The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to take a fresh look at your business and find ways to give it a boost. Perhaps you could benefit from better planning, marketing or time management, or, on a more personal level, improved sleep habits or a mind-centering meditation routine. A project-tracking and collaboration app or a cloud-based budgeting program might also help your productivity.
Here are a few other ideas to consider for reinvigorating yourself and your business this year.
1. Remember Why
Even if you love your work, you may find your energy and enthusiasm wavering at times. "Understanding how to hit the reboot button to reconnect with our passion is key," says business coach Jennifer Martin, founder of Zest Business Consulting in California.
"Start with remembering your 'why.' Why are you working? What's in it for you? Your Family? Your Team? Your clients? The greater good? Write down your list of 'whys' and keep them where you can see them as a constant reminder why you do what you do, then if you get side-tracked you can stay connected to the bigger picture and the real reason you are working," she says.
Reconnect with your customers, team and vendors, "and celebrate them," says Martin.
"We tend to get so caught up with the mechanics of business that it's easy to forget the most important part: the people. Without your customers most businesses would just be a very expensive hobby, and without your team, most businesses wouldn't survive. If you need a little pick me up, get back to basics and reach out to your people and let them know you appreciate them," she says.
2. Delegate, Outsource
Busy entrepreneurs should consider finding other people to help with time-consuming tasks or with work outside their expertise, whether it's bookkeeping, social media, web design or copywriting.
"One tip I suggest to help re-motivate entrepreneurs is to get the right people on their team. Hire contractors, freelancers and employees to do the difficult things or the items that are less appealing," says Texas small business staffing and onboarding coach Jen Teague.
"Take a realistic view of what you can do and what you can delegate. Most people think that they need to do everything when in fact most of what they spend their time on isn't actually affecting their cash flow or customer experience. Make sure that you are doing the most valuable work, not the work that can be handled by someone earning a lot less," says Martin.
3. Seek Guidance
Along the same lines, a good mentor can prove invaluable, offering sound ideas and planning guidance.
"Find a coach or accountability 'buddy' to help you stay on track and make keeping your work commitments a priority," Martin suggests.
Mentors can share their years of experience to offer practical ideas and inspiration for your business. The SCORE Association, a group of volunteer retired executives that works in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), provides free advice and support to small business owners. You can find a mentor, attend workshops or use the organization's resource library.
If you live near a university with a business school, ask if it offers student-run business-plan services for entrepreneurs. Check with the SBA to find a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in your area. Often hosted by top universities, the SBDCs provide advisers and other services to help entrepreneurs. The SBA also offers programs aimed at women and veterans starting or running small businesses.
You might also find mentors or entrepreneur colleagues at local workspaces, networking events or meetups.
Hiring a business consultant may be well worth the investment.
"Entrepreneurs are often wary of engaging a consultant due to the expense and perceived lack of direct involvement. Both are legitimate concerns; but 'concerns' are all they should be in selecting the right consultant, not permanent obstructions to ever engaging someone," author and serial entrepreneur Jeff Stoller says.
"If the circumstances are such that a consultant can help you achieve something faster and with maybe even with less total cost and a better result, then the fee paid will ultimately be to your advantage," Stoller says.
4. Collaborate for Marketing
Two companies that want to reach the same audience with different products and services could benefit from a joint marketing campaign, Stoller notes.
"One deal I did pared an upscale nightclub with an upscale car dealership," he says. They wanted a similar audience and did a joint promotion, gaining access to each other's audiences. Stoller compares the concept to a sports stadium, where a variety of advertisers and sponsors pitch different goods and services to a similar audience.
"Now, take that approach out of the stadium or concert setting and downsize it for your business, where you work with one or maybe two other companies with similar audiences ... or similar images to save money, reach a broader audience and use each other's strengths to augment your own," Stoller says.
5. Take Care of Yourself
It may go without saying but it's worth repeating anyway. Your mental and physical health are vital to your business and your life, so take care of your body and your mind.
"Set a timer for talking a walk and going outside during your workdays. Yes, things can get pretty hectic but if you aren't firing with all your pistons then it might actually take you longer to get things on your list done, and you'll get pretty drained in the process," says Martin.
"Take a 10- to 15-minute break every one to two hours. Get away from what you are doing, eliminate technology, and recharge. Go outside for a brisk walk, find a place to stretch, close your office door and turn on some relaxing music, do a crossword puzzle, or write in a gratitude journal. Reconnect to something greater than yourself to ground yourself and give yourself time to recharge," she says.
In terms of productivity, Teague recommends breaking work down into bite-sized increments.
"I believe in the power of 15s," says Teague. "This is breaking tasks into 15 minute increments so that people are more productive. You would be surprised how much can get done in 15 minutes or less."
Taking care of your workspace can be good for your mental health as well.
"Declutter your space and let go of anything that no longer serves you. Getting rid of the old can be a great way to lighten your load and uplift your life," says Martin.
6. Do for Others
Entrepreneur John Rampton, founder and CEO of Due, a free digital wallet platform, has found that helping others in their businesses has been good for his.
"Helping others has been one of the best ways that I've really pushed my business. I find the more I help other people, the more they help back my business in return," he says. "Though its not expected, I find when you help someone, they are 50 times more inclined to help you back. Plus it gives you a bit of variety as you're helping, working on different projects."
The new year is "the perfect time to pay it forward," says Martin. "If you want to make a difference in your own life, try making someone else's life a little sweeter. Send money to a charity you believe in ... add money to a meter that is ready to expire, give away ten $5 bills to complete strangers or clean up your neighborhood. Doing something good for others can have a positive effect on us too."
7. Think About It
Think about whether these ideas have a place in your business. If not, or if you're already doing them, consider what area of your business, if any, needs strengthening, and plan your strategy for making that happen. Here's to a productive and happy year!