If you’ve still got work to do this holiday period, clearing your desk will really free up your mind, ready for the promising year ahead. Then you can focus on the important things at Christmas… like who’s eaten all the mince pies.

Business author and speaker, Mike Clayton, has these suggestions for planning for a productive year ahead:

1. Ditch unlikely plans

It’s time to clear out your to-do list – or could-do list, I prefer. Get as much done as possible, and re-label your long-term should-do items as to-don’ts. You’ve spent months not doing them, so you most probably won’t be doing them at the start of the new year. So, it’s best you move on to something else and stop feeling guilty.

2. Focus on worthwhile projects

Keep the real, promising projects out of the rubbish pile, though. If you haven’t started them yet, then these are the ones to focus on and get off your to-do list. Decide which are genuinely worthwhile, and start a project notebook for each to decide on the first three (small) steps to getting them off the ground. Schedule the steps in your diary for the start of 2015.

3. Clear your email backlog

Set aside a slot to work through your email backlog, or else you’ll never get that weight off your shoulders. First sort your inbox by sender, then allow time to handle each item to the minimum necessary standard. Be prepared to trash or archive items that have been sitting there for ages.

4. Tidy your workspace

Try the Japanese 5S System, explained in Powerhouse, to get an orderly, clutter-free workplace for the new year. The first three S’s are: sort – reduce the amount of stuff around you and put things away; systematise – label things, containers and places, so you know where everything is; and sweep – get everything tidy and clean.

5. Clear your admin backlog

Clear the pile of papers on your desk, update your spreadsheets, file your expenses, and get all other admin up-to-date… Phew, I know it’s an arduous task, but you’ll be relieved when it’s done! Also, polish up your systems, to make them slicker and easier to use in the new year.

6. Plan for next year

Set aside a good hour – or better, three – to think about what changes you want to bring about for next year. Spread your goals across a range of areas of your life, work to create balance, and think about how you will achieve them. Test your objectives for two things: are they ambitious enough, and are they realistically achievable?

7. Decide on compelling causes

A compelling cause is one of a small number of outcomes to which you commit yourself fully. Decide on the best opportunities you have. These should dominate your agenda in the first quarter of 2015.

8. Spread season’s greetings

Maintaining and building your network of relationships is a strategic activity, not just a nice-to-do. So, prioritise sending season’s greetings – whether by email, card or face-to-face – to all of your contacts.

9. “Postpare” for 2014 and prepare for 2015

 It’s equally important to follow-up from important meetings, projects, or activities, as it is to prepare for them. Look back and complete any remaining commitments in 2014, tidy up any loose ends, document any changes and, reflect on what the year has taught you.

10. Give recognition and thanks

Don’t let the year come to an end without taking the time to recognise the contribution of your team, or friends that have helped out.

11. Choose your attitude and lead the way

If you want to be an effective leader, then take a look at the ten Powerhouse Attitudes highlighted in Powerhouse, chapter 6. Select two or three to really work on strengthening next year.

12. Read a Good Book

Finish the year with a good book to provide some additional inspiration.

Once you’ve gotten all that out of the way, you’ll feel far less guilty about heading to the pub for Christmas drinks!