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I’m sure by now your 2012 plan, budget and professional objectives are baked and ready to go. Ideally, some of those objectives are reflected in your personal goals and New Year Resolutions as well.

But for those still writing goals and resolutions, as well as the rest of you, here are several collected from business leaders and entrepreneurs I most admire. Great for kicking off a New Year, or adopting anytime in 2012.

1. Start the day without checking email

Email, after all, reflects what others want from you – not what you need to do that day or that morning to best achieve your overall goals. What if you started the morning or day by tackling your number one priority instead? New emails are only going to distract you from that more important project anyway.

Photo: Stephen Cummings

2. Read the Wall Street Journal every morning

The Journal is still the most important daily publication (online or offline) for business professionals. With just 15 to 20 minutes, you can scan what’s important in politics, world news, financial markets, business and more. Important enough to keep yourself up to speed, but also valuable for daily small talk, passing articles to others in your network, etc.

3. Watch every penny

No matter how carefully you built your budget for 2012, you’re still spending too much. Find the places where you get the same results with less cost.

4. Designate two nights a week for no work

Photo: Steven Depolo

What I mean by this is to go home, put your machines in a separate room and close the door. Do not enter again until the morning. Spend that time with your family, your hobbies, a good book or something else to help you be refreshed, more well-rounded, and ready for the new day tomorrow.

5. Hire slower

Be more thoughtful about candidates you interview, and also think twice about whether you really need that new role in the first place. How directly additive will that new hire be towards your immediate and medium-term objectives?

6. Fire the C players

Doesn’t matter how much you may personally like them or how hard it will be. They are dragging you down. Even if you don’t replace the position, your business will be more successful and more efficient without them.

7. Take more lunch & coffee meetings

Do it for your own sanity, as well as to learn from more of the incredibly smart people around town. Be intentional about picking people you may not know, or who know things you don’t yet know. Be bold and ask people to lunch or coffee that you think might not have time (some will say yes). Accept a few more invitations from people you don’t yet know, who may surprise you with what they can share and help you with.

8. Be a mentor

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. A few phone calls, maybe a meeting or two, and answering emails. But your expertise and attention could mean a lot to someone who is “you” several years ago. We’re counting on that next generation of business leaders to take over when we’re ready for that folding chair on the beach.

9. Thank your team, partners, customers and advisors more often

Show that you’re paying attention, noticing their hard work and/or loyalty. This doesn’t have to come in the way of gifts or raises or bonuses (at least not every time). More often than not, people just need to hear from you that their contributions are recognized and appreciated.

10. Get up earlier

Just think about what you could do with an extra 30-60 minutes, first-thing in the morning, when nobody else is tugging at your sleeve (literally or figuratively) for attention. Get a cup of coffee, read the paper, get in a vigorous workout. Give yourself a better head start to the day.

11. Eat less processed food

Shop and eat primarily from the perimeter of the supermarket. Hard to do in a fast-paced life, but with a little preparation it’s pretty easy to surround yourself with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and a lot less preservatives & chemicals.

12. Delegate more

Even if it costs you a little more out of your pocket to have someone else do it, get the non-essential or too-tactical stuff off your plate. Teach someone else a system or process or approach you want to take, and empower them to do 90 percent of the work for you.

13. Automate more

There’s likely a percentage of the things you need to delegate that can be automated instead. Wouldn’t it be worth investing a little time and effort into documenting and automating something now, so you don’t have to think about or execute it manually moving forward?

14. Document more

It’s going to get less and less efficient as you grow to be reactive and/or arbitrary in how you execute the recurring strategic and tactical work all around you. Get in the habit (yourself and your team) of documenting what needs to be done, how to do it, and how to achieve consistent results every time.

15. Take more small risks

Test more ideas. Fire more bullets to validate new premises. Get outside of your comfort zone and find new ways to achieve the same or better results. You’ll fail often by doing this, but you’ll also discover the opportunities for acceleration that otherwise will evade you if you stay with what’s comfortable.

Matt Heinz is president of Heinz Marketing, a Redmond-based sales & marketing firm. You can connect with Matt via emailTwitterLinkedIn or his blog.

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