What’s on Your “Not-to-Do” List? 7 Anti-New Year’s Resolutions for Business Owners

An anti-New Year’s resolution list is better for business than the status quo. Here’s why and what (not) to include. 

anti new year's resolutions man on the phone writing down notes in front of laptop

Many of us are quick to set New Year’s resolutions. There’s this palpable sense of excitement and motivation for improving our lives. But despite the best intentions, it’s usually not long before we abandon our new goals altogether. In fact, according to a YouGov poll, only 6% of people who made a New Year’s resolution had completely stuck to it.

It’s unsurprising, considering that many New Year’s resolutions stem from what we believe we should do (exercise more, anyone?). The result for most people is a list of grand life goals that are usually totally unrealistic and unattainable.

The same thing happens in business: We set lofty goals for the new year only to be disappointed when we don’t meet them.

The good news? There’s a better approach: An anti-resolution list.

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    Anti-Resolutions: The Alternative to New Year’s Resolutions

    Anti-resolutions are a “not-to-do” list. Setting them removes the pressure of what we should be doing in the new year. It strips us of unnecessary baggage.

    And let’s face it—it’s often easier to get rid of baggage holding us back than to try something new or grand. It’s also very liberating: Removing all that baggage rids us of the shackles holding us back and gives us a clearer path of what we want in life.

    It creates the space and energy to concentrate on what’s important in the coming year, setting us up for success.

    But What Does an Anti-New Year’s Resolution List Include?

    Below is a list of seven old habits you may want to let go of in the coming year so your business can thrive. This list is not meant to be prescriptive, as this is precisely what we want to avoid with a not-to-do list.

    So, review your situation and consider what will help you make the most progress, such as:

    Letting Go of Bad Clients

    Running a successful business requires finding clients who pay you well, pay you on time, and value you. But sometimes bad eggs slip through the cracks if you’re not intentional about who you work with.

    These bad clients can take on various forms—some may be late payers and poor communicators, while others expect special treatment and are verbally abusive. Even clients who are easy to work with can be bad for business. For example, they may not be a fit because their budget doesn’t align with your rate.

    Regardless, these clients can cause unnecessary stress, take up more time than they’re worth, and cost you money, especially if they ghost you when it’s time to pay up.

    In most cases, you’ll want to say goodbye to these clients to focus on getting better ones. Just make sure you fire them amicably because clients do talk. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to work with other better clients in the future because a past client felt you ended the relationship on a sour note.

    Letting Go of Perfectionism

    Having high standards is good for business. But, when those standards turn into perfectionism, it can be crippling. You waste precious time agonizing over every little thing and become reluctant to offload work because you worry about losing grip on all the details.

    This reluctance may also stem from the feeling that others won’t do the work properly. When you have such high standards, no one can even hope to live up to them. This can cause workplace tension, which could breed resentment and disloyalty.

    If this sounds like you, it may be time to let go of your perfectionism tendencies and learn to delegate. Delegating builds trust and frees up time to focus on other areas that will help you grow your business.

    To delegate effectively, the key is to provide employees with resources and training to do their job well, agree on reasonable expectations and responsibilities, and communicate clearly—so employees know what’s expected of them.

    Letting Go of Tasks That Aren’t Worth Your Time

    accounting not your passion

    As a business owner, your day is usually full of many mundane tasks you need to complete, like replying to emails, logging expenses, and managing payroll.

    While necessary, these tasks don’t help you scale and remove you from activities that do, like building client relationships and improving existing processes.

    So this year, let go of these tasks and instead embrace automation software that automates processes that would otherwise require manual input. You’ll save time and money, too, since using cost-effective software is less expensive than hiring new staff.

    Letting Go of the Notion of “Productivity”

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with productivity. It helps you get more done in less time and, as part of a larger strategy, can help you form better habits, grow personally, and build a more fulfilling life.

    However, many people embrace “productivity at all costs,” making it easy to overdo it. They concentrate on getting more done in the short term—completing more tasks and doing more work while losing sight of the process and enjoyment in producing meaningful work.

    If you’re stuck in this mindset, it’s time to refocus. Here are a few signs you’re trapped and what to do about it:

    • You don’t think before taking action. You’re so focused on productivity (e.g., hours worked and tasks completed.) that you constantly jump in immediately to make improvements. Instead, slow down and think and plan before taking action.
    • You concentrate on too many productivity strategies simultaneously. You’re consuming and internalizing a lot of productivity advice and trying to implement it all at once. Rather make small calculated changes in the business areas that matter.

    Letting Go of an Employee Mindset

    An employee mindset means thinking like an employee who walks into work, does their job—tackling projects until completion—and then leaves. They have a very task-orientated approach, focusing on their specific job only and not generally worrying about the bigger picture. They feel secure knowing they’ll receive their monthly salary and have access to a solid benefits package.

    There’s nothing wrong with this employee mindset. Being an employee can be just as fulfilling as being self-employed. But carrying this thinking over to self-employment can hurt you. Here’s why:

    • You may struggle to plan long-term because you only think about the next project and ignore other business areas. For example, if you don’t focus on continuously marketing your company, your income could suddenly drop if you lose a client. This can prove detrimental to your cash flow if you only work with a few clients and there’s nothing else in the pipeline.
    • You may undercharge for your services because you don’t factor in all the expenses you now need to pay yourself, like taxes and insurance.

    If you’re feeling bogged down by this mindset, practice thinking like a business owner. Start small by gradually increasing your prices with each new client, and be proactive about getting clients. If that feels overwhelming, only concentrate on two to three marketing strategies at a time, like asking for referrals or sending cold emails.

    awkward conversations

    Letting Go of the Fear of “Money Talk”

    Talking about money is hard. And chasing down payments is harder still. No one wants to be in that awkward position—and you may be worried clients will view you as money hungry and drop you altogether.

    You may feel uncomfortable talking about your rates out of fear clients will balk at them. You may even feel like an imposter: “Who am I to be charging clients this amount of money?” Heck, you may just generally dislike any form of conflict.

    However, talking about money is part of running a business. And you can’t grow your business without it. So the sooner you get comfortable with it, the better. This year, conquer your fear of money talk by:

    • Being more intentional about having these conversations when they’re needed. Practice makes perfect.
    • Investing in tools that do the “talking” for you. For example, instead of chasing clients for late payment by typing out a personal email, automate the process with a tool like FreshBooks. Set the reminder on the first invoice and forget about it. The software will automatically remind the client payment is due, taking the burden off you.

    Letting Go of the Things You Can’t Control

    There’s a lot going on in today’s economy that affects how you run your business day-to-day, such as increasing supplier costs, inflation running rampant, and a hike in interest rates.

    Yet many people choose to concentrate on things they can’t control. This isn’t helpful because it causes unnecessary stress, making it difficult to focus on more critical business areas.

    If this sounds familiar, try to shift attention toward those things you can control so you can grow regardless of any challenges. For example, as a freelancer, you can’t control which clients will cut their marketing budgets and stop working with you.

    But you can control how prepared you are and how you respond. Do you adjust and repackage your services in response to better align with their budget? Or do you market yourself to new clients who have bigger marketing budgets? Perhaps you even do both?

    Start Making an Anti-New Year’s Resolution List Today

    Making resolutions may be common every January 1, but they rarely stick because we set them based on what we think we should be doing. This leads to unrealistic and unattainable goals.

    A better approach is to set up a “not to do” list of resolutions to help strip us of all the baggage so we can truly concentrate on the important things.

    So, what anti-new resolutions are you devoting your energy to this coming year? Let us know in the comments!

    Nick Darlington

    Written by Nick Darlington, Freelance Contributor

    Posted on January 10, 2023