My Top Tips To Start Off The Year Strong.
“Slow and steady wins the race.”
Let me start by wishing you a happy new year. I know that a lot of people had a really tough time in 2020 and my hope is that 2021 is a year full of gifts for you both personally and professionally. With the latter in mind I wanted to share with you some of my top tips to start the year off strong and by strong I don’t mean from pushing yourself hard.
What I’d actually love is if you could find a way to ease yourself into this New Year much like you might a steaming hot bath :) It’s so very easy to get swept up in the newness of a brand new year and if we’re not careful, we are in danger of burning out all of that fresh and exciting energy before we even get to the end of January. So by “starting off strong” what I don’t mean is bolting out of the gate. What I actually mean is how to start the year in a way that sets you up for greater levels of both resilience and sustainability in your business.
Reflect on last year
If you are anything like me, you’re more interested in looking at what you will do next in your business than you are at looking at what happened over the last 12 months. It’s actually really important to resist the temptation to dive into planning and goal-setting before you’ve spent adequate time reflecting. I encourage you to look at your past 12 months in business with fresh eyes and a sense of curiosity. Often we think we know what happened without taking a look under the bonnet (so to speak). I often get the feedback from clients that they were surprised by what they discovered when they took the time to review their previous year in business.
I have a whole set of questions and journaling prompts inside my annual business planner which I talk more about below, but if you don’t want to buy the planner, here are some review prompts you might want to use:
- Write out any lessons you learned. I like to keep a lessons learned log i.e. a spreadsheet, which I update throughout the year.
- Write out what worked — your successes and wins no matter how small!
- Write out what didn’t work plus why you think it didn’t work.
- Do your finances! This one is SO important, even if you feel like you made so little that it’s not worth counting, I urge you to still review the numbers. As the saying goes: where our attention goes, energy flows, so get your attention on money, if you want to see more of it in 2021.
With your review out of the way and before you dive into action, I would recommend taking some serious time to think about what you want to achieve with and in your business over the next 12 months and how exactly you plan to do that. One of my pet peeves around this time of year is the focus on goals and resolutions. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some goals, I am a planner through and through, but plucking goals out of thin air and without a strategic context is not only a waste of time but can actually be counterproductive too.
I published a whole piece on how to make your business plan more strategic on Medium this week and you can read it here. And to use the planning system I use for my own business head here.
Schedule in downtime
When it comes to business planning, most people have a tendency to overestimate what’s possible. As Bill Gates famously said: Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years. So it wouldn’t surprise me if your plan for 2021, if followed to the letter, would be in danger of causing you some serious burn out. That’s why, it’s crucial that you plan in your downtime.
Do this now: grab your paper (or digital) calendar and look over the year to see when you would like to take some holidays or simply take a break from your business, think about this on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. Next, schedule those breaks in. Block those times and days off so that nobody can book calls or sessions with you during those times. Protect your downtime fiercely.
Now revisit your business plan, scale it back and ditch some goals if you know on any level that you’re overestimating what’s possible.
Prioritise 1 to 1 over 1 to many
Whilst I’d be the first to tell you about the importance of creating content for your business (and then getting as many eyes on it as possible), something that many business owners overlook is the importance of connecting with people on a 1:1 basis. I do this primarily through complimentary sessions and people often question how much time I spend doing this sessions. I always respond the same way — for me I’d much rather spend an hour talking to a member of my audience, helping them to identify next steps and supporting them as best I can to grow their business, than I would messing around with Instagram stories trying to create something that will grab the attention of my hundreds of followers (don’t get me wrong I do publish content in this way too but these days I leave it to my VA). You might think that if I am trying to grow my audience (and therefore my revenue) that it would make sense to try and communicate or market to as many people as possible, but that has not been my experience.
Not only do I enjoy my work more when I prioritise 1:1 conversations over falling into the time suck that can be social media, but I find I get more clients that way too. Now I’m not saying you can close down all of your social media accounts and give up blogging just yet but I would love to see you starting out this year in a mode of connection that sees you prioritising being in conversations with people in your audience more than scrolling mindlessly through insta.
Find collaborators and partners
The few business owners who do value the importance of 1:1 connections, tend to focus on connecting with potential clients and customers. What can get overlooked, but has the potential to grow your business immeasurably, is collaborating and partnering with other people in your industry or related industries.
Getting yourself in front of other people’s audiences is an essential key to growing your own audience and therefore your revenue. There are various ways to do this including, but not limited to, being on someone else’s podcast, doing a guest post for one of the big name online publications such as Elephant Journal or Tiny Buddha or doing a collaboration with a peer (such as this one I did with Helen McLaughlin). If you are not regularly connecting with peers in your industry and getting yourself in front of other people’s audiences you’re missing a huge trick. So as we ease into this year, I encourage you to start thinking about building these sorts of relationships too.
I’m all about inviting more ease into my life and business this year and so my hope is that the tips I share above (the ones I need to follow for myself!) help to bring more ease to your 2021 too.
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