The "January Effect" refers to the phenomenon of stock prices on the upswing in the first month of the year.  I've also noticed there is a "February Effect," but not for the markets.  This effect occurs when that initial momentum we have at the beginning of the year, keen on our brand new shiny New Year's Resolutions or goals, seems to taper off dramatically at the beginning of February. 

The regulars at my gym were complaining the other day about how crowded it is, as everyone sets out to improve their health in January.  However, usually by the second week of February, the gym traffic has tapered off and the line ups are gone again.  Where did all those people and their good intentions go?  

It is often the same for financial advisors: we start the year off with a new set of business and personal goals but after that initial burst, it can be hard to stick to it to create meaningful, lasting change.

Whether you have a goal of getting back into shape or adding new clients to your practice, here are 10 steps you can take to ensure that you stay on track in February and beyond.

1)      Write your goals down. We all have seen research that has shown that having your objectives in writing makes them more likely to happen.  Some experts advocate taking your top 5 goals and re-writing them every day!  Another tip is to have them written on a laminated card and carry them around in your pocket.  One successful advisor has his goals pop up on his computer screen every day. 

2)      Translate your end goals into performance goals.  For instance, if your end goal is to increase your assets under management by $5 million by the end of the year, a related performance goal would be to add 1 new client per month for 10 months at $500,000 average asset size. 

3)      Define the benefit of achieving this goal.  How will you feel when you achieve it? For instance, feeling more energized and healthy or feeling more confident about your practice.

4)      To create lasting change you also need to have an honest review of your current reality.  If your goal is to eat healthier, you need to first keep an accurate food journal of what and how much you are eating now.  If you want to add new clients, it is a good exercise to review your new clients last year.  How many did you get?  Where did they come from (i.e. referrals, your website)? Were they your ideal client? You can then look at what has been holding you back from achieving these goals in the past.

5)      The next step is to review your options.  What can you do to achieve these goals?  For instance, to get more clients you may need to put a referral process in place, do research on what has worked for others, or find out what clients value about you, by doing a survey. 

6)      After you have listed the options you have to achieve your goal, then you decide what you will actually do.  This is where the rubber meets the road and you take those actions and schedule them into your calendar just as you would your important client meetings. 

7)      Now it is important to anticipate obstacles that may get in the way of achieving your goal.  For example, if one of your goals is to eat better, a busy travel schedule may be a challenge.  However, by packing some healthy snacks, staying in a hotel with a fitness facility, and ordering salad with protein when you go out to eat, you can plan ahead to overcome this obstacle.

8)      It is also imperative to put support systems in place to achieve your goals.  One of the reasons that Weight Watchers is one of the top rated programs is the support clients receive going to the weekly meetings.  Financial advisors can do the same by sharing their goals and progress reports with their spouse, team, study groups or a coach.  This helps with accountability and also by giving you other ideas to try.

9)      Rate your commitment level.  What is your commitment to carrying out your plan on a scale of 1-10?  If it is below an 8, you are not likely going to achieve that goal.  Is there something you can do to raise your commitment level closer to a 10?  Perhaps you have a goal that was suggested or given to you from someone else.  You need buy in from yourself to be successful.  Again, talking to a mentor or coach about what is holding you back may be necessary to overcome this.

10)  Reward yourself.  Hopefully the reward of achieving your goal will be motivating enough!  But it can also be helpful to build in smaller rewards at different milestones.  For instance, buying a new item of clothing or going for a massage may keep you on track.  One advisor would book a weekend away each quarter and only go if he achieved his revenue goal.

I hope to see all of you at the gym in February and beyond!

April-Lynn Levitt, B. Comm, CFP, is a coach with The Personal Coach. April provides support to Western & Central Canada financial advisors. She has experience as an independent financial advisor and as a top Financial Consultant and Regional Manager in a Calgary office that managed $1 billion for physicians and their families. You can follow April on LinkedIn.
Originally published on Advisor.ca