EVERY YEAR, it’s the same. We begin January with a list of vows and sparkling dreams for self-improvement. But even the very best intentions are usually not enough to drive sustained human change. Otherwise, all of us would be fit, rich and happy, wouldn’t we? So this year, why don’t we start INVISION’s list of New Year’s resolutions by resolving to be smarter about the process of making resolutions?
I will be smarter about choosing and implementing resolutions. According to Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, authors of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, the key to successful resolutions is picking one habit at a time to work on. No more. Keep at that habit until it becomes automatic. Only then should you move to the next habit.
Remember that the best resolutions are those with “bright lines” — resolutions in which there is no doubt when you are crossing over the line. A resolution like “I will ask every new customer I see for an email address” has very bright lines. But bright lines aren’t always possible. For instance, if your goal is to be more social, saying you will “meet more people” is vague and unspecific. It might be better to create what Baumeister and Tierney call an “implementation resolution” — a statement in “if-then” format, such as “If I’m standing in line at a supermarket or store, I will always talk to the person behind me or in front of me.”
Also never forget that little actions, repeated without fail over time, become immense. Nineteenth-century English novelist Anthony Trollope wrote only 2-1/2 hours per day, but he never missed a day. The result? One of the world’s most famously prolific literary careers. And forget artificial deadlines. The best time to launch any life change is always right now. Think of the words of Karen Lamb, who said: “A year from now, you may wish that you had started today.”
Got that? Think small. State your intent as clearly as you can. Make the action automatic. And start right away.
Here are 15 more possible behaviors, habits and rituals to consider launching this January, or any other time.
I will plan in advance three weeklong vacations for the coming year for my family. And be sure one of those weeks is for just you and your spouse or partner. Yes, getting away can be a great opportunity to leave the daily grind and really have a chance to brainstorm about your business. That’s called a retreat. But put work aside for your vacation. Quality time off makes every aspect of your life — including your business — better.
I will assume that every person needs more than one pair of prescription eyewear. This attitude is key to selling those second, third and fourth pairs. First step: practice saying, with a genuine look of concern, “You only have one pair of glasses? That you use for all the different situations in your life?”
I will not settle for being ordinary, and will seek a “Purple Cow” that makes my business different from my competitors. Says Seth Godin, author of Purple Cow, “Sure, some people will say you are crazy. If the only way to cut through the clutter is to be remarkable, and the only way to avoid criticism is to be boring and safe, well, that’s not much of a choice, is it?” So think big. Offer super-late hours, on-site testing and home delivery, or even spa-like levels of customer pampering.
I will let customers see more of my “human face.” Especially for an OD, and particularly in a time of ever-increasing chain and online competition, your biggest strength and the one thing that no other competitor has is ... you. So give your customers something to connect with. Don’t be shy to share with your clients that you make a world-class lasagna. And don’t be afraid to upload your juggling video on YouTube and link it to your practice website. Celebrate and share the details that set you apart.
I will give back to my community. Do something, anything, for your town. Sponsor a Little League team, donate to the community theater, get involved with local Lions Club’s vision projects, or roll up your sleeves and help clean a stretch of highway.
I will hold regular sales meetings focusing on sales technique and product knowledge. Think you’re too busy? Then give your employees the opportunity to lead. Assign different staff members to run each meeting — whether you hold them weekly, monthly or even bi-monthly.
I will remember my staff’s birthdays, anniversaries and other important days in their lives. Karen Leland and Keith Bailey, authors of Customer Service For Dummies, say, “By all means, have your privacy, and respect theirs, but don’t be so distant that you’re out of touch with major events such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and so on.” One thoughtful idea from Bob Nelson, author of 1,001 Ways to Reward Employees, is to buy a gift for an employee’s child on their birthday.
I will send each member of my team to at least one seminar or industry event this year. Too many bosses leave new employees to sink or swim, say Leland and Bailey. Invest in making them the best they can be. Believe us, the results will be double-barreled: more skilled employees, and more loyal ones.
I will address performance issues — both positive and negative — with my employees the day they occur. It’s hard to act immediately, in the heat of the moment. But don’t let problems fester. Neither should you wait too long to give praise — the more specific, the better. (Here’s a useful exercise for building the praise-giving habit: Put five pennies in your left pocket at the beginning of the day, and each time you compliment somebody, move one coin to your right pocket. By the end of the day, the coins should all be in the right pocket.)
I will hire outside experts to do the things I don’t have the time, knowledge or skill to do. There are a host of sales trainers, marketing advisers, computer systems engineers and store/dispensary design specialists. Sure, their fees might make you gasp on first sight. But the performance improvements and increased efficiencies that result from bringing the knowledge of a skilled consultant into your business can pay the bill off quickly and provide your business with lasting improvements. Increase your chances of picking the right consultant by checking testimonials and asking for references.
I will improve my time management by setting firm time limits for the jobs I don’t feel like doing. Remember Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. So set a firm time limit for dull and/or dirty jobs. “Clean out stock room” could take a whole day if you let it. But you avoid the task, because who wants to spend a whole day of his life doing something so dull? Instead, set a clear limit of one or two hours (and make the work more fun by listening to some music you love).
I will make my bathrooms look better, and cleaner. This may seem a small detail, but it’s exactly the kind of thing a client remembers. So invest a little money in your bathroom — wallpaper it, buy a few plants, put a few prints on the wall. And build regular restroom checks into your schedule.
I will measure the things I want to change. Proven by millions of dieters: Weighing yourself regularly is good. Weighing yourself and recording progress is even better. The same basic concept applies to almost any goal. Want to increase the number of patients coming in for annual appointments? Start tabulating. How many recall phone calls are you making? How many of your emails are being opened? Have you tested different messages to see which ones work best?
I will not let the urgent overwhelm the important. Before you go to bed every night, plan what key project you will work on the next day before anything else. Too many people wake up, check their email, encounter their first crisis before breakfast and bounce from emergency to emergency for the rest of the day. By picking one project to which you can devote your best, freshest period of work, you’ll ensure forward momentum on projects most essential to growing your business.
I will scrub my head of all stupid sports clichés, especially those from Vince Lombardi. “Winners never quit!” Really? If this were true, then every successful person would still be in the first job they ever took and married to the first girl (or boy) they ever dated. Winners do quit. They just quit the right things at the right time. Or, as Seth Godin puts it, “Quit the wrong stuff. Stick with the right stuff. Have the guts to do one or the other.”