Admit it—you got a little lazy this year and didn’t quite do all that you intended. You made some progress, but not enough to be completely satisfied with yourself.
First thing you need to know is that wherever you ended up this year is OK. You can’t change it at this point, so you should make peace with it and get ready to move on to 2013 (or whatever year it happens to be when you’re reading this).
Holiday celebrations have begun, business has slowed down, people are taking vacation time from the office. This the best time to get your shit together and make 2013 your best creative year yet.
Whether you work a day job or are self-employed, you owe it to yourself to take a few days off and use some of that time to really set your creative self up for success in the coming year.
I do this for myself every single year, and each year things get better and better for me, both personally and with my business.
Here’s my annual process :
1. Wrap Up This Year
Before you jump into a new year, you should finish off the old year by wrapping up loose ends and doing some personal reviews and evaluations.
Doing this helps me seamlessly transition into the new year and hit the ground running when I’m back to work on January 2.
Take time to do some brainstorming and journal on the following:
- Your Accomplishments—always make a list of what you accomplished this year. Do this first, before anything else. That will help you stay positive and focused on the things you actually did get done. Usually it’s a lot more than you realize.
- Your End Point Dream—everyone has an “end point dream,” where they’d like to get to at some point in their creative lives. For many that’s making a living from their creative gifts, for others it’s seeing their book in print, etc. Consider where you are right now and where your end point is, and how much distance is in between. No judgment when you do this exercise. You’re simply observing the location of you versus your dreams.
- Goals Measured—now take a look back on the goals you had for this year. Which ones did you reach? Which no longer matter to you? Which are getting tacked onto your 2013 goals?
- Where Could You Have Done Better?—although it can be difficult, it’s important to take a look at where you failed this year and how you could’ve done better. Once again, no judgment. You’re simply reflecting on your year and how it went.
- What Do You Want To Change/Improve?—now think about where you’d like to improve for next year. Maybe you managed to write consistently one day a week, but your goal was five days, so for 2013, you’d want to work on becoming consistent more frequently.
Once you’ve reviewed and reflected on the year gone by, you can move onto the next step in the planning phase for a badass 2013.
2. Plan Your Next Action Steps
Time for the big-deal stuff now: planning out 2013.
You’ve probably never thought about planning your year before, other than coming up with a few goals. But when you make a plan, you’ll have a guide to take into the New Year with you.
You may not always follow it perfectly, but you’ll at least have it to keep you accountable and on track.
All successful companies and businesses do annual planning. That’s a big part of what makes them consistently successful.
If 2013 is the year you finally make shit happen with your creative business, then you need to have a plan just like a successful company would.
Take yourself and your creative business more seriously this year. You deserve to use your creative gifts to do something you love and earn money from it.
What you want to do is come up with goals for 2013. This can include anything new you want to accomplish, as well as stuff from 2012 that’s still important to you.
Keep in mind your goals will be different than the specific action steps you eventually create.
For example, one of my goals for 2013 is to get a consistent teaching gig at Writers and Books. One of my specific action steps for doing that is to do a kickass job at my first workshop, which is on February 2.
Of course there’s this problem called a Success Identity.
You can do all the planning in the world and have great intentions, but if your Success ID is set wrong, you’ll never make it.
Your Success ID is like a thermostat set inside you that tells you where on the writing spectrum you are. Most creative people set their Success IDs subconsciously, but you can choose to consciously set yours with the following exercise:
What’s Your Writing Dream?—this exercise allows you to work through what your dream is along with the doubts and fears you have about that dream.
Once you have a list of goals you want to achieve, then you can break them down into action steps and figure out what you’re going to take on first.
For example, when I did my goals for 2013, I decided that I want to create an online cooking show. Now cooking is something I love and something I spend a lot of time on, but I’m no chef. I’m still learning.
Creating a cooking show would be a huge challenge for me, not just with the cooking, but with being in front of the camera, which I’m not great at. This goal completely pushes me out of my comfort zone and I like it.
But my first action step isn’t to start producing the cooking show. It’s to improve on my cooking skills and start learning how to develop my own recipes. Once I feel comfortable with that, then I can move on to planning the actual cooking show.
Reaching your goals is a process. Maybe I won’t have my cooking show in 2013, maybe I will. The point is to always be working toward what you want, and always be stretching just a little bit toward those really big goals.
Because the cooking show goal is so important to me, I’ve begun writing down the recipes I’ve created already, and I’m taking cooking classes here and there to expand my knowledge and skills (my husband and I are taking a sushi class in February!).
See how that works?
Creating action steps and actually taking action are the only way to achieve what you want.
There is one more part to my annual process. It’s kinda huge and it will take some work, but if you do it, you’ll set yourself up for even more success (and who doesn’t want that?).
3. Build Some Structure Into Your Creative Business
This was something I had to take a really good look at and begin to work on with my business. I’ve been running my business for almost 5 years now, but I’m only in my first year of self-employment.
And one thing I’ve always had trouble with is consistency. One month I’m on track and doing things exactly as I want to. Another month I’m a total mess and nothing is working for me.
Not a good thing.
What’s helped me immensely is taking this final step and really putting some structure into my business and the processes required to run it successfully.
For example, creating content used to be something I did about once a week for my blog or when the mood struck me. But when you’re in the writing business, your content creation needs to be a lot more deliberate than that.
So I’ve implemented a “batch” schedule into my work week. What that means is I batch all my similar tasks together, so I can accomplish more in less time.
I’ve dubbed Tuesdays and Wednesdays for “Content Creation,” so those are the days I work on things like blog posts, eBooks, my email newsletters, etc. Thursdays are for Marketing activities, Fridays are for Financial tasks and Mondays are strictly for Client work.
Having a batch work week has allowed me to make the best use of my time, and to be able to create content ahead of time and put real marketing behind it, instead of just flying by the seat of my pants all the time (see, planning doesn’t just work with fiction).
The main thing is to develop processes and systems that allow you to become consistent at your creative business activities. Test things out and tweak as you go.
Here are some processes/systems to consider for your creative business:
- Calendars—every business should have a marketing calendar and an editorial calendar for content at the very minimum. You need to know what you have coming up, when it is and what you’ll be doing to market and promote it.If you’re a writer, for example, and you have an eBook coming out in April, marketing and editorial calendars work great for keeping track of this stuff and building out a promotion schedule leading up to the book launch.
- Money Management—yes, it sucks to have to deal with money stuff when you’re a creative person. You just want to focus on the creative stuff, right? Well, you can if you hire someone to take care of the financials for you (like a bookkeeper or accountant), but if you don’t have help, you’ve gotta do it yourself. As a creative business owner, you should be keeping track of what you’re making, what you’re spending, your tax payments, etc. Money is something a lot of creative people aren’t comfortable with, but if you want to make a good living from your creative gifts, at some point you have to become comfortable dealing with money.
- Business Task Tracking—when will you create content? When will you work on your creative art? When’s marketing time? When will you do the money stuff? You need to have time set aside specifically for each main task of your business. For most creative business owners, you’ll need marketing time, content creation time, creative work time and financial tasks time. Only you can decide what else you need. For example, since I run two blogs, I need time for managing guest posts that people submit.
I recommend that you take a “Creative Business” work day between now and December 31, to really get serious about your goals and your creative business.
Enjoy your holidays, but continue to ramp up for the New Year so you can make shit happen, and not end next year the same way you did this year.
If you do all the stuff I’ve talked about in this post, I guarantee you’ll have your best creative year yet.
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How do you get yourself prepared for the New Year?