Invest in Yourself with a Monthly Self-Meeting

Stargazin by Zach Dischner from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Stargazin by Zach Dischner from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

How much time do you devote each month to your own professional development? I’m serious. When was the last time you took a step back to look at your business as a whole and not just focusing on whatever task is in front of you? I want to share an activity that my business mentor ingrained in me very early in my career as a business owner – a monthly self-meeting. It’s been a pivotal part of my business success. Here’s how I do it:

Within a week of getting my company’s bank statements, I reconcile my accounts and run the following reports for the previous month: profit and loss, cash flow, and balance sheet. I also pull the list of all my income sources from the previous month. I’ll need these for my meeting.

For my self-meeting, I block out 2 hours and remove all distractions. This is my time to focus on me and my business. I start my meeting by writing down (by hand) the celebrations since my last self-meeting. These might be things like a successful end to a client’s case, reaching one of my financial goals, or being selected to speak at a conference. It’s always good to look back and see the progress I’ve made, especially since I’m the only person at Carter Law Firm. It’s easy to focus on what I could be doing to improve that I forget to give myself kudos when it’s earned.

I also look at my networking activities from the past month, what networking events I have coming up, what business ideas I’m toying with, what concerns I have, what opportunities might be on the horizon, and whatever else comes to mind. This is my time to look at my business and process how things are going and where I want to see them in the future. By the end of my self-meeting, I have a list of things I want to accomplish by my next self-meeting. At the subsequent meeting, I will review this list and acknowledge my successes and also look at where I came up short and what contributed to that happening. I also make a list of reflections and write out things that I’ve learned in the last month and what issues are currently important to me.

Then I shift my attention to the company’s financials. I look at where my work is coming from – which tells me what marketing techniques are being effective, what type of legal projects are bringing me the most revenue, and I review my expenses. I maintain two spreadsheets: one tracks how much money I’m making from each type of legal work I do and the other tracks my spending. These spreadsheets help me see month-to-month how money is coming and going from the company and by the end of the year it gives me a clear picture of the state of my business affairs.

Sometimes it’s hard to make my self-meeting a priority, particularly when I’m busy. However, it is enormously helpful in terms of my business development as well as understanding who I am and my priorities as a business owner.

Do you do a periodic self-meeting? What’s your process like?

SMART Goal Setting for 2014

My "To Do" List: Yay for functional tattoos! by robstephaustralia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

My “To Do” List: Yay for functional tattoos! by robstephaustralia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and is ready to hit the ground running in 2014. For a lot of people, a new year means new goals. I know I spent a few days in December looking back on 2013 and making plans for 2014.

I’m a big fan of writing goals for the year – personally and professionally. You can call them resolutions if you want but some people think that’s just setting yourself up to fail – use whatever term works for you.  I prefer to use the SMART method when I set a goal. SMART is a mnemonic for the criteria for what a goal must be:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Action-based (Some variations says A stands for Attainable)
R = Realistic (Some variations say R stands for Results-focused)
T = Time-sensitive

I’ve found this method really works for me. To give you an example, one of my 2014 goals is to celebrate the law firm’s second anniversary and that I’ve moved into a brick and mortar office by throwing an open house event at my new office in January. What are your goals for 2014? Please share them in the comments below and if there’s anything I can do to help you achieve them. Apparently sharing your goals with others helps you achieve them too because people will be asking you about it and doing what they can to support you and your goals.

Sometimes my goal feels too big to be attainable all at once so I break it down into manageable pieces, and usually assign a specific deadline for each portion.

One thing I often ask myself as I’m setting SMART goals is how am I going to achieve it. If my goal involves meting more business contacts I have to figure out who I want to meet and where I’m going to meet them. If my goal is to make more money, I need to have a plan to either bring in more clients or make more money from each person I’m working with. So don’t just thing about the “what” but also the “how.”

I saw a fascinating video recently about why New Year’s resolutions are more successful than other goals. It’s pretty interesting and worth a few minutes of your time.

I look forward to helping you achieve your goals for 2014. Please share your goals in the comments below and feel free to connected with me on TwitterGoogle+FacebookYouTubeLinkedIn, or you can email me. You can also subscribe to the Carter Law Firm newsletter.
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