Don’t you just love this time of year?
Christmas is over but the fridge is still full of leftover turkey, Easter eggs are already in the shops, and everyone from your gym to your supermarket is trying to flog you new year’s resolutions and life-changing new habits.
It doesn’t stop with your personal life. The pressure is on to reflect on your business, take stock, make changes, make plans, grow grow grow GROW.
A quick browse of the most recent arrivals to my business inbox reveals the following (anonymised to protect the innocent-ish):
- a reflective ‘My highlights from the last 12 months’
- a roundup of ‘The most useful apps of the last year’
- the excitable ‘Exciting news for the new year!’
- the top ‘Must do’ business activities for the coming year
- tax return reminders (fair play, I’ll let that one off)
What I’m trying to say is, it’s easy to feel like you should be using the change of the calendar year as a prompt to look back, look forward, look inwards and find your business nirvana.
I just don’t think that’s realistic.
For many, this is a busy time of year. Christmas and New Year bring stresses and strains to family life, the days are short, the nights are long, the skies are grey, the noses are drippy… you see where I’m going with this. It’s hardly the most inspiring time of year, and there’s a good chance you’re not in the most motivated headspace for planning your empire.
So if you’re reading post after post on Instagram about people filling out their business planners and goal-setting for the new year, if you’re feeling the pressure to join in, take a moment to stop and think.
Without further ado, allow me to present my top tips for surviving ‘New Year New You’ business season:
Number 1. It’s all about the timing.
You don’t have to do this now. Unless you’re in a strictly cyclical industry, you can do your business planning at any time of year. Whenever it’s right for you.
Life is always busy so there will never be a perfect time. But there will be times that are most definitely imperfect.
If you’re one of the army of people who find winter (and the festive season in particular) difficult, don’t add to the burden by trying to think strategy at what is already a difficult time.
Traditionally spring is a good time for new beginnings, waking up and growth. Maybe that would be a more realistic time for you to think strategy?
Number 2. Be realistic.
It’s tempting to feel like you should be making sweeping changes to keep up with the competition and keep momentum. But the chances are, the majority of what you’re doing is already working well. Avoid the temptation to make changes for the sake of it.
As they say, ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. Feel free to polish it up a bit though, if you like.
Pick a few key areas you want to make a change in and focus in on them. Don’t feel like you have to have goals in every part of your business, beyond keeping them ticking over. By focusing on a few core areas you’ll find that the rest of the business moves along with them naturally.
While I’m on the subject of being realistic, any goals you do set yourself must be achievable. It’s easy to think that you can do more than you actually can. Remember, life gets in the way sometimes and you’re only human. And that’s OK.
Number 3. Take it in small chunks.
There’s no need to do all your business planning at one time of year.
In fact, it’s better if you do little and often rather than looking at it once and then never revisiting until 365 days later.
Pick something manageable to think about (finances, marketing, inspiration and ideas) and tackle that. Have a ponder on what you’ve done recently and how it went. And come up with some ideas to try. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.
Number 4. Be flexible.
It’s fine to set yourself goals and targets, but you need to be flexible enough with yourself that you can change them if it makes business sense (or if life throws snowballs at you).
And when you’re looking back, remember to give yourself a hi-five for things you achieve that WEREN’T on your list of goals. They still count.
Number 5. Visualise.
I’m not talking about meditation (although if that works for you, absolutely go ahead). I’m talking about making something visual that reminds you of your recent wins and distilling any plans for the year into something short enough that you can print it out and put it on your wall.
If you’re creative you might draw it. It might be a collage of images. It might be as simple as a list. It might be a word cloud in your brand colours or a selection of good customer feedback. Whatever works for you.
In the past when I was managing a team I used to do these two things every year and print them out so that we were reminded on a daily basis. Even if you don’t stop to look at them in detail (who has time for that?), just that fact that they’re there will help keep you on track and motivated.
Don’t overcomplicate it though – it only has to take ten minutes (an hour max!).
Back to ME and my planning plans
I won’t lie – I do have a business planner on order.
But I’m safe in the knowledge that I probably won’t use it in the way I secretly hope I might. I’ll probably use it some months and not others.
I’m intending to setting myself several ‘directions’ I want to move the business in this year, using milestones but not setting goals with dates (might not make sense to you, but I you’ll find more on that in another post).
More than anything, though, I’m going to remind myself that in general things are good. The business feels good. I know there’s always more to do and more potential to be tapped. But I’ll get there and I plan to enjoy the meander along the way…