Happy New Year!

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions or set goals for the next year? Until this year, I hadn’t even considered making resolutions for the coming year.

But this year, I spent some time thinking about where I want to be in a year’s time.

I still couldn’t quite bring myself to set goals for the next year, but looking ahead four months seems less daunting. Four months because that’s after the US tax filing deadline on April 15. And instead of concrete goals, I decided to focus on establishing new habits that help me achieve personal and business goals. This approach has worked well for me in the past.

On the personal side, I’ve been writing daily in a journal for almost 4 years. It’s a way to clear out the muck and begin each day fresh. On the business side, January marks the fifth month for my newsletter.

For me, every day is a chance to make a new start. I look at it as 365 (or 366) opportunities to resolve to be a better person and a better writer and to do more of the things I love and more of the things that will help me help others.

Establishing habits is easier than making a commitment to do something new every day or every week for a whole year. When an action becomes a habit, it’s more automatic. I feel more accountability to keep doing it. When I write in my journal each morning, I track how many days I’ve been doing this. So far, I’m up to 1443 days.

Charles Duhigg’s excellent book, The Power of Habit, describes how to establish new habits and how to substitute good habits for negative ones. Successful habits have a three-part loop: a cue, a routine and a reward. The habit gets locked in place when you begin craving the reward. Satisfying the craving begins the habit loop again.

Marketing your firm can become a habit also. First, pick something you enjoy doing. Discuss this with others in your firm so they can share in the effort.

Do you like to write? Start a weekly blog or a monthly newsletter. Then share that on social media. Find out where your best prospects hang out, and share your posts there.

Are you better at speaking? Consider doing a series of videos to walk viewers through bookkeeping tasks. Or seek opportunities to speak before different groups.

Do you like meeting new people? There are probably local networking events you can go to.

Next, commit to a schedule and figure out how often this new marketing activity should be done. This is your cue. Be realistic. It’s better to start off with a low frequency — say, writing a monthly blog post — and ramping up the frequency than to be too ambitious and burn out quickly.

Then settle on a routine for getting the work done. If you want to write blog posts weekly, waiting until the last minute doesn’t work too well. A good practice is to write out what you want to say, quickly, then let it sit overnight, or for a few hours at least, before your final editing pass.

The final (and crucial step) is to figure out a simple reward for getting the task done. Maybe it will be as tiny as checking it off your weekly to-do list. Or maybe you’ll treat yourself to a favorite coffee drink when it’s done. For my journaling practice, adding another day to my consecutive days of writing is sufficient. For my newsletter, the occasional feedback from readers makes it worthwhile.

Making marketing a habit can turn a task you might not like now into something that’s part of your routine. So far, I’ve kept up with all the new habits I wanted to establish. I’ll let you know in four months if I’m still keeping up with them.

Did you make New Year’s Resolutions? Are you still keeping up with them? Do you think marketing can become a habit?