Year long New Year’s resolutions

illustration of a man up on a mountain holding his phone

We all start out with the best of intentions each January by making grand life-changing resolutions that we think will make us better people and bring us more success as business owners.

But according to Ellyn Kaschak Ph.D., a contributor to Psychology Today*, it’s not realistic to make a resolution at the beginning of the year that will last 365 days. In fact, there is no form of psychotherapy that would ever attempt to make a person change behaviour for a whole year without any help or support.

So instead of dramatic resolutions at the beginning of the year, Kaschak suggests treating each day as an opportunity for a new beginning—a chance to think about your life and your business, and try out new behaviours that can make a difference to how you live and work.  

Enjoyment is key to keeping that resolution

If you have stuck to a resolution in the past—how much you enjoyed it probably played a big part in your success, according to a study done by the University of Chicago**. The researchers found that people who received fast and positive reinforcement were more likely to carry through with their resolutions.

So instead of making resolutions that are impossible to keep, or are filled with hardship and misery—how about creating a list of activities you can go back to year-round that will bring you some immediate rewards, and help you maintain balance in your work and professional life?

Plan that vacation!

It’s hard to get away or turn down work when you are a freelancer or own your business—but by planning ahead you can do it. And you deserve it!

Besides giving you critical time and space to recharge and refresh—vacations give you something to look forward to.

Sherry Amatenstein, a New York City-based therapist, told CNN*** that you need to view your vacation as something you “need to do”—like a visit to the dentist. It’s important to your well-being, so you can’t keep putting it off.

Plan your vacation well ahead of time so it is carved in stone and your clients and employees know you will be away. And make it a real break—try not to look at emails, call in for meetings, or update your business social media!

Travel outside of yourself

As a business owner, your life can become completely focused on your work. After all, you are the engine of your world and the success of your business depends solely on you. But you sometimes need to take a break from yourself.

It’s important to open your mind to new ways of seeing the world—if only for an afternoon every month.

Why not tuck into an art gallery and get lost among the paintings. Go when the gallery isn’t busy and linger in front of a piece of art that catches your eye and let your mind wander.

Too hard to take an afternoon off?  Pick up a new book—in an unfamiliar genre. For example, if you have only made time to read business books in the past, try a mystery novel, or a collection of short stories by an author from another country.

Get swept away to another world where people live different lives, and discover new ways of finding solutions to life’s challenges. You’ll open up your life to unknown connections—and who knows, you might even find a great way to drum up business that you hadn’t thought of before.

Start making lists

Whether you use your tablet or phone, or go old school and have an actual notebook and pen—try making a list to help you plan your day, focus on priorities, and ensure important details don’t slip off your plate.

As a small business owner you have many roles and responsibilities—and it’s hard to juggle them all. Writing a quick list every day or each week can help you know what you need to do. And if an appointment or project is postponed or cancelled—you can make the most of your valuable time with an immediate Plan B by checking what needs to be done on your list.

But probably most important of all is the psychological benefit of making a list. You get a real sense of satisfaction and accomplishment by stroking an item off your list. It’s proof positive that you are making progress towards your goals!

Lists can also free up your mind. You don’t have to worry about remembering to order that new printer if you write it down. You can go on to spend your brainpower on the important things you need to do to expand your business.

By the way, Martha Stewart and Benjamin Franklin are two famous list-makers**** – and they seem to have achieved a lot of what they set out to do!

Spread out the improvements

The New Year is a fresh start. It’s a time to feel positive about all the opportunities that the future holds. While it’s always a good idea to take stock of your business and think about ways to improve how you operate and acquire clients—make sure you don’t overwhelm or discourage yourself with all you think you need to do.

Instead of trying to tackle everything all at once with a big long list of resolutions—select a few key areas of improvement and spread them out throughout the year.

Need to update your website? Plan to tackle that in February and March or when you have a bit of a breather when business slows down. Use the spring to research and brainstorm how to go after that new target market you have your eye on. And in the fall —get rid of that problem client or supplier so they won’t continue to cause you grief next year!

The important thing is to spread your improvement projects throughout the year. Don’t try to do everything at once. And after you accomplish one challenge, you’ll have the confidence and motivation to tackle another.

Don’t worry so much

As Charles Schultz once said, “Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia!”

It’s easy to be glib and tell yourself, “Don’t worry! Be happy!” But it’s human nature to worry—especially if you own your own business.

In between worrying about your budget and your bills, make sure you regularly remind yourself why you decided to strike out on your own. The freedom. The control. Not having to answer to anyone else.

It’s tough owning your own business—but with the unpredictability and the hard work comes a lifestyle that may suit you better than the constant routine of a nine-to-five gig working for a big company.

Writing in The Guardian newspaper, successful event planning entrepreneur Tania Diggory*****, who now helps other business owners battle anxiety, says you should never feel ashamed of the struggles you go through as a small business owner. It takes real courage to make a living on your own.

Besides reminding yourself of the old adage ‘this too shall pass’, be kind to yourself. When you get down, remind yourself of all that you have accomplished. As a matter of fact, that’s probably a good resolution to follow every day.

So this year, instead of making grand resolutions that are practically impossible to keep—spread your goals throughout the year, and work in some items that bring joy and an immediate reward. That positive reinforcement can help get you through the tougher times.

And always remember—it takes courage and guts to own your business. It’s not for everyone—but for you, there’s no life like it!


(Sources)

*https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/she-comes-long-way-baby/201801/why-you-should-not-make-new-years-resolutions

**http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/ayelet.fishbach/research/Woolley&FishbachPSPB.pdf

***https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/why-vacations-matter/index.html

**** https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101056819

*****https://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2017/apr/05/entrepreneurs-push-anxiety-attacks-tania-diggory-calmer

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Barbara Farwell
By Barbara Farwell
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