I had an interesting conversation with a former client a few weeks ago. It was early October and she had already surpassed her goals for 2015. She was now winding up her work for 2015 and setting goals for 2016.

For my client (let’s call her Mary), any money coming in now is a bonus as her team has worked hard all year and they need a break during the last two months of the year.

She also noted that it was sad to see other businesses running around trying to catch up within the last quarter of the year instead of working hard to achieve their yearly goals in the first three-quarters of the year.

Isn’t that interesting?

Wouldn’t it be nice if you too could actually rest in the last two months of the year and set your goals soberly while others are trying to mop up the little money is left in the market?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you cannot achieve your goals with a final sprint. In fact lots of organizations and businesses make huge sales in the last quarter of the year.

What I’m talking about is having a relaxed end to the year so that you and your team can evaluate your performance and create a strategic plan for the next year without stress.

Going back to Mary…she’s already done some marketing for 2016 and booked sales presentations for January – a time when most people will still be recovering from Christmas and New Year blues.

By the time some of her competitors make their plans for the new year (if at all they do) and start marketing, Mary will already have sealed a number of contracts.

What does Mary do differently?

Even as you work on catching up with your goals for 2015, you too can start setting goals for 2016.

Mary was not always this great at setting and achieving goals. In fact, when she came to me, she was in a panic because poor time management and planning habits were costing her a lot in her personal life and business.

Here’s the plan Mary came up with that has helped her triple her business income within 2 years.

1. Identify what has worked for you this year

There are things you’ve done well and you need to continue doing them or amplify them. Similarly, reduce or drop what hasn’t worked.

2. Track your progress for the first 3 quarters of 2015

This will help you come up with average metrics for your business. The assumption here is that you do know the important metrics for your business or industry.

3. Decide what you want (goals)

Evaluate your progress in 2015 and then create a list of the things you want to achieve in 2016. Narrow this list down to the 3-6 goals that will make the biggest impact on your business when you achieve them. Of course you’ll need to make your goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound)

4. Create an action plan

Come up with a list of actions that you’ll take to achieve each goal and then spread these actions over each quarter and month. Again, only work with 3-6 actions per quarter and month.

5. Delegate, delegate, delegate

Most entrepreneurs start their businesses alone and have a hard time handing over work to other people. To overcome this, identify your weak areas and hire people who are strong in these areas, then delegate the work to them. You can also outsource some work or hire part-timers if you don’t have enough work (or money) for full-time employees.

How about you?

[Tweet “If you create your SMART goals in November, then January becomes a powerful month for your business.”]

If you’re able to complete these 5 steps in November, then all you’ll do in December is edit your plan for the next year using data gathered in the last quarter of your current year and you’re good to go.

As I noted earlier, this simple formula has helped Mary triple her business income in two years while reducing the hours she works. Try it and see if you can match or exceed her results.

What’s your experience with planning for your business each year? I’d love to hear what has worked or not worked for you. Share your experience with us in the comments section below.

(Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at www.freedigitalphotos.net)

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