New year PlansIn the trend of continual process improvement, oftentimes an event like New Year’s will spur some folks to making positive changes in their personal and professional lives.

Here’s a few things you may want to do to make your life easier – and they all involve protecting yourself in some way.

Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than how you’re reading this message now – via a computer of some sort, most likely.

Our simple tricks to help you be ready in the case of an emergency:

a) Backup your data. No, really, do this. Don’t be sitting there nodding your head and thinking, “You know, she’s right, I really should do this.” DO IT. Stick in a flash drive right now and back up your key documents; buy a big external hard drive and back up everything every week. Really. And keep multiple copies – experts recommend 3 backups minimum. So you can delete the old files, after you’re making the 4th backup, but until then, keep ‘em.

Where is that data physically stored? If you have everything stored at the same place, consider splitting it up. I have copies of really key docs residing in another state, so if I ever get taken down by a natural disaster (flooding would probably be the most common here) my data is dry somewhere else. (A copy of my will and guardianship for the kids is also there… God forbid we should need it, as my mother would say).

b) Change your computer passwords. Yup, it’s a pain to remember new passwords, but it’s worth it. And, for key financial sites (banking, credit card, etc.) don’t have the computer store it for you. Type them in every time – consider it as smart as not writing your pin number on your debit card. Why give the casual observer/thief the key to enter the financial kingdom? To make it easier (but more risky), you can consider a couple of passwords – one that ‘opens’ all financial sites; and one that doesn’t. (You don’t want to have one password for everything – ordering pizza online and transferring funds to offshore accounts…) And make them fairly difficult to guess, so anyone reading your blog can’t figure out what the password may be [no, the password is not ‘quality’!] But if the password was ‘quality’, I might choose to add a number in the middle – qua3lity, as an example – to make it more difficult for the casual hacker to get in. If the word is a compound word, like cupcake, don’t add the digit between the two words. Add it somewhere else – anywhere else – so not cup5cake; but cu9pcake, or cupc6ake are both acceptable. Another strategy is to swap out a number for a letter in a common word – like change the “L” to “1″, or the “O” to “0″ (OH to ZERO), or “E” to “3″, or “G” to “9″. So some password letter/number swaps may be d099y (doggy), or 1ov3 (love), pr3tty (pretty), or c0mput3r (computer)… you get the idea!

OK, now that we’ve thought about computers a bit, how about your business?

Do you have a succession plan?

An exit strategy?

Start looking at where you want to be in x years, then lay in a plan to get there. There are great references on how to do a succession plan – a simple google search will bring up more than I could link to here. As for exit strategy, this is something I always coach my clients on when we are starting up their company – we put a business plan in place, then define what the life of the company might be.

Spruce Up your Business Plan – do you have one?

If not, write one. If so, update it. I have a great one-page business plan that I use with new coaching clients – it helps to get everything down easily, and is a great starting place for a more detailed plan.

And, if you are the key earner in your family, consider looking at long-term and short-term disability insurance. There are all sorts of packages out there… find the one that blends in the fees you are comfortable with and the services you are covered for. No one wants to worry about getting sick or disabled, however, if you have this plan in place, it’s one less thing for everyone else to worry about, and allows you to focus on recovery instead of medical bills.

Finally, think about reviewing your insurance – business, liability, home, car, life, etc. – to see if it’s up to snuff. Do you have replacement costs, rental coverage, etc.? Have you looked for multi-policy discounts to see if you can pay less? Chat with your agent…

It doesn’t take long to do any of this – so toggle over to your to-do list, pop these puppies on ‘em, and start the year off right!

Finally, please post your favorite tip to protect yourself, your property, your home, and your family – let’s share and build our knowledge base!