‘New year, new start’ might seem like a cliché, but in business you rarely get a moment to spend reflecting on and thinking about how things could be done better

January is as an ideal time to do just that – to put your thinking cap on and make some meaningful changes. Here are my top tips to help you make 2020 a year to remember:

Start with a clean slate Try to adopt a ‘blank canvas’ approach when thinking about your business and what it needs to move forwards. Rather than thinking about what has happened to your business in the past, think about it as a new company: with no history, no limitations, and no traditions. Think about how you would do things if you had a fresh start – and weigh them up against your current processes.

Clarify your big picture targets It’s easy to get stuck in the detail of what you are trying to achieve, focusing on monthly income targets, or short-term objectives. Instead, why not think about where you want to be in 10 or 20 years’ time? Create the compelling dream, and then the plan to support that is much easier to create and implement.

Make a list of what you do and don’t want Generally, people fall into the optimist or pessimist camp, and tend to set their actions accordingly. Instead of thinking in solely one way, try to provoke your thought processes in a different direction by listing both what you want and what you don’t want. When you list the things that you want to strive for and the things that you want to eliminate, you have a much higher chance of achieving real change in 2020.

Set your interim targets Once you have a clear picture of your bigger targets and the steps you are going to take, it’s time to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be. You can do this through a process called ‘chunking’ – breaking down your activities so that you can achieve short-term milestones along the way.

Shake it up! Do you tend to stick with what you know, simply because it’s easy? If so, perhaps now is the time to change suppliers or systems. List out your main software packages, suppliers, and partners, and then explore other options. Sometimes you need to go through your business with a fine-tooth comb, just to make sure that you aren’t carrying excess baggage along the way. Just like with personal finances, you might find that you are overpaying for things, or not using the latest technology. Don’t be the one who is stuck in the past.

Find a mechanism to reward yourself Let me be blunt: profit and loss reports aren’t particularly fun to read. Instead of focusing on KPIs, numbers, and data, why not find a way to incentivise yourself? It may be through rewards or treats for hitting targets, or simply a way of making a task more enjoyable. Think about how you would like to treat a superstar employee, and do the same for yourself!

Finally, make a resolution to yourself to make work fun. Remind yourself that you work to live, not live to work. Why not make a change that can help you, your family, and your business this January?

Carl Reader is a small business expert and chairman at D&T Chartered Accountants.