By Lindsay Tigar
This article first appeared on SWAAY.
If you take a moment to look through those old dusty journals you kept as a child, teenager and college student, or simply scroll through long-forgotten iPhone notes, you’ll probably both recognize and be surprised by your musings. As a probably type-A personality who has always had many dreams, goals and ideas, you’ve likely set many resolutions for yourself, regardless of December 31 was knocking on your door or not. While having an idea of where you’d like to go and what type of career or company you’d like to lead is an important factor in success, many experts argue that starting small, shorter goals can actually be more impactful over time. And well, set you up for more accomplishments than a larger, overreaching resolution that could be hard to meet.
“Entrepreneurs are visionaries, first and foremost. We have a vision for how the world should be, and through our businesses we are creating that change. We are so inspired by our big vision, tough, that it can become overwhelming,” life and success coach Alionka Polanco says. “Small goals are important when you’re an entrepreneur because they keep you moving forward every single day to achieve your big vision!”
If you’re having trouble crunching those numbers and mentally prepping 12 tiny goals – whew! – don’t worry, we did the blueprinting for you. Here’s what to focus on, by the month:
January: Create a Vision Board
Even if you’re not artistic, a vision board can be easy to create with the help of magazines or printing off some influential images or words. As an entrepreneur, you likely find it pretty simple to dream, not only about what you hope for but what you know you can accomplish, if you put the right amount of gusto and grit behind it. That’s why Polanco says creating a vision board can help take those lofty ideas floating in your mind and give them grounding by being on paper and up where you can see them. “How do you want the year to go? This month is a great month to envision how you want to feel and what you want to see by January 1, 2018,” Polanco says. “ This way, you can reverse engineer that vision to set your goals.” Regardless if you choose construction paper or a bulletin board, make your collage as big or small as you like, just make sure it’s somewhere you can catch a glimpse each day.
February: Identify the person you’re helping.
You know all of the major components of running a business: your employees, your budget, your investors, your strategy… and of course, your customer. While February is often considered the month of romance and love, Polanco says it can also be about a different type of attraction in the business world. “Once you’re clear on who your favorite customer is, you can start attracting them by going where they go, speaking their language and winning with them,” she explains. So grab a box of chocolates, buy yourself a bouquet of flowers for your desk and figure out who you want to help, sell to, assist and attract. Without customers, after all, what would your company be?
March: Be fearless and get out there.
There’s a reason so many songs, literature and vacation plans start to feel more lively and positive in the springtime. It’s a season of change, and not just in terms of flowers and warmer temperatures – but because it seals off the first quarter of the year, giving a clearer perspective of what you can expect, predict and prepare for. That’s why Polanco says this is the time to be fearless and pitch your heart away without doubting yourself. “Spring is a time of immense growth both personally and professionally, so it’s a great time to start selling your products or services with gusto,” she explains. After all, the work you do this month could help make your numbers, your profits or your goals for the rest of the calendar year.
April: Nurture your audience.
While you likely have a firm grasp on the people who have already signed up for your service or have expressed interest in working with you, what about all those emails and all that info you have from people that haven’t been persuaded yet? As the second quarter begins, Polanco suggests taking time to nurture your prospective audience and engage with them in a meaningful year. “To keep your prospect line full, you’ll want to take care of your audience who hasn’t bought from you yet,” she explains. “This could mean hosting a free webinar, doing a blog series, or even getting on the phone with them for 15 minutes to learn what they’re most struggling with at the moment.”
When you look at your iCalendar and it’s bursting with deadlines, meetings, conferences, client desksides and well, dry cleaning slips and credit card bills to pay – you might roll your eyes at the very mention of an ‘after work happy hour for young entrepreneurs.’ As difficult as is it can be to prioritize networking with everything else you’re company is demanding, it’s often through these experiences that much success, impactful collaboration and partnerships are created. “Like the African proverb says, “’If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ Team up with other lady bosses and make magic,” Polanco says.
June: Host an event.
Even if you’re company doesn’t require face-to-face time to be successful, holding an event for your customers, possible customers, investors, employees and everything else that makes your engine run is a good idea. Why? Polanco says that summer yields itself to a more sociable atmosphere, and more people are inclined to get out and get involved when the weather is warm. The conversations and ideas sparked at these events could help shape your business model.
July: Rest and take a vacation
Repeat after us: even successful women take vacations. While the ability to completely disconnect, go offline and be present in the moment (with a margarita in your hand) doesn’t come natural to you, Polanco says it’s absolutely necessary to your own mental health, stability and happiness. Before you enter the last part of the year, it’s essential that you take the time that you need to regroup, relax and prepare for any challenges and goals ahead.
August: Strategize the last quarter.
“Now that you’re two-thirds of the way done, you can take inventory of what worked and what hasn’t and readjust your original year-long plans,” Polanco says. For most companies, what happens at in the last quarter is not only indicative of how hard you worked and how much you accomplished in the previous year, but it sets up how your first quarter will be. Since August is historically a slower time for most industries and international markets, you can take a moment, breathe, and really get serious about what you’ll be able to accomplish in the next few months.
September: Identify your daily metrics.
Now that you’ve made it through the majority of your calendar year, your business is chugging along and your employees are satisfied and growing professionally and personally, take a second to look inward. This is where you can begin to create and identify some micro-goals on a more intimate, individual level and acting on them. “Entrepreneurs build confidence by taking action, learning, while getting feedback on their actions and ideas and accomplishing micro goals,” Loral Langemeier, speaker, New York Times best-selling author, CEO and success and career coach says. “Micro goals strengthen your ‘action’ and ‘money making’ muscles. Just like the muscles in our body atrophy if we don’t use them, so do our action and money making muscles. The more you ‘do’, the easier it is to continue doing and to do more.”
October: Meet with your mentor.
Maybe it’s your very first boss who had a major impact on your life. Or someone you met in your industry that is revolutionary and ever-inspiring. Whoever your mentor is, take this month to actually get a date on the calendar and keep it. Take them to lunch, meet for after-hours drinks or try a new fitness class together. Having a melting-of-the-minds session will not only spark creativity in you, but empower you to finish the year strong and confidently. Why? Because they’re able to be real with you and give constructive criticism where needed. “Mentors provide outside feedback and insight that you might not see when you’re in it,” Langemeier says.
November: Tie up loose ends.
November often feels like a sneaky month that came out of nowhere and suddenly, you’re being fast-forwarded into all-things-holiday-and-travel. With many people out of office, a social calendar that quickly fills up and added stress, now is the time to get your affairs in order. While Polanco says to take care of your bookkeeping, update any legal documents and prep for the upcoming year, Langemeier says to have a money date with key players. And she says not just to do it in November, but each month if you can. “Sit down and review all of the initiatives, activities, etc. from the past month. Identify what worked well and what didn’t work well. Identify what made money, what cost money, what’s moving you towards your goal, what’s distracting you,” she explains. “Be honest with yourself and identify any activities that are distracting you from your bigger goal. Remove the distractions from your day to day actions and free up time to focus on the activities that will get you to where you want to go.”
December: Reflect and reward.
Chances are, you’re not where you thought you’d be at the end of the year. In some ways, you’re probably further along and more successful. In others, you perhaps fell behind your goal or targets. No matter where you are, Polanco says to take a moment to unwind, reflect and think back to the major successes you had and all that you learned, achieved and did. And while you’re at – remind your employees how thankful you are for them, too. This is a month of celebration! “Being an entrepreneur is one of the greatest gifts. You get to create our lives and income – so don’t forget that when the going gets tough, it’s 110 percent worth it,” she says.