The start of a new year is a great time to take stock of your marketing and business development activities over the past year, including your successes and failures, and set realistic goals for the year ahead.

Each of us has room for improvement and growth, and while you have some down time, thoughtfully examine this list and also make a list of personal and professional goals you’d like to accomplish in the new year.

Don’t be over encompassing and ambitious with your list of goals or you can set yourself up for failure and unnecessary stress. Instead, jot down no more than five specific, measurable and actionable goals and hold yourself accountable to actually achieving them with a timeline to which you commit sticking.

Why only five goals?

Well, a recent Forbes article noted, “Doing less accomplishes more. When your goals are so spread out into different areas of your life, you simply do not have enough time or energy to reach them all. You halfheartedly accomplish a few, but the momentum doesn’t pick up because you’re not making real progress.”

Make a detailed action plan outlining the tasks needed to accomplish each goal – this will help break each of them into actionable steps for those who may feel paralyzed on how to successfully complete a big objective.

This shouldn’t be a long document, but rather an outline with specific steps needed to accomplish your goal – you should check off each item on the list as you complete it – there is something so rewarding about that action.

Also, notice where you feel overwhelmed or are procrastinating.

A very smart boss once said to me, “Do the worst first” and he was right – by not avoiding the things you don’t want to do, you’ll be more productive and less anxious.

Procrastination causes stress and that can cause wrinkles. So just do it! You’ll feel so much better when you can cross that pesky task or project off your to-do list. Remind yourself of the incredible feeling of accomplishment on the other side of all that worrying!

When choosing goals, push yourself out of your comfort zone at least for some of them. Maybe you’ve never written an article, chaired a committee or spoken on a panel in your industry – there’s no time like the present to do it! We often learn and grow the most from those situations where we feel uncomfortable and that push us to new limits. And once you accomplish the first of these goals, you’ll feel empowered to take on a new challenge.

So, for example, let’s say that you want to be a published author. You can start off by creating an outline that includes the topics you plan to write about, the publications or blogs that may publish it (and the people you know there or know through connections on LinkedIn), look at other articles on the topic for ideas and inspiration (including what if anything your competitors have written on the topic), and prepare a reverse timeline for completing each article with dates to which you really do hold yourself accountable.

Partner up with a colleague and co-write the article if you are feeling like it is too much of a daunting endeavor to do on your own – if you can ask an up-and-coming colleague, or a client or referral source, to do it with you.

If you have a friend, colleague or someone in your professional network who has accomplished the goals you have set for yourself, ask them for advice on how they did it. Learning from others is a great way to gain valuable perspective and build stronger relationships. You can of course reach out to me too!

Try blocking off time in your calendar for completing your goals and take that time seriously as if it was a client meeting or a deadline that you couldn’t miss. It’s so easy to get caught up in our daily lives, but if you don’t make the time for business development and marketing, you won’t be successful at it.

Don’t think of these as new year’s resolutions (which are often abandoned) – but instead think of them as goals or intentions.

You can really do anything if you set your mind to it and carve out the time to do it. We’re all busy individuals, but you can maximize your day and utilize little pockets of time by using your commute to write the article, for example.

Remember the acronym SMART – your goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

Marketing is the best investment we can make in ourselves. To be successful at personal branding and business development, you simply must make the time for it – I promise it’s worth the effort!