If you’re like most people, you probably go through the same song and dance every January. Set goals. Fail to make plan. Then feel bad about the whole thing. Well, January is here and we have some tips on how to establish realistic goals, and achieve them.
One year holds great potential, and fresh into January, now’s the perfect time to make a plan. You can make amazing shifts in lifestyle, break old habits, transform your business, see incredible sales growth, learn new technology, and create time for the people you care about. But the most important shift you can make is to be intentional about it.
Reflection and goal setting every January is one of my favourite activities of the year. It’s a time to celebrate your recent accomplishments and a time to dream and get excited about the future. I encourage every single person to go through this exercise each year. Here’s my advice:
MAKE THE TIME
In early January, I set aside an evening to unplug and really focus on this process. I go to a library, coffee shop or pub with a notebook and my goals from last year. If you see goal-setting as a huge endeavor, then just start small. Take one hour - you won’t regret it.
START WITH A SWOT ANALYSIS
SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Assessing each of these is a favourite tool of business owners for a reason - it balances confidence with humility and ambition with caution. If you haven’t done a SWOT on your business, there’s no better time than January to do one. Each component evolves and changes so much from one year to the next, which really gives you a great lens to see your business through. Adding new ”strengths” and moving items from the “weakness” box to the “strengths” box is extremely satisfying. Reviewing all the opportunities you have capitalized on and threats you have mitigated is also a great experience you should celebrate. As you review your weaknesses and add new threats and opportunities, your brain starts to think about actions you can take this year. This is a great source of inspiration for goal-setting.
PICK A WORD
Simplify, organize, grow, connect. Use the energy and inspiration from your SWOT exercise and brainstorm words that describe what you want to achieve in 2018. What needs to change this year? What new things do you want to do? Dump all these words on paper.
Think about the activities which, if done consistently, could make a profound difference in your business. Try to find one word that encompasses the commitment to these activities. Then, let this one word guide your goal-setting session and be a trigger throughout the entire year. This one word is designed to help you assess, reset and align your activities each month with your goals. It’s your anthem for the year, so own it!
LET IT ALL OUT
List every action that you can think of that relates to your one-word theme. Go through your Weaknesses and Threats from your SWOT and brainstorm actions that you can take this year to address these. Your goal here is to just let the ideas fly. Create, explore, dream big, then strategize.
ORGANIZE YOUR THOUGHTS
Sort your list of actions into a list of 8 to 12 actions or projects for the year. Be sure you are clear on why each project is important and assess whether the effort required outweighs the benefit. Consider using the SMART goal method to ensure these goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.
Here’s a template I use to organize and plan out these actions/projects for the year. It doesn’t technically use the SMART goal method, but it accomplishes the same intent:
MAKE A PLAN
Decide which goals you are going to complete in the next 12 months and schedule them. Make a step-by-step plan for accomplishing each. Set milestones.
Take another look at the benefits you will see as a result of achieving these goals. Get stoked!
BOOK AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOURSELF
Decide on a specific time each week to review your goals and plan your upcoming week. It could be Saturday mornings, Sunday nights, Monday nights - whatever it is, put it in the calendar as a recurring appointment. This appointment also triggers you to think about your one-word theme each week, which is important for motivation.
During your appointment with yourself, review your accomplishments and celebrate them. Schedule your actions for the next week. It’s important to remain flexible with your weekly plans, because life happens. The important thing is to keep up the momentum, and avoid getting discouraged.
FIND A GOAL BUDDY
We often want to keep our goals to ourselves, however by telling people and creating a support system, your goals become more real. Tell your spouse, mentor, friend - anyone that wants to see you succeed and will provide encouragement and accountability. Tell them about your weekly review time and get them to keep you accountable to it too. They could even make a recurring alert for themselves so they can check in with you every week or two.
No, you don’t need to post your goals on Facebook. But you may want to keep your one-word theme for 2018 top of mind by attaching it to your bathroom mirror or you monitor screen. You can even make it the homescreen picture on your phone. Do something to keep you committed.
MAKE MONEY PART OF YOUR GOALS
- Eliminate all penalties and interest by filing all tax returns on time and make all your payments before the deadline – even tax instalments
- Track your mileage – use the MileIQ app, it makes this almost automatic
- Pay off your credit card or consumer line of credit
- Improve cash flow by invoicing on time so you get paid faster
Every single one of us is trying to manage our time. The new year presents the perfect opportunity to think about Time (with a big T) and find ways to maximize it. Don’t let 2018 slip by without accomplishing some of your life and business goals.
And if you need help setting financial goals for yourself, let us know. We are Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA’s) and are here to help you reach your business goals. We have extensive knowledge of the changing tax laws – including ones related to self-employed professionals like yourself. We provide bookkeeping and tax services to small business owners in Okotoks and Calgary, including everything from deductions, write offs, expenses, tax returns, GST filing and more.
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