. Clutterbust everything.
Clutterbusting is the process of taking an honest look at everything in your life and asking: Do I need this now, or can I let it go? Too often, we hold onto things that hold us back -that includes activities, beliefs, and even relationships. Even if you have "unlimited space" like cloud storage, keeping unnecessary digital clutter clouds your thinking and distracts your attention from what's truly important in the given moment. Discard, delete, or donate everything you don't need.

How do you maximize a slow period at work? What are your best practices for your business's pre- or post-season?