Key learning outcomes:

  • Understand the importance of making and implementing your plans early in the New Year.
  • Develop clear and defined goals and an accompanying roadmap to help you to achieve the goals.
  • Adopt the SWOT analysis tool to pinpoint opportunities and threats, and recognise the value of regularly upgrading your skills.
  • Establish the importance of time management and a positive attitude.

Article:

How successful will 2015 be for you? The more work you put in from the very start of the year, the higher your chances of success. Many people underestimate the importance of a fast start. It is essential to your success that you don’t cruise through the beginning of the year in holiday mode thinking you have plenty of time to make plans and get started. Before you know it will be the 1st of February and one-twelfth of the year will already be gone.

To maximise your chances of success, work on your strategies as early as possible in the New Year. Our top 10 tips can be used as a checklist. If you are reading this article a little later in the year and think you have missed the boat, don’t worry, these tips will still help you to succeed, regardless of when you start to implement them.

Create goals

Without doubt, having clear and defined goals can make the difference between success and failure. Research shows that people who work with written goals will be more successful than those who don’t. A famous study of Harvard MBA students over a 10-year period showed the following: on graduation, 84% of students had no specific goals; 13% had goals that were not written down; and the remaining 3% had written goals and a plan to achieve them. Ten years later the same students were interviewed again. The 13% who had goals were earning on average twice as much as those with no goals; however the 3% who had written goals were earning on average 10 times more than the other 97% put together.

It is essential you have a clear picture of what you want to achieve in the next 12 months. This is where having clear and defined goals will help. It may help to ask yourself: “What does success look like on 31 December 2015?” Paint a picture, let your mind run free and do not place limits on yourself. It is important to write the goals down. We suggest you start broadly and then narrow your list down to between three and five key goals. A lesser number of clearly defined goals will help you to remain more focused throughout the year than a long list of vague wishes will.

You will find our article “Smart Goals” helpful in ensuring your goals are clear and defined.

Draw a roadmap

Now that you know where you want to be by the end of the year, it is important to draw yourself a roadmap to get there. Take your three to five most important goals and think about each of them. You should now list everything you need to do in order to achieve each goal. Once you have your list, go through each item to identify what action you can take within the first 30 days.

By focusing on 30 days at a time, you will find it is easier to maintain the momentum throughout the year. You will be most effective if you focus on just a few things each month and complete them before moving on. Look through your list for three actions that will make the greatest difference. Look for any “quick wins”. These are the things that will have a high impact on your success and are relatively easy to implement.

Working through our article “Action Plans” will help you to build your roadmap to success.

Build value

One of the keys to success is to focus on building value rather than on monitoring results. If you work on building value into all aspects of your life throughout the year, when you reflect at the year-end, you will have seen high levels of achievement and success. Our article “Creating Balance in Your Life” will help you determine the areas that you need to concentrate on throughout the year.

Look also for opportunities to build value within your business. What can you do that will enhance the experience for your employees, customers and any other stakeholders? The more value you can add, the greater your returns will be. You will find that if you engage your team to a higher level, their performance and that of the business will lift significantly. If you can add value to the customer experience, you will find repeat and referral business also increase.

Know what you know

Self-awareness is essential to success. One of the tools we find most useful is the “Individual SWOT” analysis. This tool allows you to identify your strengths and weaknesses and subsequently identify areas of opportunity and any potential threats. An individual SWOT analysis is something that you should do on a yearly basis as things can change dramatically even during a short period.

We find that it is useful to complete the analysis and then review it again a day or so later. This will allow you to reflect and add new material to the SWOT. Ideally, if you have someone that you trust to share the analysis with, you might find that person suggests additional information that you might not have thought of. The key with the SWOT is to identify where your greatest opportunities are. These will often come from building on an existing strength or working to neutralise a weakness. You may find that by working on a weakness, it becomes a strength in the future.

Upgrade your skills

You will find that the most successful people are always looking for ways to improve and upgrade their skills. They tend to have a thirst for knowledge and are always open to new ways to improve what they are doing. You may have found areas of weakness in your SWOT analysis that can be neutralised or improved through training.

Always be open to learning new things and keep alert for opportunities to learn from others that are successful in their field. We find that the most successful people have a natural curiosity; they are always asking questions and seeking to learn how others do what they do.

Time management

Without doubt, in this day and age, the ability to manage time impacts significantly on a person’s ability to succeed. With technology and globalisation, time seems to move faster than ever, and if you are not managing your time, you are likely to be left behind.

There are a number of tips and tools in the “Time Management” section of our website to help you improve. We suggest you start by completing our quiz in the article “Introduction to Time Management” as this will give you a base line to work from. The faster you can brush up your skills in this area, the faster you will improve your performance.

Empower those around you

If you are leading a team, your overall success is often determined by the performance of those around you. You need to work hard to ensure you are using your knowledge, skills and experience to aid those around you to perform at their best. Now is a good time to take stock of your team. Think about each individual’s strengths and weaknesses and work to build on their strengths. Too often people perform poorly because they are in the wrong role or are allocated the wrong tasks, not because they are the wrong person.

As a leader, enhancing your skills will have one of the greatest impacts on your business’s performance. Take some time early in the year to assess your abilities as a leader. Our “Leadership Quiz” will give you a starting point to identify those areas that you might need to work on.

Attitude

It has been proven that a positive attitude will help to yield more positive results. Not only is a positive attitude good for you, it will boost those around you as well. Think about this example. You walk into your local coffee shop in the morning, the staff member is warm, friendly and appears to remember you. They greet you with a smile, their conversation is bright and they see you off with a “thank you and have a great day”. The positive attitude makes us feel good and this type of experience make us want to go back for more. On the other hand, imagine you go in for your morning coffee and everyone is a little grumpy. The staff member seems hassled; there is no friendly banter and certainly no cheer other than “$3.20 thanks”. While you wait for the takeaway, there is almost panic behind the counter with the staff talking to each other rather than to the customers. It’s likely you will leave this shop feeling a bit on edge – not a great start to the day and more than likely you will look for somewhere else to try tomorrow.

Remember that your attitude, positive or negative, is highly infectious. So for a fast start to 2015, commit to having a positive attitude every single day.

Flexibility

Your ability to remain flexible throughout the year will also help you to be successful. Too often people’s plans are derailed because something does not quite go their way, or circumstances meant that they had to alter their plans. Remember that everyone’s circumstances change, and rarely does a year go by when everything goes to plan. Therefore, we must keep a check on how well we react to these events.

When it comes to changes in circumstances, whether you succeed or fail boils down to two things. Firstly, the speed of recovery – how quickly can you react and adapt to a change in your situation or a setback? And secondly, flexibility – how open and willing are you to change direction if the need arises? Your ability to identify the need for change and to be able to act on it will have a significant impact on your year-end result. Our article “5 Whys” is a helpful tool for getting to the root cause of a problem quickly, allowing you to find a solution.

Accountability

Accountability is where most people fall down. They start out with all good intentions, but as the year gets going, and as they get busier, day-to-day activities and life in general start to take precedence. Learning to keep yourself accountable, or getting someone else to keep you accountable, will greatly enhance your chances of success.

It has been shown that just sharing your goals with someone will vastly increase the likelihood of achieving them. Further, the more formally you share your goals, the greater their impact on your level of success. Ideally, share your plans and goals for 2015 with someone you trust and who will also benefit from the process. We suggest you set up a monthly catch-up when you can report to each other on what went well during the month, whether you are on track or off track for success and what you need to commit to for the following month. The person could be a colleague, friend or someone who is in the same industry, but who is not a direct competitor. If you cannot find a suitable person, we suggest you look for an external coach. This might be someone who comes into your business or it can be done remotely as we do for a number of our coaching clients on a monthly basis. The important thing is to have someone who helps to keep you on track throughout the year.

Summary

The key to a speedy start to 2015 is to clear the starting gates as quickly as you can. Think about any type of race or competition – often the difference between winning and losing comes down to how quickly you start. That is why, for example, you will see Olympic runners training their start over and over again. Use the above tips, along with the rest of our knowledge base to ensure you have your best year yet.

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