We all know the tradition of New Year’s resolutions. They’re life-affirming in theory, but most of these vows are made too early in the year, are not sustainable, and get broken almost immediately.
Those of us in business are hopefully a bit more practical, and want to get a sense of how the year is unfolding before we commit to changing course. January, and even February, are often too early in the cycle, and November and December are way too late.
Think about a football coach headed off with his team to the locker room at half time. July is the midway point of the game, the perfect time to catch our breath. It’s our opportunity to go back to the white board, review the game plan, analyze the obstacles being thrown in our way, and figure out how to adjust so we can optimize our performance.
Rather than beating yourself up for not hitting your targets, or conversely engaging in self-congratulations for killing it, the best way to recalibrate is to ask yourself revealing questions about your team and yourself. While going on summer vacation is necessary and can clear your head, if you really want to hit refresh, you need to do a gut check and get real on points like these:
1. Are you and your team as productive as possible? After forming an allergic reaction to Oracle time sheets early in my career, the last thing I wanted to do was track my time as an entrepreneur. But after some encouragement by a trusted business mentor, I signed up for Harvest, an easy-to-use online time management platform. Now I know whether my team is getting as much done as possible.
The results: You’ll feel liberated by being more in control and more efficient.
2. Have you looked over the books lately? If not, it’s time to meet with your accountant or bookkeeper. It’s like getting an exam from a physician. If you’re trying to grow revenue at your company, you need to open the books to an outside pair of eyes. If you wait for tax season, you’ll often miss the bigger picture.
The results: You’ll see fat that needs to be trimmed, as well as new revenue streams that need to be tapped.
3. Have you reviewed the performance of your workers? A year-end review and bonus is fine and dandy, but a pat on the back for accomplishments they’ve made along the way, with a heads-up about areas where they could improve, is the kind of feedback that members of your team are hungry for. Plus, you’ll see the gaps, knowing when to bring new people onboard, and when to say goodbye to others who aren’t performing.
The results: Your staffers will welcome the praise, as well as the criticism. They’ll probably show you that they’re more aware of their strong and weak points than you realized.
4. Have you reached out to people who could send you business? It could be current or future customers, but it might also be longtime vendors, close friends and family members, or former colleagues and clients that recommend your company. It’s time to give them a call. And don’t forget to ask how you can help them out—a mistake made by all too many self-involved business owners.
The results: You’ll share real business intelligence and might even pick up some more referrals.
5. Are you making time for yourself? Make sure you’re seeking out purely pleasurable activities that have zero connection to work. During the middle of last week, I jumped into a lake on a hot and humid day, indulged in a relaxing yoga class, took a six-mile walk with my wife, and spent some time in a batting cage with my teenage son. Make a list of activities that you enjoy outside of work, and check them off one by one. For some, it’s a deep-tissue massage. For others, it’s reading a trashy novel or finally taking that ceramics class.
The results: You’ll realize that you can carve out time just for you.
This is the time of year when we can free ourselves from those clichéd year-end resolutions, like losing weight or getting to the gym. As Albert Ellis, founder of behavioral therapy, said in his classic How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anything, you can finally stop “shoulding on yourself” and take time out to maximize your life at work and at play.
Photo credit: Lauren Kallen