Want the heads up when new stories drop? Subscribe Here
Welcome to the new year everyone! No matter how challenging 2016 may have been (and I know it was a rough one for many of us), the beauty of the rollover into a new year is that with it comes a fresh sense of promise and possibility.
As such, I’m sure many of you reading this have, like so many others, decided to partake in the time-honored tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions. That traditional practice by which you create for yourself a list of goals to achieve or good habits to establish in the next 365 days.
At some point during the holiday festivities, parties, and countless gatherings with friends and family, you’ve probably found a moment to stop and ponder what you want this new trip around the sun to look like.
Especially as an entrepreneur, you likely have many lofty goals on that list of yours. Probably a couple about being more productive, maybe even one or two about how you’re going to expand or improve your business. Some of you might even have a resolution that this is going to be the year you take the plunge and start your own business.
But before you head back to that office and start working, let’s make sure you have the right goals in the first place. Because if you really want to make a difference this year, your New Year’s resolutions should be all about how you can start crushing your goals today rather than what you want the end of your year to look like. A great New Year’s resolution should be about equipping you with the habits and mindset you need to succeed for life, and not just for the next 365 days.
Setting Great Resolutions
The biggest trouble with New Year’s resolutions is the fact that most of them fail before January even ends. One study even claims that only a measly 8% of all resolutions will be fulfilled or considered successful.
You know what it’s like. You start off the year feeling great, the first week is a success and so is the second week. But by the third week, you’re starting to slip and before you know it you’ve given up entirely. And you find yourself hatefully staring at that list taped your fridge and wondering if there’s something wrong with you.
Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s been scientifically proven that the human brain is just terrible at making plans and following through with them. Often it has to do with the fact that we’re not setting the right goals in the first place.
So before you even set out to make your list of resolutions, commit to setting clear and achievable goals for yourself. Take a step back and be honest with yourself about what you can realistically achieve. It’s all well and good to shoot for the moon, but not if it means halfway through your journey you start hating yourself for not getting as far as you thought you would.
We wrote at length about how to set effective goals in last year’s New Year’s post, which you can check out here.
With that in mind, here are four New Year’s resolutions that every entrepreneur needs to make for a successful 2017!
Resolution 1: I Will Ask More Questions
When I was a kid I always found myself in awe of adults, because they always just seemed to know everything. I remember pestering my parents and teachers all the time with questions upon questions because they always seemed to have the right answers all the time.
As I grew older, I began to stop asking questions. Somewhere along the way, I started believing that asking questions was somehow a sign of failure. That asking questions would make me inconvenience my friends and family and make me appear weak or needy. It just felt like I always needed to have the right answer too.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
As an entrepreneur, you’re often taught that you need to be self-reliant, to be decisive, and at some point you might have convinced yourself that to be an effective leader you need to be one with all the answers. All that pressure can often stop us from doing something that all children instinctively understand—if you don’t know something, just ask.
Whether it’s asking for advice, asking for feedback, or just plain asking for help, learning to ask questions is one of the most valuable skills any entrepreneur can master.
Learning to become comfortable asking questions means that you now have a tool to drastically improve your knowledge, resources, and even your network. Look, contrary to what your ego might tell you, it’s practically impossible to do everything by yourself. If you want to survive as an entrepreneur, you need to know who you can turn to when you need it.
Not asking questions doesn’t make you look smart. In fact, it just makes you look arrogant. If you’ve ever been on a road trip with someone who refuses to ask for directions, you know exactly what I mean.
On my family road trips, our favorite games to play are “heated argument” and “the GPS is lying.”
Great entrepreneurs and leaders instinctively know that it’s not their job to have all the answers, but instead to have the right questions and be unafraid to ask them. This year, make it your mission to learn how to start asking questions again. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to explain something more clearly, or to ask for help and advice when you need it.
At the end of this year’s meetings, or business interactions, or even casual conversations, ask yourself briefly before wrapping up, what did I not fully grasp that I should have asked about but didn’t? What information am I missing that I’ll wish I had later?
While great entrepreneurs and leaders might not have all the answers, they do, however, always know the right questions. It’s a skill to master over time.
Resolution 2: I Will Work On My Business, Not Just In It
It doesn’t matter if you’ve just started a business, are looking to start one, or are a tried-and-true veteran. In order to truly make entrepreneurial strides this year, you need to learn how to work on your business.
If, like many early stage entrepreneurs, you’re the only person working on your business, you can start falling into the trap of thinking that everything relies on you. And to a certain degree, that’s true, especially when you’re just starting out. But in order to build a truly successful business, you’re going to need to learn how to create a company that can exist without you entirely.
After all, the reason most of us become entrepreneurs in the first place is because we want to escape the grind and find the freedom in working for ourselves. So why would you trade one grind for another, only this time you have an infinitely harsher and less forgiving boss?
If you really want to dramatically scale up your business, you need to avoid the trap of thinking you have to do it alone. The most common mistake entrepreneurs make when trying to take their businesses to the next level is thinking that they simply have to work harder, or work longer hours.
You have natural limitations on your time and energy. If your business relies entirely on the amount of work you can put in then it will inevitably hit a wall that you will not be able to get past, regardless of how hard you work.
It might be true that no one knows your business better than you, or even that no one is as efficient as you. But the time you spend doing jobs that other people could be doing is time not spent running and improving your business.
Seriously spend some time creating a Business Model Canvas of what you want your business to look like at the end of the year. Force yourself to look at your business objectively and figure out what you needs to happen in order for you to achieve this goal.
Once you’ve filled it out, take a step back and highlight the key things that only you can do. Be realistic with yourself. If something can be automated then you should automate it. If you need to hire a virtual assistant, then do so. If there’s any tech or resources out there you can use, seriously consider it.
Let go of the reins a little this year and thank me later when Christmas rolls around.
Resolution 3: I Will Make Networking a Top Priority
Networking is by far one of the most valuable tools you can have in your arsenal. Knowing the right person can open up huge opportunities to grow your entrepreneurial career, get in touch with influencers, and find the mentors you need. It has been proven time and time again that who you surround and associate yourself with drastically influences your likelihood of success in any given field.
Entrepreneurial guru Tim Ferriss says the catalyst of his current success was his networking efforts one fateful weekend at the SXSW conference in 2007.
Everyone seems to know how important networking is, but a shockingly low number of entrepreneurs choose to get out there and actually do it. Or, at the very least, many of us are going about it in the wrong way.
Now I’m not asking you to suddenly turn into a power networker this year, or to immediately plug yourself into multiple mastermind groups. Nope, all I’m asking you to do is to make it a New Year’s resolution that you’ll take networking much more seriously.
One of the biggest reasons you should start investing time into developing your network now is so you don’t have to do it later when you really need the support. A mistake that many young entrepreneurs make is that they only start building their network just before they need something.
In that scenario, unless you happen to be gifted with the type of charm that could make George Clooney blush, chances are people are going to notice that you’re only talking to them because you want something. Which is never a good first impression to make.
If you’re familiar with people giving you the ‘Simon Cowell’ then you’re doing networking wrong.
Generally speaking, people don’t like feeling used. By taking the time to network now, starting in January, you develop relationships when you have nothing to pitch or sell. Then you’re far more likely to develop the key relationships and support systems you need for when you actually do encounter a problem.
The best thing you can do right now is to get out there and meet people in whatever way suits you best.
If you happen to be more introverted, then just jump on any social network and start joining online entrepreneurship communities. If you want a bit more of that Foundr flavor, then check out Foundr Club, our own private entrepreneurship community, when you get a chance.
Regardless of your own personal approach to social situations, there are many ways you can step up your networking game this year.
Resolution 4: I Will Make More Time For Myself
Last, and certainly not least, this will be the year you’re going to start making more time for yourself.
When your business starts and stops with you, it can feel like you’re under a constant amount of pressure to always be working. As an entrepreneur, you probably have the kind of mentality where taking a break from work actually feels uncomfortable, because there’s always something that needs to be done.
Chances are, you’re quite familiar with the routine of pulling over 60 hours a week, and have seen your fair share of all-nighters.
Most people will experience serious burnout at least once in their lives. Those with an entrepreneurial attitude are likely to experience it more than once. If you’re reading this article, I’m sure you’re familiar with that sickening feeling of exhaustion and stress.
Once you’ve hit burnout, your body just stops, and once you stop, your whole business shudders to a halt. Then that feeling of being overwhelmed turns into thoughts of self-doubt, harsh criticism, and it can even manifest itself into panic attacks.
What I would challenge you to do this year is to make sure you don’t experience burnout. Not even a little. In order for that to happen, you need to learn how to be okay with making time for yourself.
And no, personal time does not mean any time you’re not at work. Personal time isn’t just sitting on the couch and browsing Netflix so you can pass the time, or feeling stressed because of commitments with friends and family.
When I say make time for yourself, I mean find at least a couple hours a week to do something you truly enjoy. Something where there’s no pressure, no stress, but something that you truly have a passion for and invigorates you. Basically I want you to place the same amount of importance on your hobbies as you do with your business.
What you choose to do might be very different than someone else. I, for one, strongly recommend that you pick up a creative hobby if possible. That can be anything from learning about photography to picking up a musical instrument.
After all, it’s been scientifically proven that those who engage in creative hobbies outside of work are not only happier, but perform 15-30% better at work when compared to those who don’t have one.
Now this might feel uncomfortable at first, and some of you might even feel a little guilty. But think of it this way—if the success of your business relies on whether or not you can work, then investing time to make sure your physical and mental well-being is taken care of is, in fact, making an investment into your business!
As you embark on these resolutions, I would offer you one parting piece of advice. Don’t be too hard on yourselves! I think one of the big problems with New Year’s resolutions is that they begin with blaring optimism, and crumble into despair at the first sign of failure.
I encourage you to find that middle ground in which you’re not putting the weight of the world on your shoulders, but you’re also not convinced all is lost. If you slip up, make it a learning experience and try again. Resolutions, self-improvement, success, these things happen through practice, persistence, and patience. Keep your head up!
I know you’re going to crush it this year, Foundr family, and that 2017 holds tremendous success for us. But what resolutions did we forget? What are you determined to do this year? Join the discussion below.