If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.
A new year brings new challenges, opportunity, and potential for entrepreneurs. Many people will coast into the new year and generally things won’t change much for them. If you really want to do some damage in 2014, you’ll have to do something different, and that should begin with a new year’s ritual.
If you don’t already have a ritual in place, I promise you my new year’s ritual will be immensely valuable to you. I have tried to include some actionable links/tools as well to help with each outlined task. If you already have a ritual, check below to see if there’s anything else you can add to your stack.
Most people coast through life, others rush though life. Very few people take time to pause and reflect on the day, week, month or year. Take the new year as an opportunity to really consider the following:
1. Things You Did Well: One of the first things you should do is reflect on the progress you’ve made and the things you did well in 2013. What were your big wins? Did you have any goals you achieved? Make sure you take time to recognize your accomplishments and reward yourself for them.
2. Things You Didn’t Do Well: Are you done patting yourself on the back yet? Because I bet you also messed up a lot this year as well. We’ve all made some mistakes and didn’t accomplish as much planned. It’s time to admit to yourself the areas where you’ve dropped the ball in 2013, and more importantly to understand the reasons why. Admitting and recognizing faults is the only way to help yourself in the future.
There’s something really powerful about being meticulously well organized. Back in my school days, I remember the first day of school my binders looked like a work of art, with a clear and labeled section for every course and project. Every year it was the same story though, within a few months it was a disaster.
Well this is real life now and being unorganized can cost you more than your GPA, it can cost you your dreams. It’s time to get organized… really, really organized.
3. Check your credit score: I assume you understand the importance of your credit score (If you don’t, Google it). About 9 years ago I finally decided to check my credit report for the first time. It was an eye opener and from that day on, improving my credit score became a game to beat.
Image Credit: CafeCredit
4. Change Passwords: Businesses get hacked all the time. Adobe was just hacked a few weeks ago and a few weeks previous to that, Buffer was hacked. Maybe your ex-girlfriend still has your email password etc. As a extra precaution, every year I start over and change my passwords and PINS for everything. It’s like ripping off a band-aid, you gotta do it all at once and it will be less painful. Pro-tip: Invest in Dashlane (Free/Paid) for added security and convenience.
5. Organize Files on Computer: Last year it took me 3 days, almost 10 hours each day to organize my computer but I felt like I was ready to take on the world when I was done. The advantages of a well organized files will help increase your productivity and you will feel damn good in the end.
6. Backup Files: While you’re organizing your files, back them up. Because you haven’t… in a very long time. Right? Dropbox continues to get my vote. For almost 2 years now I work exclusively out of Dropbox (Freemium). I could literally lose my entire laptop and pick up exactly where I left off 30 minutes after buying a new laptop.
7. Organize Evernote/Use Evernote: You’re using Evernote (Free) right? If you are, it’s time to also go though all your notes for the year and organize them. My Evernote is filled with business ideas, scribbles for future blog posts, contacts etc. Since I usually am writing the note quickly on the go, they are almost never organized and tagged.
If you are not using Evernote, you’re letting a lot of ideas and thoughts slip away. When I look back at my hundreds of notes from this past year, I can’t imagine where all these ideas and notes would be without Evernote… most likely they all would have just evaporated and been forgotten. Get, use and organize Evernote!
8. Organize Your Email: While you are organize everything else, don’t forget your email. The biggest problem with email comes from not being organized and clutter from junk mail. Throughout the year, many people end up getting swamped with emails and constantly have hundreds of unread emails. The first thing to do is use the web app Unroll.me (Free). Unroll.me will scan your entire email and identify EVERY SINGLE newsletter, you signed up to at one point or another and present them to you neatly with a 1-click unsubscribe button for each of them. You’ll be surprised at how many useless newsletters you’ve signed up to.
Here was a screenshot of just the newsletters that started with “A” that I have subscribed to:
*Note the first one on your list might be A Better Lemonade Stand. Don’t unsubscribe from that one. That’s bad karma.
Next, you need to get your inbox organized. I have 6 email addresses for various projects that all get funnelled through my Gmail Account. This started getting confusing until I started adding labels and filters to manage and organize all the email. You may want to also consider Streak (Free) if you use Gmail, especially if you have an ecommerce business up and running and manage customer communications with your Gmail. Streak is free and turns your Gmail into a CRM and it provides a huge added benefit of tracking opens on your emails so you now when people open your emails. Slick.
Finally, you need to deal with all your unread emails. You need to dedicate some time to going through each on and dealing with it appropriately to reach the elusive Inbox Zero. If you’re ballsy, take the nuclear route and delete ALL unread emails to start from fresh. If there were important emails in there, they will email you back… maybe… hopefully.
9. Clean Up Your Facebook Account: If you’re like most people that use Facebook regularly, take some time to organize your Facebook for the new year. This means un-friending people you had no business friending in the first place. If you have people on your list that almost never use Facebook, but don’t want to un-friend them, add them to your restricted list. There’s no reason for them to have access to your whole life. You should also go through your news feed and permanently hide content of people that don’t post anything that adds to your life.
Refer to this article for more on who you should probably get rid of.
10. Clean up Twitter Account: It feels good to do a deep clean of your Twitter account. You can use a program like Just Unfollow (Paid) to unfollow anyone that no longer tweets, tweets too much or doesn’t tweet anything you find interesting.
On the flip side, seek out new, interesting people to follow. Start by following yours truly, @RichardABLS and then take a look at this blog post by Shopify: List of 50 Must Follow Twitter Accounts for Ecommerce Entrepreneurs.
11. Delete Unused Social Media Accounts: Maybe social media is just getting in your way and distracting you from actually starting your business. Or maybe, like me you have signed up to dozens of social networks to try them, only to use them once and never again. Use the web app JustDelete.Me (Free) to get direct links and instructions on how to delete your profile on pretty much every social network out there. It’s good to clean up your brand online every once in a while.
12. Review Your Expenses: Being an entrepreneur and working on your dreams means living lean. You’d be surprised at how much you’re likely overpaying for services. Consider reviewing your bills. What can you cut and where?
Negotiate Your Cell Phone Bill: Call you cell company and negotiate your rate (if you tell them you are leaving them they will send you to retention’s department that has more power to offer you better deals). With 2 phone calls over 4 months I was able to lower my bill by almost 50%. Ramit Sethi from IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com launched an app that gives you the exact scripting to call various service providers and negotiate a better deal. Check out his post announcing it here: Announcing Negotiate It: Ramit’s iPhone App (Free).
Bank Smarter: Review your banks plans for your accounts, as well as their credit cards. For example, the best (unlimited) account with my bank was $20 per month, but free with their highest end credit card. Their highest end credit card was $200/per year, but free if you had their best (unlimited) bank account and carried at least $5,000 balance. That means all my banking was free and my annual credit card fees were scrapped. On that credit card this year, I earned $1,700 in travel dollars which I used to take my fiancé away to Caribbean.
While we are talking about banking and finances, if you haven’t already join Mint.com (Free).
Cancel Cable: As a replacement, get Netflix for $7/per month. 10x less than cable and you’ll likely watch TV less, which means you’ll have more time to work on/grow your ecommerce business.
13. Set Your Yearly Goals: Sean Ogle wrote a great post over at Location 180 on How to Set Useful New Years Resolutions which I completely agree with, so I’m not going to go into detail here. Check out his post. Also, check out the video below that might help you answer the question if you should share your goals with others:
14. Set Your Q1 Goals: Once you have your yearly goals established, you should be deciding which ones come first or which steps come first in Q1 to achieving your larger goals.
15. Choose a New Skill To Learn: You may have already included learning a new skill set into you yearly or Q1 goals but it is worth separating and giving it a point of it’s own. Being a entrepreneur and being lean both go hand in hand with having a wide range of skills. If you’re going to be successful these days, you need to know marketing, finance, graphic design, photography amongst a hundred other skills. At the very least, you should be learning one new very applicable skill each year. I would highly suggest you find and join a Skillshare class.
Also check out the Creative Live calendar. Creative Live brings in experts in different disciplines and does live video training that take place usually over 1-3 days. It’s always free if you watch it live but if you miss it you have to pay for the course.
If you don’t know your way around Adobe Photoshop, I would personally suggest you begin there. I was lucky that I started using Photoshop at a young age. I literally use Photoshop every day of my life and I’m not a graphic designer.
If you’re going to make this a bigger year than the last, you’re going to have to change or learn some new productivity habits. There are lots of tactics out there to help you be better and get more done. Many of my friends swear by the Pomodoro Technique but I have found two -very simple- things that work extremely well for me that I want to share. The first is a technique and the second is a mindset.
16. Persistent Starting: The theory is called persistent starting. Pick something you want to do but keep putting off. It can be doing anything, brainstorming product ideas, searching for a product, finding a manufacture, sending an email.
Set a Timer: Tell yourself you’ll spend five minutes doing it and then quit after five minutes if you still don’t want to do it. After five minutes if you still want to quit then quit. No tricks or mind games.
You will also find that most of the time, your brain takes over and goes into autopilot. You will keep going and end up getting more done then you ever expected. Do this every night. The worst that can come out of it is that you lose 5 minutes of your evening. This is a pretty safe bet.
17. No More ZERO Days: I only discovered this a few months ago while browsing Reddit. This isn’t a technique as much as it is a mindset you need to have. Below I have pasted the original posters comment, word for word:
Rule numero uno – There are no more zero days. What’s a zero day? A zero day is when you don’t do a single fucking thing towards whatever dream or goal or want or whatever that you got going on. No more zeros. I’m not saying you gotta bust an essay out everyday, that’s not the point. The point I’m trying to make is that you have to make yourself, promise yourself, that the new SYSTEM you live in is a NON-ZERO system. Didnt’ do anything all fucking day and it’s 11:58 PM? Write one sentence. One pushup. Read one page of that chapter. One. Because one is non zero. You feel me? When you’re in the super vortex of being bummed your pattern of behaviour is keeping the vortex goin, that’s what you’re used to. Turning into productivity ultimate master of the universe doesn’t happen from the vortex. It happens from a massive string of CONSISTENT NON ZEROS. That’s rule number one. Do not forget.
There you have it. My annual New Year’s ritual. If you follow these 17 points and put in the work, you will set yourself up to have productive and successful new year.