Plans for the New Year

Welcome to our second year of these free, archived articles on our web site. I thought that it might be an appropriate time to suggest some areas of focus for the New Year, since the Holidays give most of us some mandatory time off from our practice, and it’s a good time to reflect on our future.

Here’s my list of resolutions that you should at least consider:

  1. Improve your message responsiveness. Use advanced technology, better discipline on your part, or an assistant to return every call, fax, and e-mail within four hours of receipt. (If you’re better than that now, then reduce it further.)
  2. Drop three aspects of the job that you dislike. That’s right, stop doing them. Find a way to avoid, delegate, or circumvent them. This will do wonders for your stress levels. If you don’t like cold calling, pursue a different marketing strategy; if you don’t like a course you’ve taught a thousand times, get someone else to run it.
  3. Increase your publishing, no matter what level you’re currently at and no matter what field you’re in, from medical practices to computer networks. Anyone who isn’t published or interviewed at least once a quarter just isn’t trying (and is missing a golden market differentiator).
  4. Select and read six books in this profession. You might want to start with The One Right Way, which is the biography of Frederick Winslow Taylor, the first true management consultant. Buy the six now, and plan to read one every month or two, which is hardly burdensome.
  5. Find someone you respect in the field and plan to learn three things from him or her over the course of the year. Develop a strategy to communicate with them if you haven’t met, and plan precisely what it is you’d like to learn.
  6. Plan at least three pro bono assignments. Aside from the visibility of working with key people on worthwhile projects, you should be “giving back” to the community and/or profession as a responsible professional.
  7. Improve your financial security. Determine how to optimize your SEP IRA, IRA, 401K, and/or other benefit contributions. Acquire the minimum insurance required to successfully perform, compete, and ensure your future (life, disability, errors & omissions, liability).
  8. Systematize your mandatory paper work. Your proposals, invoices, contracts, publicity releases, biographical sketch, and other periodic documents should be consistent. For example, are your invoices on a computer template so that you only have to fill in names, amounts, and engagement specifics each time?
  9. Make at least one major office improvement. Does your computer need greater capacity or a new operating system? Is your fax machine plain paper with memory? Do you have a scanner and color printer? Is your copier highest quality and fast enough? Does your telephone incorporate speed dial?
  10. Plan at least four weeks—one every quarter—to be totally with your family and/or personal interests. In this business you need to recharge the batteries regularly. Plan these as you would an assignment, and don’t let any business interfere with it. I’ve seldom seen business that couldn’t be rescheduled when you tell the client that you have a conflict.

Does it seem like too much? Then pick 8, or 4, or even 2. But start moving. Too many people who read this will end up 1998 exactly as they have 1997 and, no matter how successful you may be, life is about movement and growth.