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Where has the year gone? It feels like I blinked and now it’s time to deck the halls and decorate cookies because we’re in the winter holidays once again!
This isn’t an easy season as a solopreneur and small business owner. December can be jammed packed with both work and, hopefully, some time for play as well.
Even if your business has nothing to do with holiday shopping, you probably find that business doesn’t wind down in December, it winds up (at least those first two weeks). There are so many loose ends to tie up for the year, and there’s a big push of work to get done in anticipation of taking a few days off.
There are so many things to juggle. How will you ever find the time take care of your clients, send out your holiday greetings, buy presents, see friends and family AND make plans for the year ahead for your own business?
The answer? You have to plan for it, schedule it, and make the things you want to happen, happen. After all, you’re a superhero in your business for the rest of the year, so now is really no different. You’ve got this!
Because of the holiday rush-rush-rush, many solopreneurs delay even thinking about making any plans for the New Year until well after January 1st, and soon they find they’re well into quarter 2 and they still don’t have a roadmap in place.
This is a huge mistake.
The beginning of the year is special for a reason. It’s the perfect “starting line” for your plans. It’s a psychological marker as much as a calendar marker, and it’s a big one that you shouldn’t ignore.
My advice (and what I personally do) is; schedule a day early in the New Year to sit down and do some planning.
If you want to know where you’re going, you need to know where you’ve been.
Look back at your biggest successes and failures over the past year; they can give you a helpful guide as to where you should head next in your business planning. How effective were your marketing efforts? Can you think of ways you can improve and refocus them in the New Year? Did you introduce any new products in the last year? Did you hit the perfect price point for them? How was your customer service?
This big-picture look at your year can help you create some goals. Think: more of this, less of that. More of certain kind of clients, for example, that fill your heart with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Less of the distracting busy work that neither pays the bills nor fills your business-love tank.
Remember, too much introspection can be a bad thing for a small business owner if it cripples you with “what ifs.” Don’t get bogged down by that kind of analysis but do get serious about the big picture and specific hits and misses that can help you make improvements in 2019.
This is also a good time to create a rough budget for the upcoming year. Just make sure that you don’t get too specific because there are going to be a lot of factors that you can’t account for yet. Get yourself an outline that you can incorporate into an updated business plan for the New Year.
When you first started your business enterprise, you probably created a business plan that would help you keep everything on track. (Oh you didn’t? Well, that’s ok, you can make one now!) A business plan enables you to prioritize your time and energy on the things that you need to do to grow your business. The problem is that, over time, the needs of your business will change. With these changes, you’ll need to update your business plan and guess what—the New Year is a perfect time to get on that!
Along with my formal business plan, I always like to have an informal business plan. You know those stories about multi-millionaire entrepreneurs who wrote their business idea on the back of a napkin? That’s pretty much how I think of the informal plan. You don’t need to format it in detail on your computer; you don’t need to workshop the grammar and wording. Your informal plan can simply be a piece of paper in your desk drawer that you jotted down your informal goals and ideas for the year or a note you keep on your desktop.
Basically, an informal business plan is where you would like your business to go over the next 12 months. These might be ideas that aren’t quite ready to be put into practice yet, or maybe it’s just a wishlist. Either way, having an informal business plan can help you keep your long-term goals in order for the New Year. It’s something to draw your focus and that you can refer to throughout the year to make sure the way you’re spending your energy is helping you on the path to achieving your objectives.
New Year’s Resolutions are kind of a punchline nowadays. Someone will say five minutes before midnight, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds,” or stop drinking so much alcohol, or save more money, or get more sleep, or be healthier, or, or, or, or…
Often these goals sound overly simplistic and easy to accomplish yet when’s the last time you met someone who actually followed through? Want to know why? Because absolutely no thought went into these goals beyond stating that they exist. No planning goes into making them a reality, or, in some cases, too much planning goes into them. Yup, too much planning can be just as bad (or worse) than no planning at all (but that’s a topic for another day).
As a small business owner, a few business resolutions might be a great idea. But only if you’re able to create a plan and then hold yourself accountable. That’s why you want to write down your business resolutions on a piece of paper, so you’ll actually remember and work towards them. (Hmm… This would be another good use for that informal business plan we were talking about…)
Another way to keep on track is through weekly check-ins. These don’t need to be long, just take a few minutes every Friday to look back at your efforts over the past week to see if the way you spent your time and energy was on point. On Mondays, start your week with a look at the week ahead. If you set actionable resolutions where you can measure progress, you’ll increase the odds that you’ll be able to achieve them before the next December.
As an entrepreneur or small business owner, your personal life plays a much bigger role in the success of your business than it does for your employees. If you don’t have the time to eat healthfully, get enough sleep, exercise, spend time with friends and family, and blow off steam now and then, you’re going burn out in no time.
That’s why, at the beginning of the year, I like to make some concrete plans that will help me maintain a healthy work-life balance. Instead of going to the gym when you have some free time, schedule it like you would any other appointment. Rather than depending on fast food or takeout, dedicate a part of your Sunday night to making meals for the week. And always be sure to spend time with your loved ones, even if you think you can’t spare it. Trust me, it will make everything at work so much more manageable if you’re feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally secure in the New Year.
If you only take one thing away from all this, I want it to be this last point. “Go easy on yourself and be kind to yourself.”
You’re not always going to get it right. You’re rarely going to come up with the perfect plan and then meet all the goals you set out for yourself.
So first, go easy on yourself. Don’t over plan and set yourself up with eighteen goals you “must meet” in order to feel your year was successful. Choose a couple of small goals that set you up for a potential big win.
For instance, those 20 lbs you want to lose? Why not commit to dance in your living room for 30 mins three times a week and reduce the sugar in your coffee by half a teaspoon? These smaller goals are more focused, easier to measure and achieve while actively moving you towards your ultimate goal of losing 20 lbs.
Secondly, be kind to yourself. If you miss a small goal, say you didn’t dance at all this week, don’t beat yourself up. It’s okay to be imperfect. It’s okay to not be at the top of your game 100% of the time. We are not always the best version of ourselves. So don’t berate yourself, or tell yourself you can’t do it.
Acknowledge that there’s an opportunity for improvement, look for any hurdles that might be preventing you from achieving your goal and address them before redoubling your efforts. If your beautiful (but very heavy) coffee table is in the way of your dancing and it’s just too much effort to move it everytime you want to dance, find a new location to groove in or get a smaller coffee table.
Do you have big plans for your business in 2019? What about smaller plans? Are you excited to put those plans into action? Please share in the comments below!