For many people, a new year signifies a brand new start. It’s an opportunity to break bad habits and form good ones. January 1st holds so much potential and hope. Yet, one of the biggest mistakes people make is not preparing for the new year. It’s extremely difficult to completely change the way you live or conduct business from one day to the next without having a plan in place.
But if you really want to hit the ground running in 2014, put together a plan that will help you start strong and maintain your speed. Here are 14 suggestions to help you get started.
1. Create specific goals. For the year, quarter, month, week, and day. Whether it’s a revenue number, new accounts, or market share, if you want to succeed in 2014, you must hold yourself accountable.
2. Don’t create goals you can’t reach. You can’t expect to double revenue in 2014 if your business was either flat or up slightly this year. Unrealistic expectations will only serve to deflate the enthusiasm and morale you built up at the end of 2013.
3. Schedule your day the night before. Do this at the end of the business portion of your day. It ends the day on a positive note and sets you up for the following day.
4. Move out smartly. Wake up early, have a healthy breakfast, and clear the cobwebs from your brain. In most races, the hardest part is the beginning. Your body has to adjust to the changes. Morning exercise is a great way to prepare your mind and body for the challenges of the day ahead.
5. Don’t let a $5 problem become a $5,000 problem. Invariably, a situation will arise that pulls you away from your plan. Either address it or delegate responsibility to someone on your team. Either way, don’t ignore it. I call these problems “oil changes.” A typical oil change costs me $35 to $50. If I forget or ignore the fact that I need to change my oil, at some point it will do serious damage to my car. Don’t forget to change the oil in your business.
6. Have Plan B in your back pocket. Think of your employees as a NASCAR pit crew and your business as the car. Having trouble? Pull into pit row and fix the problem with the goal of getting back on the track as quickly as possible. Look at the various components of your business and have a backup plan for each area in the event problems arise. Otherwise, your race could be over before you reach the finish line.
7. Watch out for time robbers. How do you deal with people or opportunities that only waste your time? For some companies, this can be a major issue. When I talk to business owners, they tell me that they can’t learn or do something because they just don’t have the time. Well, time is the only currency that matters. If you’re mismanaging it, figure out how to get more of it. Don’t let time robbers deplete you of a valuable resource in 2014.
8. Maintain focus. Write these two words on a piece of paper and post it in a place where you will see it every single day. It doesn’t help your business if you hit the ground running… in the wrong direction! You have strategic goals, and you have a plan to reach those goals. Don’t lose focus. It’s the single biggest difference between winning and losing.
9. Be on time. Half the battle for success is won just by showing up on time.
10. Stay organized. If you’re struggling to find more time, you can help yourself by staying organized. The more time it takes to find things or get organized for a project or client, the less time you have to actually work on it. Form good habits when it comes to time and organization.
11. Take breaks during the day. I started taking regularly scheduled breaks during my work day about three to four months ago and it has fundamentally changed the way I do business. Whether it’s 10 minutes of meditation, a walk around the building, or doing jumping jacks, regular breaks recharge your battery and clear your mind. This should be a no-brainer for most business owners.
12. Regularly review your progress. January 31, 2014, falls on a Friday. Put in your calendar today that you have a morning meeting with the key people who help run your company. Review January results and adjust your plans for February accordingly. The 2014 plan won’t help you achieve your goals if it sits in a filing cabinet until November or December.
13. Celebrate the wins. If you land a new account, large or small, take time to acknowledge the moment. Too often we don’t give ourselves enough credit for the hard work that went into getting someone to pay us for our products and services. One option is to have a monthly team recognition breakfast or lunch to celebrate your wins.
14. Enjoy each day. There are 365 days in 2014. Some days will seem much longer than other ones. When those days hit, and they will, find something positive that happened to help you make the most of the day. Life’s too short not to enjoy each day.
As the founder and CEO of Brian Moran & Associates, Brian helps entrepreneurs run better businesses. He was formerly the executive director at The Wall Street Journal, overseeing the financial and small-business markets across the WSJ franchise. From 2002 to 2010, Brian ran Veracle Media and Moran Media Group, content companies in the SMB market.