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New Year’s resolutions: How to achieve your 2020 practice goals

Tired of your New Year’s resolutions failing before January even ends? Zoe Whitman shares her goal-setting technique to help you achieve your 2020 practice ambitions.

6th Jan 2020
Founder But the Books
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Have you chosen your new year’s resolution yet? Mine’s to start going to the gym. I’ve written it down so you can hold me to it, but I’m pretty confident I’ll do it because it’s a SMART goal (which means the goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely).

I know which gym I’ll go to and which days and times I’m going, I know how long I’ll spend there, and the gym used to be part of my life so it’s realistic to think I’ll do it. The other reason I’m confident I’ll do it though is that I’ve been careful to only have one resolution.

Come January many of us see an opportunity to improve everything that’s wrong in our lives. We’re going to start going to the gym, sign up for a marathon, cook from scratch every day, go plastic-free, go dairy-free, clear out the loft...

But with so many things on the list, it’s hard to know what to prioritise, and we do the same in our businesses too.

Last year the ICB invited me to give a keynote at their annual summit about my experience of running a practice. It’s been a busy year and given I’ve had a baby, hired a team, moved offices twice, and written a book, I guess I’ve done quite a lot in 2019.

Don't lose focus

There’s no secret to how I’ve got things done, it’s of course about planning, being clear on the goals I’m working towards and being as productive as possible. But the thing I felt it was important to share in my talk and the thing that’s really worked for me is making sure I don’t have too many things to focus on at once.

Traditionally there’s this idea that we can only set goals when there’s a new year, but I see the start of every quarter as an opportunity for a fresh start, for new targets and goals. I make sure I only focus on two or three things at a time so I that I can do my absolute best to get them done whilst my motivation and energy is high.

When you choose to focus on just two or three things, it can be hard to decide which goals make the list so only concentrate on things which help us meet our long term plans for the business.

My goals are anything from increasing turnover, taking on more clients, marketing, building the website and reviewing our software partners. Knowing we were hiring, and outgrowing our fixed desks, for example, made it an obvious decision to take a lease on an office. Realising we’ve outgrown a piece of software makes it obvious we need to schedule some calls with software providers.

Are your goals SMART?

It’s also important that those goals are SMART. I need to know what I’m aiming to achieve and what success will look like so I can communicate it to the people working with me as well as be clear in my own mind.

Now setting big goals can seem daunting. I’ve been guilty of bumbling along without a real plan in the early days of running my business because I felt like I didn’t have time to spend on a big project.

With a young family, I simply don’t have time to sit down and dedicate a day to building a marketing plan. Instead, I have to nudge towards my goals in tiny bite-sized chunks or “microtasks”, and I think anybody with many balls in the air will find this approach helpful too.

I look at each quarter as 12 or 13 weeks. What seems like a mammoth task, when broken down into 12 or 13 manageable steps is achievable. Few people say “I’m going to write a book” and get it done, but if you set weekly goals to decide on the structure of your book, write a chapter, find a proofreader, get a cover designed, you will actually get that book written. Confession, mine took more than a quarter, but I have followed that step-by-step plan over the past six months.

Your challenge

So, have you set a new year’s resolution? Do you want to get it done in a quarter? Here’s a challenge for you. At the end of my ICB keynote I asked people to email me with what they're going to do because writing it down helps you feel accountable. So why don’t you send me a message to let me know yours?

You can send me a private message or comment below, and I’ll email you on 31st March to see how you got on.

Replies (3)

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Chris Caspell CTA TEP
By ccaspell
07th Jan 2020 10:19

Great advice Zoe.

David Allen's GTD methodology for projects (amongst other things) suggests that for every project you must have an immediate 'next action' or task to help you along the way to completing the project. Sometimes a project is too big to comprehend and so chunking it down into bite-sized bits (such as put 'bags for life' in the boot of the car) can help you to progress in your goal (such as save the world).

I've also read about the '12-week year' which is similar to what you are saying about having quarterly goal(s). I've not tried that technique yet - like most of us, I fall off the wagon often as my list get out of control.

Let's hope that we all manage to achieve at least a couple of our 2020 goals, and even if we only complete 50% of them by the end of the year, we are still further forward than where we would have been had we not set goals in the first place.

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By Mr J Andrews
09th Jan 2020 19:22

Same as last year. Month off the booze in January . Book a few holidays. Improve my bowls .
As for work , usual advice / warning to clients that fees will remain reasonably constant - subject to any special work. But a 10% hike if the info doesn't reach me by the end of September. And if not received before December and additional 5% . And if you don't like it suggest the services of some other practitioner . All very politely,of course, but it does work.

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Replying to Mr J Andrews:
Chris Caspell CTA TEP
By ccaspell
09th Jan 2020 19:41

15% additional from December onwards? You're too kind. A couple of years ago I doubled my prices and gave my clients a discount of 50% if they sent me their records before 31st July or a 25% discount if before 30th September. You can guess how busy I was in the summer months and how relaxed I am at the moment. It was the best decision I ever made and I didn't lose a single client over it - in fact most of them said that the price increase at the end of July forced them to focus.

Obviously this is for current clients - new clients are advised of my policy when they sign up.

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