About three years back, I found out that this time of the year is great for reflection. It’s sort of like when people have a shower and all of a sudden they get great ideas popping into their head. This is the time of year that the pressure starts to come off a bit for business owners. So it is a great time to get thinking about the most important things in your business.
What I do is grab a blank sheet of paper and try to rattle my own cage with some thought provoking questions. So here, let me walk you through how to do this:
Step 1: clear the slate
Get something that you can write on and keep. Find yourself about 15 minutes of free time – that’s all you need to do this exercise well.
Step 2: poke yourself
I want you to write down provocative questions that will force you to think of new and unique answers. We aren’t looking for the right answers; we are looking for radical questions.
Let me give you some examples:
If I held a gun to your head and said…
• You can only work a quarter of your time that you did this year, how would you make money?
• You’ve got to double your turnover and maintain profit, how would you do it?
• If this business wasn’t about making money, what would it be about?
• If I had the choice to start again, how would I do it differently?
• Is this really what I want to do?
• How can I remove myself from being the chokepoint in my business?
• If I had the ideal team, what would my business operate like?
• If I couldn’t fail, what would I do with my business?
Step 3: leave the questions unanswered.
Don’t jump into it straight away. Get them out of your head on the paper. You can add to them over time. We don’t want you to solve them right now. This isn’t a problem solving exercise. Put them somewhere close by that you can get your hands on them during your break.
Step 4: wait for percolation
At some stage during your time off you might just find ideas about your business starting to bubble up without even really trying. During that time grab half an hour, sit down by yourself somewhere quiet, at the dining room table or wherever it is you do your best thinking, and read your questions. Write down some ideas. You have to answer these. Don’t think about getting it right, or what is reasonable, just get as many ideas a possible on the page.
See what you’ll find is, you’ll be amazed that once the day to day pressure is off, all of a sudden you’ll come up with really creative solutions about how you can do things.
All of a sudden you might find that thing you’ve been working so hard to achieve the whole year might not have been quite you thought it was. You might realise that you have a totally different understanding of your business this year compared to last year, or that you’ve learned something significant.
Now, I’m not saying what comes off the back of this is some remarkable ‘to do’ list, but all you probably need is one or two ideas off that page that will totally change and revolutionise your business. The ridiculous thing is they’ll often be small, single statements that can impact your whole way of doing business. But only if you pick them up and do something seriously with them.
Take some time out, create some space on the page and open yourself up to a brand new start.
Steve Smit is a business coach and the founder of Reality Consulting.