It is hard to believe that there is only a little under two months left of this year. Where did the time go? The holiday season is quickly approaching, bringing the new year in its wake and conjuring up images of all the things that were meant to be accomplished over the past 10 months, but never seemed to be completed. Oh, the guilt of having neglected the reorganization of your storage room!
On the other hand, it also brings about images of all the successful tasks that did get done during the year, as well as ideas regarding opportunities and tasks that can be scheduled for the new year. Glorious visions of that newly-organized storage room, the freshness of a new daily organizer, the hope that your email box will eventually clean itself. Visions that won’t become a reality unless a plan is put in place!
To help you achieve your goals next year, we’ve compiled 5 steps to effective 2014 business planning. It’s never too early to plan for success.
Step 1: Retrospective of 2013
Emerson once stated that, “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” He was right. Wishing on stars and hoping that things magically turn out the way you want them to be does not work. Looking back to 2013, if there are things that did not go the way you wanted them to, then looking at the reason this happened will provide a strong foundation for your 2014 planning. In particular, answer the following questions:
- What was your particular focus for 2013? Did you achieve it or how close did you get to achieving it?
- If you did not achieve your goal, what prevented you from doing so? What could have been done to remove those obstacles?
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- What reporting did you use to track your progress? Did you track your progress?
- What resources were pinpointed as being potentially beneficial for the future?
- What resources are no longer helpful and should be discarded?
- Who provided you feedback or insight that was especially helpful?
- What key events took place that changed your focus or aided in your staying on track? Can they be repeated?
- What new things did you learn about you, your clients, your business, the industry?
- What mistakes did you make? What did you learn from these mistakes?
Step 2: Plan for 2014
Using the answers to the questions in Step 1, think about what you want to focus on during 2014, as well as what you want to achieve. Write it down. Having a random goal in your head versus having it in ink on paper can mean the difference sometimes between abandoning the end goal and achieving it. A tangible reminder can work to keep you motivated and moving toward the result: “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”
Thinking about this end result, what is needed to achieve it? Consider:
- Time needed to achieve goal. When can you anticipate success?
- Resources required.
- Milestones that can identify transitions between key actions that lead to the desired result.
- The feasibility of the goal. Is it something can be attained this year, or does it require more time? If more time is warranted, what needs to be done in the coming year to ensure that you are on track for 2015?
Step 3: Determine Time Frames
The milestones that you determined in the last step are only true milestones when paired with a determined time frame in which they should occur. This will prevent you from leaving everything to the last moment, leaving you far from your goal and feeling like a failure. Do you have a still unorganized room in your house? An unfinished project you thought you’d complete sometime this summer? Setting a specific start and end date will help ensure you stay on track and provide a sense of accomplishment, however small, to help keep you motivated.
As well, time frames are especially helpful if there are a series of milestones that need to get done in order to accomplish the bigger goal. If you are a visual person, try using a Gantt Chart. This is a great way to schedule events that need to flow from each other, as well well as concurrently. There are a number of free programs online that can help you create your personal chart for 2014.
Using a simple calendar, either in a day-planner or on your mobile device, will also help keep you on track. Setting reminders of tasks that need to be started or completed that day will ensure you work a little at a time at reaching the end goal. As much as technology is convenient, sometimes writing out a to-do list and checking off those little boxes can be very satisfying! Find a solution that works for you, and you will be more likely to use it on a consistent basis.
Step 4: Create Tracking Mechanisms
“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” – Churchill
You have already created a few tracking mechanisms in the form of milestones and time frames. These are ways to track personal activity progress. Are you meeting the milestones? Do you need to adjust the milestone time frames in order to accomplish everything? Taking a regular look at the milestones will help keep you on top of what has been accomplished and what still needs to get done.
Reviewing statistics is also a good way to ‘look at the results.’ Point2 has a number of reports that you can utilize as part of your reviews regarding prospects, your website, and your listings. These analytics provide real-world quantitative analysis on how your online marketing strategies are working on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Considering that 80% of the people looking for real estate start online for their property search, hopefully working on your online marketing strategies was a part of your goals for 2014. If not, now would be a good time to return to Step 1 and consider how your online presence would fit into your bigger goal for the new year.
Step 5: Identify Rewards
If you’ve ever tried to negotiate with a child, you may have used the proverbial ‘dangling carrot’ to attempt to get them to do what you wanted them to do. A particular action or behaviour was rewarded, and the child left feeling successful. Pavlov was onto something with his conditional behaviour modification, as it works even better for humans than it does with dogs! We will repeat behaviors that give us the desired outcome and/or reward, provided that we deem that reward worthy of the action. A child may not put on her pajamas for an extra bedtime story, but a trip to the park tomorrow is much more enticing!
After completing the previous four steps, you are on your way to solidifying a strong plan for 2014. Having things on paper is great, but do you feel impassioned to carry all of those steps out? Hopefully! For the majority of us, though, the reality is that we’ll be excited, energetic, and stick to the plan for maybe two months before things start to slide. he satisfaction of ‘sticking to the plan’ is not enough to keep us interested. Identifying rewards can help.
What is it that you really enjoy (besides real estate)? Movies? Golf? Travel? Shopping? Fancy restaurants? Spa treatments? What is something that you don’t normally do for yourself unless it’s for a special occasion? These activities provide the great foundation for your reward system.
Take a look again at your time frames that you have determined for 2014. What are the key events that will really affect your business? Now, write down a reward beside each one. When you hit that milestone, you obtain that reward!
A strong plan for 2014 will not be accomplished after one pass through these steps, and definitely not in one sitting. Give yourself some time to further think through what your plan for 2014 is, how you think it can be accomplished, and what results you expect to see at the end of milestones and at the end of the year. Revise as necessary. Rework sections as needed. Take the next month and a bit to solidify a plan that inspires, motivates, and makes sense to you. Get advice or feedback where warranted. Ultimately, do what feels right and leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and a smile on your face at the end of the day.
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweitzer
What activities are you doing now or planning for 2014 to yield success?