As a mission-driven small business owner, one of the biggest investments you can make is in yourself and your business marketing strategy to make this year more profitable than before.
Once holidays hit, for many conscious entrepreneurs, it’s a time to be grateful and reflect on the past year, providing a space to create the new year through business planning.
While this sounds good in theory, more often than not, many small business owners and conscious entrepreneurs I’ve worked with don’t have or make the time to plan. They are too busy reacting, or randomly marketing by “shooting arrows everywhere” with a scattered approach.
The other half who do make a “plan” either limit it to simply setting annual goals and call that a plan, or they don’t regularly or consistently track progress on their plan. Many don’t even look at the plan until the following year!
The question is: How can you create a plan you will actually use? Here’s how you can create a simple framework to plan out this year.
First, create a picture in your mind’s eye of exactly what life and business you want to create. Close your eyes, and visualize the questions. Then jot down answers or a representative picture of what you saw in your journal afterward. You could also find a guided meditation or collage a vision board to gain clarity on what you really want to create that’s outside the box. Otherwise, you risk creating from the same place you were last year.
From there, create SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) goals that reflect the picture you felt, saw or heard in your one-year visualization.
Once you have your goals, you’re ready.
Three Simple Steps To Plan This Year
1. Map out your year in boxes.
On a piece of paper, make a box, and divide it into four rows and three columns, creating an annual monthly calendar divided by quarter.
2. Block out your time off first.
This includes your vacations, trips and other time off. Schedule that time off into the month you’ll be gone. I recommend taking a minimum of one week off per quarter to recharge.
Side note: Unlike America, many other countries enjoy thirty days off or more each year for holidays and statutory minimum paid leave (which means you have to take time off).
Rest helps you synthesize ideas, create new ones and get perspective, whether or not what you're doing is working. Ignoring rest is like trying to have constant spring and summer with no fall or winter. All of life goes through cycles. You are no different, even if you try to be superhuman in your business.
3. Schedule in the rest of your commitments.
In order of high to low priority, block out the following in your calendar:
• Existing commitments you have already made, both personal and professional, such as speaking engagements, business conferences, networking events, children's school events, graduations, weddings and so on
• Planned marketing campaigns or offerings for your business, such as holiday cards, client appreciation gifts, marketing webinars, learning programs you plan to offer and so on. This schedule needs to become your rhythm for the year. It will establish a baseline for retaining your customers and attracting a steady flow of new leads.
• New quarterly promotions you'll focus on per quarter to drive new revenue growth. These are your sprints amid the marathon that is business.
Set Yourself Up For Success
After your first draft, make sure to inspect the plan to see if there are any unrealistic timelines. Be sure to add buffer times for the unexpected. Make sure that all your personal life important events, such as birthdays, kids' soccer games and anniversary celebrations are included as well to gauge your bandwidth or capacity to actually fulfill on this.
Once you let your brain analyze feasibility, listen and feel with your heart and intuition if you’re inspired or excited by the plan. If not, go back to the drawing board. Take out what drains you energetically, and add in what would light you up and fuel your energy.
This is not a one-hour activity. Carve out a half day to a whole day to do this, aside from distractions and disruptions, preferably off-site from where you normally work. It takes your brain at least thirty minutes to settle into deeper thinking.
Get feedback from trusted peers, colleagues and coaches who have done this kind of planning and can point out any red flags, missed opportunities or unclear milestones. It’s critical to get outside perspectives that go beyond your individual, siloed thinking.
If you have a team, also run the plan, milestones and goals by your team, and get their perspective of what needs to be added, deleted or edited. Their perspectives are invaluable.
Knowing how to plan your year won't make any difference unless you implement your plan.
You know this may be critical for your business success, so if you suspect you won't make time for it, you can find or organize a group of at least three to four like-minded conscious business owners around your same revenue level to get feedback from. You can also attend a workshop or hire a business coach.
By taking a few hours to map this out, you'll save yourself a ton of time and gain clarity, focus and more energy flowing into your new year.
Invest in yourself and your business. You’re worth it.
This article was originally published on Forbes.com.