Better Business Resolutions

Most of us share the same sense of inevitable doom when we think of resolutions, whether at the New Year, or upon returning from an inspiring conference, or anytime we promise ourselves change—that brief period of determination and hope we know will give way to the reality of day to day life soon enough. What can we do to help the promises we make ourselves actually come to pass?

The key is good planning.

Assess last year.
Grab—or make—a few quiet hours to sit down and reflect.

Question your services. Ask yourself what worked well last year, and what didn’t:
How much revenue did each service bring in? How much time, effort, and expense went into that revenue?

Look at your policies. Did your policies (cancellation, payment, scheduling, pick up and drop off, etc.) do what they were meant to? If yours aren’t protecting revenue, avoiding client conflict, increasing efficiency, and contributing to your enjoyment of your work, they aren’t doing what they should.

Check your rates. How do they stand compared to your colleagues? Do you feel well compensated? Do they accurately reflect your marketing message?

Review your schedule. Did you feel in control, or like the proverbial headless chicken? Where was your time most spent, and were those the right places? Do you need some assistance this year? In what areas?

Assess your enjoyment. Do you feel excited about the year to come, or exhausted at the prospect? What parts of your work do you look forward to? Which parts would you like to find a way to improve, hand over, or jettison altogether?

Make decisions for the year to come.
Based on your assessments, what do you want to do differently this year? Break any broad strokes down into specific goals. For example, if you decide you’d like to make more money, decide how much more. If you want to get control of your schedule or feel less frazzled, spell out what that means—Time for yoga class three times a week? Two days off in a row? A master schedule to live by?

Break out the calendar.
Now it’s time to plan. This is where most resolutions fail. It’s easy to make determined statements about what we will and will not do. But without planning it’s also easy to fall back into regular patterns of behavior. So pull out the calendar now, while it’s still relatively wide open and unscheduled, and set aside specific days and times to work on the goals you’ve set. Literally mark them out in your calendar and then plan around them as though they are intractable. Do not give in to temptation to schedule over them when things get busy—this is exactly what keeps us from moving forward. Write these work times down in pen, literally and figuratively.

Hold quarterly progress meetings.
Yep, even if you’re the only one in the company. (Just close the door so no one hears you talking to yourself.) Set aside as much time as you can once per quarter—at least a couple hours, but a whole day if possible—to check on your progress, make adjustments to your plans, and keep yourself on track.

Successful resolutions are dependent on breaking the domination of the day to day. You have many demands competing for your attention—emails to be answered, phone calls to be returned, clients and dogs to care for, invoices to prepare and bills to pay, and on and on. It’s hard in the midst of these pressures to make changes, even when you know those adjustments will improve your bottom line or daily experience.

So take a moment now to create space in the coming year to come up for air on a regular basis. Because to meet your new year’s resolutions you’ll have to work on your business, not just in it.