Whether it's eating less, exercising more, spending more time with family - or just putting more money into our RRSPs! - we all tend to make personal resolutions around this time of the year. But whether or not you set yourself some new personal goals, January is also a great time to start thinking seriously about your business plan for the year, regardless of when your fiscal year ends!

Of course, it's always a great idea to plan ahead. But don't make the mistake of setting new goals for your career without first reflecting on your accomplishments - and your shortcomings - from the past year.

This isn't always an easy (or pleasant) task. But to truly control the direction you take this year, you need to be fully aware of how you fared in the last twelve months. Then, once you have a clear picture of where you excelled, where you need to focus more time or effort, and your results, you can begin to set the goals and behaviors you'll need to succeed in the new year.

The following are a few questions I use in my coaching sessions, which can help guide you through this important process. Remember: be as tangible, specific and honest as possible in your answers:

1. Where did I write down last year's goals, so I can review them and see how I did?
Where will I write down this year's goals, so they can be easily reviewed in at the end of the year?

2. What am I most proud of accomplishing last year, or since my last goal planning session?

3. What goals did I not accomplish this past year, despite my best intentions? Why didn't I accomplish these things? What have I been putting off that I could take care of in the next two weeks?

4. What did I do last year to improve my industry, product, sales skill and personal development knowledge? What are the most important things I learned as a result?

5. How many new connections did I make last year? How many referrals did I pass on to my clients, partners, friends or others?

6. What challenges, problems or frustrations could prevent my success this year?

7. What opportunities are available to me this year, which are the same as opportunities I had last year?

  • Did I take advantage of these opportunities last year? Why or why not?
  • What will I do to guarantee I take full advantage of these opportunities this year?
  • What tools, resources and focus will I require to take advantage of these opportunities?

8. What opportunities are available to me this year that are different from last year?

  • What will I do to guarantee I take full advantage of these opportunities?
  • What tools, resources and focus will I require to take advantage of these opportunities this year?

In total, this exercise should take you about one or two hours to complete. To achieve the maximum results, I would recommend that you find a quiet place away from the office and your house - say a coffee shop or a pub (providing one of your New Year's resolutions wasn't to cut back on alcohol or caffeine!) - and really give it the time, effort and attention it deserves. After all, your answers will form the basis for your entire business strategy for the next twelve months.

Don't rush the exercise, but force yourself to complete it all in one sitting. Your instincts will tell you more than you can predict, and your answers will be more accurate and insightful if you think diligently about them the first time, rather than going back and revising them later.

Watch for the next issue of Engaging Ideas, where we'll discuss what questions to ask yourself when planning to make this year great, as well as what actions you can take immediately to ensure you achieve your goals. In the meantime, thanks for reading - and Happy New Year from Engage!

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Nonstop Sales Boom by Colleen Francis Make sure you check out Colleen's latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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