By Rieva Lesonsky
New Year’s resolutions are a natural for small business owners. After all, we’re always seeking to do things faster, better and smarter. Here are 10 resolutions that will help you make 2018 your best year ever.
- I resolve to use my calendar wisely. If you’re missing appointments or deadlines due to multiple calendars, select one cloud-based calendaring app to use for both business and personal scheduling. Share it with the people in your life who need access, so they can see your availability. Don’t book back-to-back meetings or activities—build in some down time in between, so the inevitable delays won’t throw your schedule completely out of whack. Blocking off personal appointments (like your daily workout) and sustained work time on your calendar helps you meet those commitments.
- I resolve to take more breaks. It’s second nature to most entrepreneurs to go, go, go until we’re exhausted. However, taking time for short breaks during the day will re-energize you both physically and mentally. I’m always surprised how I can be sitting at my computer, hammering away at a problem I can’t solve, and the minute I get up to stretch my legs or get some water, the answer immediately comes to me. In addition, taking regular breaks to walk around, do some quick stretches and rehydrate will prevent repetitive stress injuries, tension headaches and other common ailments of small business owners.
- I resolve to take care of myself. Speaking of physical and mental health, remember that airline advice that you should “put on your own oxygen mask first before helping other passengers”? It applies to running a business, too. You’re the foundation of your business, and if you don’t take care of yourself first, your business will suffer. Build in a little time each day to move your body, feed your spirit and connect with your loved ones. Get as much sleep as you can and eat a healthy diet.
- I resolve to control my email, not let it control me. Personally, I don’t follow the oft-repeated advice to restrict checking email to a few times a day. I respond to my emails right away—it works for me. Whether you do as I do or limit your email use, filtering and organizing your email before it ever reaches you will save you tons of time. For example, Gmail automatically sorts email into buckets such as Social, Updates and Promotions so you don’t drown in a tidal wave of Twitter updates, email newsletters and sales pitches. Use the tools your email app offers to weed out the emails that matter to you.
- I resolve to stop wasting time—and money. When it comes to business ownership there are often two ways to do things—the hard way and the easier way. Finding products to sell can be the bane of many a small retailer’s (or e-tailer’s) existence. You have to track down the sources of goods, compare available merchandise, and make sure you can get it all for a good price, so your profit margins don’t suffer. The easy way to do all that is head to Alibaba.com for your sourcing. It’s simple to compare products and prices, whether you’re looking for the beauty and personal-care items that will be in demand this year, the latest consumer electronics, or something as specific as educational toys. Just a few clicks help you stock your store or website.
- I resolve to set realistic goals. If your to-do list is anything like mine, completing it is a Sisyphean task. Stop creating endless task lists: Setting realistic goals is more effective (and less demoralizing). Every night, select three meaningful tasks you want to accomplish the next day. Once those are done, you can move on to the rest. (What counts as “meaningful”? See the next resolution.
- I resolve to prioritize. There are so many things the average small business owner could be doing at any given moment that it’s easy to run around like a chicken with your head cut off. Be still for a moment and prioritize your tasks based on their urgency and importance. Focus first on what’s urgent AND important (like a massive project due tomorrow to your biggest client). Urgent but unimportant items can usually be delegated to someone else, whether employee or freelancer. If the task is neither urgent nor important, why are you bothering with it?
- I resolve to say “No” more often. There are only so many hours in a day, and successful business owners guard theirs carefully. Next time someone invites you to a networking event, asks to have lunch, or calls to “pick your brain,” don’t just say “Yes” automatically. Take some time to assess whether the activity is worth your while before you agree to do it.
- I resolve to automate whatever I can. So many tasks that eat up hours of an entrepreneur’s day could easily handled by an app. For example, use social media management tools to schedule your social media posts and simplify your interactions while ensuring you don’t miss anything important. Getting distracted by ESPN.com or YouTube videos when you should be working? There are plenty of apps that you can use to block yourself from tempting websites for a certain time. Are you always answering customer service emails at midnight? Implement a chat bot, add FAQs or automated email responses on your ecommerce site to handle these queries for you.
- I resolve to stop forcing myself into a time management system that doesn’t work for me. If these tips don’t work for you, don’t beat yourself up. Everyone works differently: Some entrepreneurs get up at dawn to be productive, while others work best when they stay up until dawn. The goal is not to force yourself into a cookie-cutter mold, but to find the productivity tactics that work for you and make them into habits.
Fine-tuning the way you work to get more done with less effort isn’t a one-time event. It’s the work of a lifetime, but it’s work that pays off.