Another year is coming to a close. With each new year comes new challenges, opportunity, and potential for entrepreneurs. Many people will talk about resolutions, some will actually and meaningfully establish them and only a small fraction will achieve them.
For me personally, this is a really big year with huge potential. There’s not much room for error so I need to be at the top of my game. In order to do that, I must prepare.
If you don’t already have a ritual in place, I promise you my new year’s preparation stack will be immensely valuable to you. I have tried to include as many actionable links and 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.
Are you ready for a ridiculously successful year?
If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got. – W. L. Bateman
Most people coast through life, others rush through life. Very few people take time to pause and reflect on the day, week, month or year. Take the coming new year as an opportunity to really consider and take note of the following:
Reflect on Last Year’s Goals
Where did you land on your goals for last year? Did you achieve some of them? All of them? Do you even remember your goals? Before you get into setting your new goals for this year, take some time to look at the status of your goals for the previous year.
Reflect on the 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 throughout the year. What were your big wins? Did you have any unexpected victories? Many times we make ourselves so busy that we barely celebrate our accomplishments. Make sure you take time to recognize your accomplishments and reward yourself for them.
Reflect on the 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. You likely made some mistakes or failed miserably at some goals and now is the time to admit to yourself the areas where you’ve dropped the ball. More importantly, understand why you messed up: Admitting and recognizing faults is the only way to help yourself in the future.
After you’ve taken some time to reflect on your goals, your achievements and your failures for the past year, it’s time to move on. Take the lessons from everything and let’s dive into this year’s preparations.
First thing’s first, there’s some housework to get done. If you run an online business your income and livelihood could be severely compromised by a hacker or a rogue ex-colleague with your password. Even if you don’t run an online business having your account compromised is no fun and huge headaches. It’s time to protect your assets. For more online business security tips, check out our How to Bulletproof Your Online Business article.
Enable 2-Factor Authentication
So many businesses get hacked and even more discover vulnerabilities throughout the year. The fact is, your passwords aren’t secure and that’s precisely why you MUST get into the habit of changing and strengthening them.
But before you go and change your passwords, there’s one absolutely critical thing you must do first. You MUST turn on 2-factor authentication for your email if it’s available (like Gmail). If you’re like many people, you likely use an account like Gmail and have other email addresses filtered through it. This means that for any online service you use, your recovery emails (if you forget your password) go to your Gmail account. That means, if someone gets into your email, they can change every other password you have. Furthermore, since they have access you all of your emails, they can easily find out exactly what services you are signed up to. Think about that for a second: It’s scary.
Here’s a short explanation video for those who don’t know what 2-factor authentication is:
Unfortunately, you can’t use 2-factor authentication everywhere on the web just yet. However, many services have begun to implement it. Here are some of the more popular services that support 2-factor authentication along with links to go to set it up:
- Google/Gmail: You can enable it here, or check out Google’s documentation for more info.
- Apple: You can enable it here, or check out Apple’s documentation for more info.
- Facebook: You can enable it here, or check out Facebook’s blog for more info.
- Twitter: You can enable it here, or check out Twitter’s blog for more info.
- Dropbox: You can enable it here, or check out Dropbox’s documentation for more info.
- Evernote: You can enable it here.
- PayPal: You can read more about it and enable it here.
- Microsoft Accounts: You can enable it here.
- LinkedIn: You can enable it here, or check out LinkedIn’s blog for more info.
- WordPress: You can enable it and read more about it here.
- Shopify: You can enable it here.
Change Your Passwords
Now that you’ve enabled 2-factor authentication on your most important online assets, it’s time to change your passwords. Most people don’t change their passwords often enough but at the very least, it should be done once per year.
When choosing a new password, consider that many services require a combination of letters and numbers and special characters.
Alternatively, you could also invest in a password management app for added security and convenience. Some of the most popular password managers are:
For more information on creating a strong password, check out this blog post.
Now that your secure, it’s time to get organized. There’s something really powerful about being meticulously well organized. The benefits can include a dramatic increase in productivity.
Check Your Credit Score
Your credit score is important. Really important. I talk to people all the time that have no idea what’s on their credit report or any indication of their credit score, however, your credit score can affect your approval and rates on a car, a house, a credit card, and loans.
Checking your credit report is free once per year if you have it mailed to you and around $20 if you want to access it immediately online. It’s an extremely small amount of money for the level of enlightenment it will provide.
To get your credit report, follow the links below:
Organize Files On Your Computer
If you’re like most people, your computer is a mess. Files everywhere, folders not labeled properly and just generally a disaster of a desktop. This year, spend a few hours organizing all your files. Categorize them and delete old files that are pointless. For example, you likely will never look at your college essays ever again so get rid of them. On the same note, look at what programs you have installed and delete the ones that are no longer relevant to you. It’s all just wasted space and clutter.
The advantages of having well-organized files will help increase your productivity and you will feel damn good in the end.
After organizing your files it’s time to back them up. Because you likely haven’t
in a very long time ever. Right? Dropbox is a good option for backing up your files in the cloud and syncing them across all devices.
Some other popular cloud storage alternatives include:
Take And Organize Notes
You’re already using Evernote, right? It’s one of the top apps in any entrepreneur’s business toolbox. If you are, it’s time to also go through 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 properly.
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!
Organize Your Email
While you’re organize everything else, don’t forget your email inbox, which is probably the messiest place of all. The biggest problem with email comes from not organizing them with proper labels and filters. 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. Unroll.me will scan your entire email inbox and identify every newsletter you are subscribed to. It will then 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.
Next, you need to get your inbox organized. I have 6 email addresses for various projects that all get funneled 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 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 know when people open your emails.
Finally, you need to deal with all your unread emails. Dedicate some time to going through each one and dealing with it appropriately to reach the elusive “Inbox Zero.” If you’re ballsy, take the nuclear route and delete ALL unread emails and start fresh. If they were important emails in there, the sender will email you back.
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. You should also go through your newsfeed and permanently unfollow people that don’t post anything that adds to your life. Again, it’s clutter.
Clean Up Your Twitter Account
It feels good to do a deep clean of your Twitter account. Just go through the list of the people you follow one by one and remove the people that are no longer relevant to you. Twitter’s value comes from getting a constant stream of interesting, relevant and important information to you so if your stream is just filled with ads, promotions, and brands you don’t care for it defeats its purpose.
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 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 presence online every once in a while.
Review Your Expenses
Being an entrepreneur and working on your dreams means being smart with your money. You’d be surprised by how much you’re likely overpaying for services. The new year is a great time to review your bills. What can you cut and from where?
First, negotiate your cell phone bill. Call your cell company and negotiate your rate (if you tell them you are leaving them they will send you to retentions 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).
Secondly, bank smarter. Review your bank’s plan 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. On that credit card this year, I earned $2,100 in travel dollars as well.
Thirdly, cancel cable. A few years ago, I thought I could never go without cable but I quickly found out how wrong I was. At the same time as cutting cable, I became much more productive. As a replacement, and to have some entertainment, I got Netflix which is close to 10x less than cable.
You should be feeling pretty good by now if you’ve been following all the previous points. Finally, it’s time to start planning.
Set Your Yearly Goals
So, how should you set your goals? First, be realistic. A year actually goes by pretty quickly so don’t create goals that aren’t achievable in that time period. Secondly, choose a variety of goals. I personally like to set a goal for each of the major areas of my life, like:
- Personal Development
- Professional Network
Once you set your goals, write them down somewhere (ahem, like in Evernote) so you can reference them later.
Select Your Q1 Goals & Action Items
One of the most important steps to achieving the goals you set is by actually taking action. It may sound silly, but I’d bet that 99% of goals aren’t achieved because people fail to break their goals down into actionable steps and never actually get started on them.
Start by breaking each goal out into a set of actions, focusing primarily on the actions that need to be started immediately in the first quarter of the year.
Choose a New Skill to Learn
You may have already included learning a new skill set into your yearly or Q1 goals but it’s worth separating it and giving it a point of its own. Being an 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, and photography amongst a hundred other skills. At the very least, I like to learn one new applicable skill each year.
You don’t need to limit yourself to skills either, maybe you just have a side interest in astronomy or classical music. Whatever it is, there are free online courses. Below is a pretty comprehensive list of resources and links to education courses on all types of topics compiled by a Reddit community a few years ago. (I saved this to my Evernote but I no longer have the name of the person that originally compiled it. If you know who it was please let me know so I can give them credit).
Give Something Back
Finally, as part of the planning section, our final point is to make plans to give something back. The older I get, the more I realize how fortunate I am and the more I realize the need to give back. If every person and every company chose a problem in society to tackle, I think our world would be a much greater place.
Consider what you can do to give back and support something you believe in bigger than yourself.
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 tactics that work extremely well for me that I want to share. The first tactic is a technique and the second is a mindset.
The first tactic is a theory is called Persistent Starting. To start, pick something you want to do but keep putting off. It can be anything, including brainstorming product ideas, searching for a product, finding a manufacturer, sending an email, etc.
Then, set a timer. Tell yourself you’ll spend five minutes doing the task and then you can 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 than 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.
No More ZERO Days
I discovered this last year on Reddit and I now know dozens of people that I have shared this with who swear by it. This isn’t a technique as much as it is a mindset you need to have. Below I have pasted the original poster’s 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 personal New Year’s preparation stack. Feel free to pick and choose what you feel is most important to you and apply it to your life and business so you can have your biggest, best and most successful year yet! Good luck.