People feel strongly about New Year Resolutions. They either love them or hate them. I agree.
When you grasp at a resolution without any thought or rationale behind it – simply because you feel the pressure to state something grand out loud at midnight – you are setting yourself up for failure.
We aren’t going to talk about those kinds of resolutions. The kind of resolution we are going to make here is realistic, achievable, and just challenging enough to make our hearts pound a little louder in your chest.
First things first, don’t rush this.
If it weren’t for New Year’s, I’d be trying to talk you into doing this anyway. Spending time reflecting on the past and declaring your dreams for the future is essential to any successful business, so we might as well take full advantage of the seasonal tradition. What’s better yet, is most of you have permission to take some down time and spend it well. Spend. Time. Well.
I’m going to ask you to ask yourself some “big questions” and you’re going to want to think about your answers with quality attention.
An evaluation of the past.
Before we can look to the new year, we need to orient ourselves and provide some accurate context for our resolutions. Start by looking at your past.
- Be honest: be willing to look at what really happened. If you collected metrics and analytics…GREAT!!! Spread out the numbers and look at what happened. Did your business grow? Did you achieve what you set out to achieve the year before? Why or why not?
- Be kind: this is so incredibly important. CELEBRATE what you did well this past year. In my office, I have a big white board. I’ve blocked it out into 12 sections representing each month. I write out my plans (we’ll get to that below)… and throughout the year, I write down when victories happen. I do this because I know, left to my own mind I would forget almost everything. This way, I am sure to remember and CELEBRATE the steps that brought me across the finish line. Sure, I got to speak at Columbia University, but I also got to buy myself a kickass pair of Jimmy Choos (that I only wore once – to speak at Columbia).
- Be critical: this does NOT mean “be mean.” Critical means permission to analyze and examine in depth. Look at what worked, what didn’t work, and WHY. If you had intended to achieve something which you did not in fact accomplish, do you know why? Do you know if there are parts of your industry which you should learn in greater detail, or are there tools and/or equipment you really ought to invest in? Take the time to write down a thorough evaluation of your past year.
A reflection on the present.
Like I mentioned, this time of year is a gift. I slide into the end of December like I’m stealing home base… I am utterly exhausted. I need this small window of time where the world grants me permission to lick my wounds, crawl into a cozy nest to recover, and clear the clutter. When I’ve caught my breath and I feel human again, the very first thing I do is CLEAN MY OFFICE. I empty out my inbox. I empty my email inbox, too! Having fully looked over the past year, I’m ready to clear my whiteboard and create a literal clean slate. I feel like a schoolgirl getting her new school supplies.
When you’re ready, answer a few key questions about your present condition:
- How do you feel about your business, your life, yourself today? Here’s your chance to admit the truth of your circumstances. Write for as long as you need to, and be as detailed as possible.
- What about the above makes you happy today? “Happiness” means something different to each of us, but let’s be clear on what you LOVE about your current circumstances.
- What would you like to be different today? Here’s your chance to evaluate with clarity what you would like to change. This leads us directly into the next “time zone”… the future. Ready to make some resolutions?
A declaration into the future.
And here we are, ready to make our first resolution. A resolution is a resolve. It takes grit to make it a reality. You are making a promise to yourself, so let’s not take this lightly, and let’s not skip the first two steps before landing in this spot.
If you’ve looked at the past and the present, this is almost organic. You can start seeing the next year take shape. You are going to create a plan… and you know me, I like to create this plan on a big ol’ whiteboard with sticky notes and lots of room.
Ask yourself the following questions, and write the answers down someplace where you can see them without trying. On your wall, on your desk… don’t hide your resolutions!
The key here is to be realistic, be challenging, and leave room for life.
- How much money do you want to make this year? I start with money because it is an excellent metric. When I know how much money I want to make, I’m able to calculate backwards to determine how many projects I need to do each month. I’m then able to clearly know if this is realistic, plausible, possible? If not, I had better establish a new annual goal that makes better sense.
- What vacations or rewards do you want for yourself, and when? I mark off all the “blackout” dates on my annual calendar. This time is precious and I’m not willing to sacrifice it, but then I have to once again look at the annual money goal I just made. If I have less time now, is it still realistic? Take the time to find an annual financial goal and realistic vacation schedule that is realistic and attainable. At the same time, don’t be afraid to push the envelope here! If you want that trip to Paris, can you work a little bit harder in April to make it happen? Here is where we CAN dream big, be a bit outrageous, challenge our expectations of ourselves. You can do it!
- What, if any, goals do you have for your home/life? I like to include any big plans I have for my home. Planning to move? Renovate or expand? Have a big project that might require time, money or both? Does this adjust the answers to #1 or #2 above?
- What “feathers” do you hope to stick in your cap? Have any books you want to write? Want to lecture or teach? Want to be interviewed or lead an expedition? Want to give a TED Talk? Want to meet your mentor (or work with him/her)? Claim it. Declare it. Be bold and if it has a date, add it to your calendar.
- What are your health goals? So important… don’t forget about your health and well-being. I probably should have this be #1, but I establish it here in the process because rather than lessen your financial goal, perhaps this is a time for you to adjust your pricing and services. What would it look like to have a healthy life AND earn your financial goal? For me, this means being more careful about what projects I take on. That will mean spending MORE time marketing and establishing relationships with the clients who can pay more for quality time.
- What are your work milestones? Now that you’ve done all of the work above, you should know what it would require each month to achieve. In order to make X this year, with the vacation, home and health parameters, and with certain “feather” opportunities, I will need to achieve Y each month. Possible? Challenging is ok…. push yourself here…. Possible? Make adjustments to your calendar until you are able to stand back, heart FULL OF ENERGY, and feel really inspired…. (and possibly a little scared).
Congratulations. You have just made an official New Year’s Resolution.
Now, step back and catch your breath and get ready for the ride!