So, here it is almost the end of January. How are y'all doing with your New Year's Resolutions? Still going strong? Or have you found yourself starting to “backslide” just a little bit?

You know, it's hard to create new (good) habits or to break old (bad) ones. It's tempting to sink back into the same old way of doing things.

You may be asking yourself: what has this got to do with search marketing?

Well, I don't know about y'all, but at least some of my resolutions this year involve small business marketing. I've got big plans for 2008!

But I know from experience — it's easy to start out with plenty of enthusiasm and great intentions. And it's equally easy to lose momentum, get sidetracked and find yourself at the end of the year not much better off than you were at the beginning, with no real idea of how it all happened. (Just for the record, that would describe many of the years of my life from 2007 on back.)

So here's my Three-Step Program for 2008, and the tools I'm trying this year to try to help me stay on pace. Maybe some of these will be helpful for you, too.

Step 1: Organize My Thoughts

The first tool is Backpack. I used to get frustrated because I'd continually come up with great ideas for products, services, articles, blog posts, even whole websites, only to have them disappear from my brain before I got the chance to work on them. I started last year using a voice recorder to try to capture more of these ideas before they fade away, but I still need somewhere to organize them for easy retrieval.

With Backpack, I've created a page for each website, business idea or project. On those pages, I can set up lists, write notes and attach picture galleries and “writeboards,” (free-standing documents that can be exported to text or HTML format). I can see in one handy place all the random thoughts and “in progress” ideas I have going at any given time.

A basic account at Backpack is free (can't beat that price!) and includes five pages. For myself, I opted for a paid account, so I get 25 pages, enough to keep track of every project I've got going at the moment, plus up to 500 MB of file storage and a Backpack Calendar. Other paid options are available with up to 1,000 pages and 3 GB of file storage, for the overachievers among us.

Step 2: Stay on Track

Okay, so the plans are taken care of. But, as the saying goes, nothing happens until something moves. Plans without actions aren't going to get me very far.

However, one big problem for me is getting sidetracked. With all the things going on in my life personally and professionally, it's way too easy for me to go off on tangents. It's not so much a lack of action as it is a lack of focused action.

I start off with intentions of exercising every day or posting to my personal blog at least three times a week or sending off a certain number of link requests each week. Next thing I know, even though I've been busy every day, I haven't even looked at my site's link profile in weeks, it's been six months since my last blog post and my exercise videos are buried under an inch-thick layer of dust. (I had intended to dust once a week, too... oh, well!)

With Joe's Goals, though, I can see at a glance just how well I've done in keeping up with the activities I've identified as “core” to my plans.

I set up tracking for each major recurring task I want to keep up with this year. I can't “accidentally” let a blog slide for weeks without posting. Every time I check my Goals page, I can see at a glance how long it's been since my last post or since the last time I got my flabby self in gear and hauled out that exercise video.

Like Backpack, the basic version of Joe's Goals is free. If you want a version without ads, you can subscribe. Also like Backpack, the price seems very reasonable.

Step 3: Keep Up The Good Work

Things like Backpack and Joe's Goals only work if you log in to the sites, though. For the third step in my Three-Step Program I wanted something more proactive. Enter MemoToMe.

MemoToMe will e-mail me at regular intervals (which I specify) to remind me about things I need to do. It reminds me periodically to write articles, work on websites, post to blogs, ask for links... whatever I have it set up to do.

Like the other services, it has a basic service available free, and it's just about as simple as you can get. You select a username and password, enter your contact information, and set up your reminders.

Then, however often you specify, you'll get an email reminder. The easy way — set one up to remind you to check Joe's Goals and review your progress.

So, how about you?

Did you set yourself any business goals for 2008? How's your progress so far? Do you think any of these tools could be helpful? Any other tools, techniques or tips you've found helpful for keeping up motivation and momentum? (Hey, I can use all the help I can get!)

January 29, 2008

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When setting business goals we have found that there needs to be three elements that differentiate effective goals from their ineffective counterparts. They are: 1. Scope and meaning; 2. Risk and 3. Perspective

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