There is a great approach to this that helps facilitate your own thought process as well as discussion with others about how to learn from the past while planning for the future. I first became acquainted with this exercise in a much different context than business, (that of growing and improving marriages and relationships.) It is definitely a business-oriented approach though, and has become quite popular over the years for this end-of-year type of reflective analysis. The exercise is referred to as “Stop, Start, Continue” for reasons that should be rather obvious. Let’s take a look at each component…

What are the things that you (or your business) need to START doing in the next year?  
Based on what you learned in 2016, what types of activities do you need to begin in 2017? Do you need to start being more organized? Do you need to start getting up 30 minutes earlier every day to work out, or maybe spend extra time reading and studying? Do you need to start volunteering more of your time for a cause that is meaningful to you? What about from a business perspective… Do you need to make new hires in the coming 12 months? Do you need to start tracking new and different metrics to better manage your company? Is there some other initiative that you’ve been putting off that needs to get underway? What are those things for which the turning of the calendar can become a catalyst?

What are the things you need to STOP doing in the next year?  
This part is sometimes more difficult, but being able to detect and determine what didn’t work in the past can be critical to your personal – and business – growth. Often inertia rules us and we continue behaviors that need to stop. We simply don’t take the necessary time to look critically at history to see if what we’re doing is actually helpful. If it is not, then we need to place them in the “stop” category. This can be particularly difficult when, just one year ago, you were convinced that this was something you needed to start doing! Be willing to make the tough decisions and look at situations with fresh eyes. Circumstances change, thus, what was true 12 months ago, may not be true now. So, what should you stop doing? Is there a certain business segment that you need to abandon? Is there a particular target market that has changed to the point that it really isn’t a strategic target anymore? On the personal side, are there some bad habits that you’ve picked up lately that really need to go away? Take a critical look at yourself or ask someone you trust and who knows you well.

What are the things you need to CONTINUE doing in the next year?  
In doing that hard work above of looking at the past year with a critical lens, you won’t only uncover items you need to stop, you’ll also discover those things you need to continue. There will no doubt be plenty of initiatives and strategies that are working fine and performing precisely the way you had hoped – or even better! These need to keep happening. Keep them in place. A little tweak may or may not be needed here or there, or not, but stay the course. The key though, is to make a conscious decision to keep with them. Inertia itself is no reason to continue. You continue because it’s the smart and right decision to do so.

So, as the door to 2017 opens, how will you enter it? Will it be “fingers crossed” for it to be a good or better year, or will it be with the confidence and assurance that you have done some personal due diligence to give yourself – and your business – the best chance possible of it being a success? It’s up to you…

~Marketing Workshop