When you make that big leap and start your own business, chances are good that the first thing you set up is your accounting system. You create a budget, figure out overhead, and set revenue goals. Maybe you did some, but not all of that, and that’s ok too. Frankly, until you dive in and get a few months under your belt, it’s hard to know exactly how those numbers will shake out. Each month, quarter, and year, we reconcile our accounts, scramble to find any missing receipts, and compare our actual revenue to what we’d hoped to bring in.
That’s all important, and whether you do your own accounting or outsource it, you should keep a close eye on the numbers. As they say, you can’t track what you don’t measure.
It’s equally important to review and “reconcile” areas not reflected by financial results. What really drove your growth or hindered your progress? What habits robbed you of your time or made you more productive? What did you try that worked well, sort of worked, or didn’t work at all, and what can you learn from it? This type of reflection tells the story behind the numbers and allows you to intentionally do more of what brings you success.
This week we’re sharing four of the reflection activities we use to capture all the experiential lessons of the month before they slip away.
1. Effort Invested v. Results
The first activity is simple, but powerful. Draw an x and y axis like the one shown below (didn’t know I was going to take you back to algebra class, did you? 😊) Label the horizontal access effort invested and the vertical axis level of positive results. Now think about the projects on which you spent the majority of your time during the past month. Plot them out on the graph based on how much time, energy, and resources you allocated to each and the level of results you saw from that effort.
Yes, the results are a little subjective. If you’re trying something new, you probably won’t see immediate huge returns for your efforts…but you might. If you do, do more of whatever it is you’re doing right now! If not, consider how your results compare to what you expected to see in return for your efforts. If you continue this activity monthly, you will quickly see where your efforts are producing results and what you need to remove to put more focus on what brings you success.
2. Progress Toward Goals
The second activity requires you to engage in a 100% truthful evaluation of how far you’ve progressed toward your goals compared to where you planned to be at this point in the year.
(Of course, to engage in this activity, you have to have SET milestone goals for each month. If you haven’t done that yet, skip this activity for this month and this month only, and use the time to set milestone goals for every month this year until your target completion date for each goal.)
Assuming that you have set monthly milestone targets for each of your major goals, evaluate on a scale of 0% to 100% how much progress you’ve made toward each. If you are not where you planned to be at this stage, dig deep to explore why. Legitimate reasons (like oh maybe a pandemic!) are ok. Excuses are not. Evaluate what was within your control, even when faced with unforeseen circumstances, and commit to making adjustments in the coming months.
3. Reinforce the Good
If you’ve been a business owner for any length of time at all, you know the importance of stopping to smell the roses whether those roses come in the form of a glowing customer review, a huge new client, or simply the satisfaction of what you’ve just created is MAGNIFICENT! It’s important to take time at the end of each month to acknowledge the wins, but let’s take that a step further.
During your month-end review, create a list of:
1. Moments that made you proud this month
2. Unexpected sources of abundance – whether financial, emotional, spiritual, physical, or relational. What were you blessed with that you didn’t see coming
3. Lessons learned
This last one may be the most important of all because it forces us to recognize and reinforce what led to success as well as what didn’t work. Either way, you’re ending the month so much further along than you started with a clearer idea of the specific strategies that will help you reach your goals.
Yes, the numbers do matter, but the lessons do too. I’d argue the lessons matter more because while anyone can have a good (or a terrible) month, lessons lead to long-term success.
Exciting News! We are creating a resource to walk you through this process, with even more activities, reflection questions, checklists, self-care check-ins, and informational quotes. It’s like a mini-retreat at your fingertips! If you’re interested in joining the waiting list for this resource, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject WAITLIST, and you will be among the first to know when the reflection guide launches this spring.