Endings and beginnings serve as natural signals for us to stop and reflect, and the fading of one year into a new one is no exception. If you haven’t yet, block off a few days (or better yet, a full week) on your calendar and devote that time to some strategic business planning now in the new year.
You’ll want to look back at the previous year and honestly evaluate what worked, what didn’t, what moved the needle toward success and what you may need to change going forward. Hopefully, going through this process will allow you to identify some actions to take in this new year.
Just in case you need a little help, allow me to suggest a few very simple things to try that could create some massive shifts toward success for you and your business. Some of these tweaks are changes in mindset, others are more tangible to-dos you can implement. But they’ll all help contribute to a more productive, creative and, hopefully, profitable 2019.
1.) Get Crystal Clear on Who You Want to Reach
If your answer to the “Who do you work with?” question is, “Individuals and families,” it’s time to do a little market research. Understanding the specific people you serve is critical to a number of functions in your business, from business development to marketing to customer service to client success and more.
After all, the clients in your book of business are real people who are just as complex, nuanced and complicated as you are. To reduce them to a general, bland group like “individuals” is disrespectful—and it also puts you at a massive disadvantage.
Why? Because it’s hard to effectively communicate in a way that persuades, delights and influences your target audience if you have absolutely no clue what makes them tick, what matters to them, what keeps them up at night and what worldview they operate with.
Be able to list off not only your ideal clients’ demographic information (age, location, earnings, ethnicity, gender, job sector, etc.) but more importantly, know their psychographic information: their fears, beliefs, values, desires, needs, dislikes and more.
2.) Eliminate What’s Not Essential
At a conference I spoke at recently, an audience member asked a great question that was about content marketing but could apply to just about any aspect of your business. This attendee asked how he could avoid becoming “the dancing bear.”
In other words, how could he avoid getting caught in the trap of producing content for the sake of throwing something out there to entertain followers day after day after day?
The answer is that you don’t have to hit publish all the time. You just don’t. Sometimes, it’s not essential—and if you come across a non-essential task, it’s a good candidate to cut from your to-do list entirely. There will be times when you don’t have anything to say. So don’t say anything. Make the choice between adding to the noise or waiting to be the sign.
Whether it’s content marketing or any other aspect of your business, quality likely matters more than quantity. Look at what you’re currently doing and ask, “What’s essential here? What’s serving a function that moves the needle—and what’s just noise, busywork, clutter or being done for the sake of quantity rather than quality?”
3.) Understand What Really Fuels Creativity
How many projects for your business have you put off because you weren’t feeling creative or inspired? It’s natural to feel like you’ll do your best work when you feel particularly compelled to act, but there’s a problem with that: creativity is not fueled by inspiration. It’s fueled by work.
Here’s an example of what I mean. I get some version of the question, “You write so much—how do you stay so inspired?” all the time. I understand why. I do write so much. (I once tried to estimate just how many words I manage to write in a month and the total easily topped a couple hundred thousand written words—every month!)
Many people assume I must be extremely creative, highly gifted or constantly inspired (or some combination of all three). The truth is, I have a system and I stick to it. If I only created content when I felt inspired, I wouldn’t write a thing. I’m able to create so much because I take the work of creating very seriously and I sit down to do that work regardless of whether I’m feeling particularly creative or inspired.
If you can make this shift for yourself and understand that putting off important projects until inspiration strikes is a sure way they’ll never get done, you may find yourself a little more productive—maybe even prolific—in the new year.
4.) Invest in Personal, Not Just Professional, Development
Stick with me here, because it’s going to get a little woo-woo. Most of us are perfectly comfortable with spending money on professional development; we’re happy to fly to conferences, gather up CE opportunities or invest in specific training courses.
Too few of us, however, are willing to make the same investment into our personal development. That’s problematic because by skipping over the personal aspect of developing yourself, you’re missing out on huge opportunities to run a better business.
Personal development can help you improve your decision-making skills thanks to the understanding it can give you of your own thought processes. Self-awareness is critical for anyone in a high-powered position, from lead adviser to firm owner, because it allows you to better spot potential flaws in your own thinking.
Similarly, personal development work can help you uncover blind spots that you didn’t even know you had. The more things you didn’t know that you can discover, the better you’ll be at shoring up weaknesses or gaps in knowledge, skills or abilities.
And finally, I’d argue that investing in your personal development simply makes you a more engaging, interesting, thoughtful person that others tend to gravitate toward. You’ll likely improve your communication skills, boost your emotional intelligence and radiate confidence and a sense of groundedness in who you are and what you want to accomplish in your business and your life.