How to Make Plans that Work

It's a new year but personally, I'm not a huge fan of New Year's resolutions. Making a bold statement about something you're always going to do or never going to do again just tends to set you up for disappointment. However, I am a huge fan of using the turn of a new year to reflect and decide on some new priorities, and then put in place a plan to make them happen.

Here's a simple method you can use to transform your general hopes into concrete results…

Priorities Habits Schedule

1) Decide on Your Priorities

So what do you want in 2014? Are you happy with repeating the results you got in 2013, or do you want to step things up a notch? Being the ambitious creatures we are, most of us have intentions to improve things in the coming year. But a general intention probably won't get us very far. So start with some clarfication and take a moment to make 2 lists:

  •  What do you want more of this year? Revenue, happy customers, new enquiries / leads, time off?
  • What do you want less of this year? Complaints, cancelled appointments, staff hassles, admin work?

By setting some time aside to actually figure out what these things are for you and your business, you're likely to get some clarity. I like to have separate lists for personal and business priorities but some people like to keep them combined.

Then, out of all the things you've listed, decide which are the top 3 priorities to focus on. Sure, you'd like them all, but your liklihood of success is much higher if you narrow your focus.

2) Figure out the New Habits that will Make them Happen

Next, think about what you can actually do differently to achieve these things. But, rather than thinking about the result (eg more revenue), bring it back to specific actions.  Focus on the things you can actually control – for instance, you don't really control your revenue or your customer complaints but you can certainly do things that will have a big influence on those outcomes.

So what are those key things for you?  It could it be things like;

  • Email my customers twice a month
  • Have a 1:1 meeting/coffee with each staff member once a month
  • Hire a qualified bookkeeper and handover my invoicing, bank reconcilations and payables
  • Call customers a week after their booking to check that everything's ok
  • Ask 10 clients to review us each month – email and follow up with a phone call
  • Start a business Facebook page and update 3 times a week
  • Set up a way to confirm appointments the day before
  • Leave work by no later than 5:30 at least 4 times a week
  • Call one customer each day to check in and ask for feedback

By thinking about actions in terms of new habits to develop, you're acknowledging that there are some behaviours that need to change.  Consistent actions are far more powerful than any one-off effort! (For instance, rather than have a massive week where you contact 20 customers, focus on getting into the habit of calling one customer each business day – if you stick to this over the year you'll have called 240 customers! Even if you miss 50% of the time, you'll have called way more than your one-off effort.)

3) Schedule Your Time

It's tempting to stop the planning session here, but a final, crucial step that is often missed is to actually schedule time for your new habits. Don't just hope that it happens (trust me I've tried).  Remember, these are new habits that you haven't been doing yet so it will take a concerted effort to make them a natural part of your day. Block out time in your calendar to make your new habits a priority.

I know what you're thinking… "that's all good and well, but in reality, I won't have time". (Show me a business owner with lots of free time and I'll frame them!)  Let's face it, your new habits are probably all things you've known you should have been doing for a while, but they still didn't happen last year – it's damn busy. But now, when you analyse the big picture, you're saying that these things would make the most impact on your business – so please make sure you give them the time and attention they deserve.

So go on, mark your calendar now with a few big chunks of time, or a weekly chunk of time, or even a daily reminder (eg to leave work!). Don't laugh, but I actually have a daily reminder to "go to bed" – without it, I end up staying up way too late. Calendar appointments work so do this now.

The only next step is to stick to the schedule. When your calendar says it's time to have a 1:1 meeting with a staff member, figure out a way to make that happen. And if you really can't do it then, reschedule it so that it still happens soon.

So that's it. Go to it and here's to a new and improved new year. Let's go!



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