We're over a month into 2017.

Sure, it doesn't sound like much. You're probably thinking, "It's just February. I have plenty of time left." But year after year, February turns into March, March turns into April, and before you know it, you're brainstorming resolutions that will make 2018 your year.

I know I've been there - making grand plans to take on the world without much to show for it by December 31st. Why? Over 40% of resolutions fail after one month. More than five out of every ten fail by six months.

That "new year, new me" attitude is great, but it disappears quickly. If you're sick of spinning your wheels and never gaining traction, it's time to do something about it.

Here are five questions that'll help you RAISE (routine, automate, inspire, smile and excel) your expectations for yourself on both a personal and professional level. Ask them now (and throughout the year) to put these principles to work.

1. What's Your Routine?

This is the biggest one and the longest section in this article. That's because once your routine is set, everything else tends to fall into place.

I'd tell you to take a minute to list every action you take each morning - as well as those you take for your business - but it's very likely you've ignored that request on just about every other blog that's asked you to do so.

That tells me two things about you:

Good news. Your mindset has something in common with the über-successful investor Warren Buffett, who once said: "Rule No. 1: Never lose money. Rule No. 2: Never forget Rule No. 1." And since it's said that time is money, you can just as easily say, "Never lose time."

So. Your routine. How is it geared towards success? Your business won't run at its best if you aren't. The more efficient you make your routine, the more you'll realize how much time you have control over - this goes for your morning routine and how you run things at the office.

At Home

I've always been big into hacking my daily routines and 'split-testing' my life. At various times, my morning routine has involved time spent with my wife, time inspiring myself with TED talks and other videos, learning, cartoons and more.
But what works for me won't necessarily work for you. You have to experiment. This guide can give you a starting place, or you can take the following suggestion from Alex Turnbull, founder of GrooveHQ:

"My biggest piece of advice is: regardless of what you do, commit to doing it every single day. Starting my day with a sense of control over my life makes it a lot easier to stay calm and feel like I'm in control when things don't go as planned later on."

In the Office

Stick to solid routines in the office, and don't compromise on the company calendar. You don't have to rule with an iron fist, but as much as you can, keep scheduled team meetings in their place. One-on-ones can change, but coordinating a new time for more than three members is a nightmare. And trust me, when you're trying to achieve your dreams, you don't need nightmares.

Figure out what works for your team. Maybe a full-team meeting each Tuesday morning with a check-in session on Friday afternoon will work for you - but you won't know until you try.

2. What Can I Automate?

Reducing the number of decisions you have to make each day is incredibly freeing, as it clears up the mental space needed to focus on the most important projects within your business.

To start, make a mental note of things you're doing multiple times each day, and think about whether or not you'd be just as successful if you just did them once. Listen to Tim Ferriss and limit the number of times you look at your inbox each day. Try out productivity apps. Some will work for you and some won't. As an example, I use IFTTT to send me the weather report automatically every morning. It's a simple thing, but it saves me time and lets me keep my focus elsewhere.

If you're doing payroll manually, automate it. If you're still doing staff schedules and business reporting by hand, automate it. The more you can automate, the less time you spend thinking about what you're going to do, which can make a world of difference in your productivity.

3. How Do I Inspire?

Take it from Seth Godin: "Why waste a sentence saying nothing?"

You don't need a "quote of the day" or morning energizers to inspire your employees. Hard work, open communication, and regular check-ins (but not too many) will go a long way towards keeping your team working effectively.

Oh, and just to motivate you a bit more, 71% of all employees are not fully engaged, yet companies with engaged employees outperform those without them by up to 202%. There's a business case for investing in being a more inspired leader, so commit now to doing what it takes to encourage and engage your employees.

4. Am I Smiling?

Good work is hard work, but it should be rewarding. Check in with yourself and make sure you still love what you're doing.

A while back, I battled an epic case of burnout. I fought it for a long time, but if I'd checked in sooner with the simple question of whether or not I was smiling, I'd have known what I needed to do long before I took action.

5. How Do I (Continue to) Excel?

Evaluate your processes early and often. Take what you've learned, keep the good, toss the bad, and repeat. Consider whether you're surrounding yourself with the best people, if you're asking the right questions, and how you can raise things to the next level.

Yeah, I know the acronym thing can seem a bit overused, but I feel so strongly about these five questions that I want to urge you to remember them all the same. Go through them now, and then set up a calendar reminder for the start of next month to check them again. Eventually, they'll become a new and welcome habit.
How do you plan to raise your expectations for yourself, your experiences and your ultimate success in 2017? Share your thoughts in the comments below: