How to set realistic New Year’s resolutions for your business

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You’re probably familiar with setting annual goals for your business. This year, you might want to consider making realistic New Year’s resolutions in addition to your yearly goal setting.

Resolutions can help you make more holistic changes in your business or in yourself as a leader.

What is a resolution?

First, let’s talk about what a resolution actually is. We spend all this time at New Year’s making (and quickly breaking) resolutions, but do we really even know what they are?

A resolution is nothing more than a firm decision to do or not to do something.


A resolution is different than a goal since we don’t apply “SMART” factors to it. SMART goals were first named by the journal Management Review in 1981. SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Your goal could be to increase revenues by 20%, while a resolution might be to improve profits.

A resolution is often harder to measure since it’s something that you want to do (or stop doing, as the case may be).

But your resolutions should have something in common with your goals; they should still be realistic and attainable.


After all, there’s not much more disheartening than realizing that you’re not going to achieve what you set out to achieve.

Opportunity resolutions vs. problem-solution resolutions

There are two types of resolutions: opportunity resolutions and problem-solution resolutions.

Opportunity resolutions are those that help you grow and achieve and leverage your strengths. They put more wind in your sails.

Problem-solution resolutions are those that help you overcome weaknesses and resist threats. They help you plug the holes to keep your ship from sinking.

How to create a realistic New Year’s resolution for your business

The first step in creating a solid resolution for your business is to document all those thoughts that start with “Man, I should really…”

These might also show up in the middle of the night or when you’re rushing between meetings. I also look at the businesses and leaders I aspire to be like, and identify actions they’re taking (or avoiding!) and adding those to my list of possible business resolutions.

To get you started, here’s a list of sample business resolutions.

  • I will learn how to manage my cash flow more effectively.
  • I will take steps to improve my digital presence.
  • I will improve my social media presence.
  • I will get focused and become more productive.
  • I will charge what I’m worth.
  • I will grow my team and delegate more.
  • I will become a better communicator.
  • I will find a business buddy.
  • I will share my expertise.
  • I will take time for professional development.
  • I will develop a culture of learning.
  • I will reduce our environmental footprint.
  • I will contribute more to causes I believe in.

Then, ask yourself why each resolution made it on your list. Why is it important? What effect will it have on your business or your leadership?

For example, if you want to take time for professional development, what methods will you choose to leverage? Perhaps you want to read more or take courses. Are there specific skills that you’d like to improve, like project management?

Once you have your list, it’s time to prioritize your resolutions.

Consider which of your potential resolutions will make the most significant impact on your business and open you up to accomplish more of your goals.

It’s often really tempting to focus on positive opportunity resolutions — they just feel better.

But often, the problem-solution resolutions are the ones that are going to help you grow even faster. After all, unrecognized (and untreated) problems can derail your business even more quickly than your fastest wind can help you grow.

Related: 5 business resolutions for your local venture 

Staying on track with resolutions

Realistic New Years Resolutions Athletes Running Track

When the time comes to move toward achieving your resolution, that’s where your goal setting and project management skills come into play.

If a resolution is simply a firm decision to do something, then leveraging specific goals and our best project-management skills is how we get it done.

Without goal setting and treating your resolutions like projects, you will likely end up relying on willpower alone to make these things happen. Well, willpower or hope.

We know that hope isn’t a strategy, and willpower is a muscle that tires quickly. (After all, you’re probably also using your willpower to avoid that new donut shop after getting yourself to the gym at 5:30 am to fulfill your personal resolutions and goals.)

9 tips for setting realistic New Year’s resolutions

Now that you’ve narrowed down your list of potential business resolutions, here’s how to put them into action.

  1. Pick just one.
  2. Align your resolutions with your goals.
  3. Be specific.
  4. Make a plan.
  5. Keep it small.
  6. Make it real.
  7. Build rewards.
  8. Communicate your resolutions.
  9. Check-in regularly.

Ready to learn more about how to put your realistic New Year’s resolutions into action? Read on.

1. Pick just one

The easiest way to ensure you achieve your resolution is to pick only one resolution to focus on at a time. Just because New Year’s is the most popular time to kick off a resolution, doesn’t mean you can’t establish a new resolution when you’ve accomplished another.

Narrowing your choices down to one resolution is where your prioritization and impact assessment are essential.

Which of your resolutions are achievable, influential and impactful?


You may have two potential resolutions: to reduce your environmental impact or to pay more attention to financial statements.

They’re certainly both achievable and important. Still, only you can decide which of them will have the most significant impact on your business.

2. Align your resolutions with your goals

Your resolutions and goals don’t have to line up on a one-to-one basis. You’ll undoubtedly have goals that don’t support your resolution (especially if you only pick one resolution).

You might need to add new goals to support your resolution.

When you resolve to improve your social media presence, some of your goals that might align with that is to increase the volume of inbound traffic from your social media posts, to gain followers, to develop brand advocates, or to drive sales from your social posts.

Editor’s Note: Resolve to get new customers and keep existing customers coming back through social media — with help from GoDaddy Social. We can help you elevate your social media marketing strategy and save you valuable time.

3. Be specific

Whichever resolution you are focusing on, be as specific as possible about the desired outcome. You might have a single result or a combination of results that add up to the final desired outcome.

If you’ve resolved to grow your team and delegate more, your desired outcomes could include:

  • Spend less time creating content
  • Stop wasting time scheduling meetings
  • Hire a social media assistant
  • Use a bookkeeping service instead of doing our books myself

When you look at the specific outcomes, it’s much easier to see how all of these outcomes contribute to your overall resolution — and give you direction for how to achieve it.

4. Make a plan

Make sure you have the resources available when you need them.

If you’re going to get better at managing your business finances, you need access to your financial statements and time on your calendar every month to review them. You might also need to brush up on what all the terms mean, from comprehensive income to debt-service coverage ratio.

If your resolution is to find a business buddy, then you’ll want to start by identifying places to expand your network. You’ll also want to think about the qualities you’d like your new business buddy to have.

When you’re planning, also plan for problems that might come up while you’re working toward your resolution.

For example, you might become discouraged when you see how far you have to go to accomplish your resolution.

Use the “small number technique”

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research introduced what they called the “small number technique.” When you use the small number technique, you focus on the smaller number in your goal. The small number might be what you’ve already accomplished, or what you have left to do.

For example:

  • I’ve increased my hourly billing rate from $20 to $25 for existing clients.
  • I need to increase my hourly billing rate by $20 to be paid what I am worth.

According to the small number technique, you’re better off using the first example to achieve your goals.

Realistic New Years Resolutions Woman Writing

5. Keep it small

Small, incremental changes are easier to maintain and keep than broad, sweeping changes.

It goes back to our willpower muscle.

It’s much harder to implement and maintain a huge change all at once.


It’s best to think of strengthening your willpower muscle through doing high reps, low weight than just a couple of power lifts.

When you resolve to minimize your business’s environmental impact, you might start by implementing recycling in the office. Once the recycling program is in place, then you can begin to source compostable, biodegradable sustainable packaging for your shipping department.

These smaller, incremental changes are much easier to implement and sustain than banning all plastic starting January 1.

6. Make it real

One of the best ways to make your resolution real is to phrase it as if it has already happened.

“I will learn how to manage my cash flow more effectively” becomes “I manage our cash flow effectively.”

“I will improve my social media presence” becomes “I have a great social media presence.”

“I will grow my team and delegate more” becomes “I have a strong and empowered team.”

Write your commitment statement and put it someplace where you’ll see it regularly, like in your wallet or on your desk. If you journal or are a planner, you might also choose to write your commitment statement each day to keep your resolution at the top of your mind.

7. Build rewards

In her book, Good Habits, Bad Habits, Wendy Woods highlights the role of rewards in helping build habits.

You can change your behaviors by planning rewards when you reach certain milestones.


For example, you can have a company celebration when your new website launches as a step toward achieving your resolution of improving your digital presence.

Rewards don’t just have to be for your whole team. You could take yourself out for ice cream after completing an online course in Excel to improve your professional development.

8. Communicate your resolutions

A public commitment to your resolution helps set it in stone.

Don’t just keep your resolution to yourself — let your team know about your resolution, and, if possible, get them on board. If you’re working to improve your company’s social media presence, you could recruit members of your team to support your efforts and give you feedback.

Depending on your resolution, you might also want to share your resolution with your customers. After all, it might affect them, too.

Sharing positive resolutions, like increasing your philanthropic activity or reducing your environmental impact, can help you build stronger relationships with your customers, suppliers and partners.

Related: 8 ways to give back to your local community as a small business

9. Check-in regularly

I get it, running and growing your business is hard. You head into the new year with the best of intentions, but after a little while, you start to head back into business as usual.

Maybe you hit a couple of small goals right off the bat that felt good, but keeping up the momentum is hard, especially as the goals got harder to reach. (It’s easier to lose the first 5 pounds than the last 5!)

Schedule regular resolution check-ins, either every couple of weeks or at least once a month, to ensure you’re staying on track to accomplish your goal.

You picked your resolution because it has the potential to have a significant impact on your business.

Having the right follow-through makes sure that outcome happens.

Keeping your resolutions beyond January

Most Americans fall off the resolution wagon pretty quickly — whether it’s a mere 15 minutes into the new year or 15 days. But picking the right resolutions, developing a plan, adding rewards, and sharing the enthusiasm with the team, can help you and your business grow.