The end of one year and the start of another brings with it the opportunity and inspiration for many to consider their personal situation and plan for the year ahead. We all hope that we will end the New Year better off in our personal lives than we start it. By better off, we may mean financially, in terms of happiness and relationships, in our careers and lifestyles; in fact, in any aspect of our lives.

If we start the year with a positive intent on improving our lives in some way, then there is a good chance we can succeed in so doing. One of the ways we can help ourselves succeed is by setting personal objectives for the year ahead. It has long been a tradition to make New Year’s resolutions, and they are an example of objective setting, usually based on a correcting a personal weakness, such as smoking or being overweight. However, New Year’s resolutions are quite often just a bit of fun, and not taken that seriously. Planning ahead for the full year based on a set of objectives can be a much more beneficial way to improve yourself over the span of a year.

New Year’s resolutions, however, do give a hint at one way to go about setting personal objectives for the year: they tend to be about addressing weakness. If you have a personal weakness at the beginning of the year, and have strengthened it by the end of the year, then you will have made progress. So, when you sit down and consider what personal objectives to set yourself, focusing on your weaknesses may be a good place to start.

How To Go About Setting Your Personal Objectives

There is more than one way to set about formulating personal objectives, but I will concentrate on focusing on personal weakness. By focusing I do not mean just thinking about those weakness all the time in a negative, self critical way. The purpose is to improve yourself by the end of the year, so those weaknesses, or even just one weakness, need to be addressed in a positive way. Ultimately, you want the weakness you focus on to be no longer a weakness by the end of the year. Here are a few simple steps to follow:

1. Your first step is to identify an area, or areas, of your life where you want to make significant improvements. As an example, let us say you have your own business, which is quite new, and you are still finding your feet.

2. Once you have decided on what area of your life to concentrate on first, you should then think about it in a detached and realistic way, pen in hand, with a blank piece of paper in front of you. Go over in your mind your experiences since you started the business, and pinpoint what weaknesses have been exposed since you started the business. Jot them down in a relaxed way, there is no hurry. When you are confident you have highlighted the most critical weakness, and have missed none, move on to considering your list.

3. You should now go over your list of business-related weaknesses and prioritise them. If something really stands out as being critical, then that will be your starting point. At this stage, bear in mind that setting objectives is not about aiming for the impossible; that is self-destructive. If you have a long list of weaknesses and it looks daunting, then the prioritisation is especially important.

For this example, let us assume that your most critical weakness in your new business is finance and accounting. For many people who start a business, that is a reality, so that is quite a realistic example. Do not expect that you will remove all weaknesses by 100% in one year; you should be realistic, and take a staged approach. Each year you will build on your strengths, and steadily eliminate your weaknesses. However, you cannot expect to do it all at once.

4. Now think more about the finance side of the business, and with a new sheet of paper write down all the things that trouble you. Is it everything about finance and accounting? That would not be unusual either. You may not even be able to tell a debit from a credit, but that is not surprising. To a normal person, double entry bookkeeping is back to front.

5. Assuming everything about finance and accounting is a mystery to you, set out a plan to remedy that situation. Any wise businessman needs to understand his business finances; he will be vulnerable if he does not. There are several ways to approach this weakness, but you will want to improve your accounting knowledge over the year. So, as an example, you could set yourself the following objectives for the year:

a. Learn some basic bookkeeping. You can achieve this through a book on accounting for small businessmen, or evening classes. If you have a local small business help bureau of any sort, they may be able to point you in the right direction; they may even have regular seminars.

b. Get to know your own accounting system, or maybe introduce a simple accounting software program that will not only help you keep accurate accounts, but teach you along the way.

c. Get to understand profit and loss accounts so that you can start to understand how and why your business is making a profit or a loss.

d. Learn to do cash flow forecasts, which will always be critical to your business.

By the end of the year, you should have a better understanding of your business finances, and when you go over the same exercise again the following year, you can plan to go up to a higher if you think it necessary, or address those weaknesses you have not yet mastered.

The finance and accounting example is just one. It could also be marketing or time management or any other aspect of the business. The important thing for you to do is to assess the most critical weaknesses and address them through your personal objectives. That process can be applied to any part of your life you choose, whether related to career, family, personal health or bad habits.

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