With 2021 coming to an end, it’s time for online course creators to wind down and start thinking about the next year. And it’s also a perfect time to spend some time doing end-of-year business reflection to help you set new goals and celebrate last year’s wins.
Why is reflection crucial?
Business reflection matters for many different reasons. But here are three of the most important ones for all online entrepreneurs:
Ensures you are on track
Running a business can get hectic. And when things are tense, and you’re focused on managing and running your business, it’s very easy to lose the vision of the bigger picture. Self-reflection ensures that you stay on track.
As you grow and improve, there will be new opportunities that come your way. Some of them will be life-changing, while others might not be worth your time. Serial entrepreneur and coach Dr. Jeff Cornwall writes that it’s a common trap entrepreneur find themselves in, stating: “Often they have lost track of their own goals and aspirations as the business takes on a life of its own. Many talk about becoming servants of the business rather than the business serving their needs.”
If you do business reflection sessions every quarter, you’ll be able to accommodate those new opportunities without going off track from your original business vision.
Improves business performance
Researchers at Harvard Business School have found that reflecting on our work and experience increases work performance. Many entrepreneurs learn from their failures and mistakes, and consistent business reflection helps them do that better. It’s a way to keep yourself accountable and ensure that you’re moving forward and getting better.
Allows you to celebrate
While business reflection is mostly focused on learning from your mistakes and improving in the future, it can also be useful to help you remember what you accomplished. It’s very easy to get lost in new goals and new challenges, forgetting to celebrate the wins in your business.
When you spend time on self-reflection on your small business, you have an opportunity to mark important wins, however small they might be. That will help you build your confidence and believe that you can achieve things even if they seem hard right now.
7-steps to productively reflect on your business
If you want to learn how to do your business reflection the right way, here is a very simple seven-step process to help you get started:
Step 1: Reflect on your goals
The first thing you’ll want to do is find the best way to reflect on your past business goals. Some people might find it helpful to do it digitally, using tools like Notion or simple Google Sheets. Others might prefer paper notebooks over digital files. Find the method that works for you and set aside enough time for this activity.
Many entrepreneurs utilize the morning pages, which is a concept created by Julia Cameron, in their daily lives to stay on top of their business and goals. Taking this daily practice and using it for your business reflection can be a great way to self-reflect productively if you’re doing it for the first time.
Step 2: What were the wins? Mark them
Once you’re ready and set up for your business reflection, start by marking all the wins from last year, however small they might be. It will probably be hard at first, so here are some questions you can ask yourself to get the brain flow going:
- What new products/courses did you launch this past year?
- What were the projects you worked on and completed?
- Did you reach a certain milestone you set yourself?
- Have you reached your financial goals? If not, how far away were you from your initial goal?
- Has your online course received praises from students?
- Have you gone to do interviews on other podcasts or written guest blogs?
- Was your business mentioned on a list, or was it featured in the local magazine/newspaper?
- Have you met someone who made a huge impact on you and your business?
- Did you hire help for your business?
Every small detail that pushed your business forward this past year matters, and you should mark them as your successes. It’s very easy to forget about all the small things when you get lost in the process of running your business. So, use this opportunity to congratulate yourself.
Step 3: What were the losses? Evaluate them
The next step won’t be so pleasant, but it’s equally important to conduct a successful business reflection. Just like you made a list of your wins before, now it’s time to look back and write down all the losses your business experienced and why. Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself:
- Did your new product/course launch didn’t go as well as planned?
- Have you missed out on a certain opportunity because of X, Y, Z?
- Did you receive negative feedback from your students?
- Did you release fewer products/courses this past year than expected?
- Was your revenue lower than expected?
Once you’re done listing your losses and things you wish you did better, it’s time to evaluate them. Ask yourself these questions:
- What stopped you from fulfilling your goal that failed?
- Was it something you need to do better, or would it be easier if you got help?
- What exact steps do you need to take, so it doesn’t happen next time?
- How have you addressed the situation when it happened, and how do you wish you had addressed it instead?
Reflecting on your failures will ensure that next time, you’re better prepared when something goes wrong. Failure is a natural part of entrepreneurship, and it’s the best way to become better, so don’t shy away from your failures.
Step 4: Learn, don’t judge
With a whole list of mistakes facing you eye to eye, it might be hard to be kind to yourself and refrain from judgment. Imposter syndrome will be strongest in moments like these. So, it’s important to realize that you need to embrace your mistakes and learn from them instead of judging yourself and putting yourself down.
This is where the morning page strategy comes in handy when doing your business reflection. It can serve you as a “brain dump” to write out any negative emotions that come to you during this process. Write them all down, preventing them from occupying your mind. After a while, you’re going to see that negative feelings will die down, and you’ll have space for positive ones once again.
Step 5: Prepare for yearly goals in advance
Formulating concrete, achievable goals takes time. It might take you a few brainstorming sessions to nail them down perfectly. So, take your time and give yourself enough space for setting New Year’s or yearly business goals.
Also, always write down your goals. Even if you know what you want to accomplish, make sure you mark them digitally or on paper. Research has proven that people who write down their goals are more likely to accomplish them. And if you’re serious about improving your business next year, start with this simple step.
Start your preparation for next year in November if possible. November is busy for most small business owners, but it’s also a great time to start looking at what you want your business to look like in the New Year. Write your goals down, and then leave them be for a while. Sit on them and then return to them when the busy season has ended, and you’re ready to transition into the next year.
Step 6: Simplify your goals
The success of your goals is very straightforward—the simpler, the better. If you did prior steps of your business reflection, then you’ll be fairly tuned in with what you want from your business in the future. Then, use that vision to remove the goals that are not important in the next year.
For example: Let’s say you have an online course teaching people to draw fashion illustrations. One of your goals for your business might be to be the #1 resource for learning fashion illustration in the US. That’s a wonderful goal to have. However, it’s very broad, and long-term focused.
For your yearly business goals, you want to have a list of more concrete and achievable goals. So, think about the next step for your business to take to fulfill the long-term goal of being the primary fashion illustration resource in the US. What can you do in the next year that will bring you closer to that broader goal?
Once you have it, write it down. And then go over every single goal on your list and do the same. Simplify, clarify and make your goals measurable.
Step 7: Track
Use a system that allows you to track and be on top of your goals daily and weekly. Always knowing where you are when it comes to your business goals will allow you to reflect on your business when the time comes. And it also will help you stay on track and make sure that you’re accomplishing your goals in time.
You can use tools like Notion, simply keep a sheet for tracking goals on Google Docs or go with a paper planner like Passion Planner. They have a built-in self-reflection system in place and a way to be on top of your work goals daily.
Progress over perfection
Remember, when it comes to your business, progress is always more important than perfection. Naturally, when you’re doing business reflection, you’ll want to have a perfect review of your business. But even if it doesn’t look perfect, it’s still valid and valuable.
However, with time you’ll start noticing that the more disciplined with goal tracking you are and the more consistent with your self-reflection you get, the more of your goals will get accomplished. Simply because you’ll always be on track, putting your business first.