“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.” – W. L. Bateman
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.
Last year I wrote a post on the 17 Things Every Entrepreneurs Needs To Do To Prepare For 2014 and this year, I’ve refined that checklist to be even better.
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/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 2015?
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 coming new year as an opportunity to really consider and take note of the following:
1. Your 2014 Goals
Where did you land on your goals for 2014? Did you achieve some? all? Do you even remember your goals? Before you get into setting your new goals for 2015 take some time to look at the status of your goals for 2014.
2. 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 2014. 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.
3. 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 miserable at some goals and now is the time to admit to yourself the areas where you’ve dropped the ball in 2014. More importantly is understanding 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 2014, it’s time to move on. Take the lessons from everything and let’s dive into 2015 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 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.
4. Enable 2-Factor Authentication
In 2014, a lot of businesses were hacked and there were a lot of vulnerabilities discovered. The fact is, your passwords aren’t secure and that’s precisely why you MUST get into the habit of changing 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. Furthermore, since they have access you all your email, 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 explainer video for those that don’t know what 2 factor authentication is:
Unfortunately, you can’t use two-factor authentication everywhere on the web just yet. However, many services have begun implemented it. Here are some of the more popular services that support two-factor authentication along with a link to where to go to set it up:
- Google/Gmail: You can enable it here, or check out Google’s documentation for more info.
- LastPass: You can read up on how to enable it here.
- 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, or check out Evernote’s blog for more info.
- PayPal: You can read more about it and enable it here.
- Microsoft Accounts: You can enable it here, or check out Microsoft’s documentation for more info.
- 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: Shopify just launched 2 factor authentication to keep your store secure. Learn more here.
*List Courtesy of LifeHacker
5. 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:
- 1Password (closed-source, commercial)
- LastPass (closed-source, free/commercial)
- Dashlane (closed-source, free/commercial)
- KeePass (open source, free)
- RoboForm (closed-source, commercia)
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 be a dramatic increase in productivity.
6. 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:
Image Credit: CafeCredit
7. Organize Files On Your Computer
If you’re like most people, your computer is a mess. Files everywhere, folders not labeled and a disaster for a desktop. This year, spend a few hour organizing all your files. Categorize them and delete old files that are pointless. You likely will never look at your college essays 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 a well organized files will help increase your productivity and you will feel damn good in the end.
8. Backup Files
After organizing your files it’s time to back them up. Because you 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:
9. Take And Organize Notes
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 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!
10. Organize Your Email
While you are organize everything else, don’t forget your email, 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 (Free). Unroll.me will scan your entire email 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 surpised 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.
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 (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.
Finally, you need to deal with all your unread emails. 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 and start fresh. If they were important emails in there, the sender will email you back.
11. 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. You should also go through your news feed and permanently hide content of people that don’t post anything that adds to your life. Again, it’s clutter.
12. Clean Up Your 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.
If you don’t want to pay for an app, just go through the list of the people you follow one by one and remove the people no longer relevant to you. Twitters value comes from getting a constant stream of interesting, relevant and important information to you. If your stream is just filled with ads, promotions and brands it defeats its purpose.
13. 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.
14. Review Your Expenses
Being an entrepreneur and working on your dreams means being smart with your money. You’d be surprised at how much you’re likely overpaying for services. The new year is a great time to review 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 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).
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. On that credit card this year, I earned $2,100 in travel dollars as well.
To better understand your finances, check out Mint.com (Free).
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 I because much more productive. As a replacement and to have some entertainment, I got Netflix for $7/per month. 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.
15. Set Your Yearly Goals
Now, here comes the cliché “Set your yearly goals” speech. So how should you set your goals? First, be realistic. A year actually goes by pretty quick so don’t create goals that aren’t achievable in that time period. Second, choose a variety of goals. I personally like to set a goals for each of the major areas of my life, like:
- Personal Development
- Professional Network
Once you set your goals, write them down somewhere *ahem Evernote* so you can reference them later.
16. Select Your Q1 Goals And 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 to actionable steps and never actually get started.
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 2015.
17. Choose A New Skill To Learn
You may have already included learning a new skill set into your 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, I like to learn one new applicable skill each year.
I would highly suggest you find and join a Skillshare class or 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.
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’s free online courses. Below is a pretty comprehensive list of resources and links to education courses on all types of topics compiled by the reddit community 3 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).
18. Give Something Back
Finally, as part of the planning section is making 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 is a technique and the second is a mindset.
19. 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.
20. No More ZERO Days
I discovered this last year on Reddit and I now know dozens of people that I have shared this with 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 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 personal 2015 New Year’s preparation stack. Feel free to pick and choose what you feel is most important to you. If you have something on your list that I should include in my ritual, please leave it in the comments.