You might have made a hefty list of New Year’s resolutions for improved health, wealth and happiness, but by the end of the first full week of 2015, you’re cold, tired, and overwhelmed. It just didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, and you’re really already over the whole resolution thing. (By the way, you’re not alone. Statistically, 25 percent of those who make a New Year’s resolution don’t make it past the first week.) So should you just give up, and try again next year?
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Not by a long shot. Here’s the thing: resolutions aren’t meant to be easy. That’s why we have to make the resolve to do them. But, you may also be finding that you’ve jumped on the bandwagon with your friends and colleagues. Your resolutions are generic (not action-oriented). Honestly, you just don’t know where to start.
Take time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished in 2014, and even analyze those successes and failures; but beware the temptation to spend too much time patting yourself on the back or beating yourself up. This is the time to look forward and to plan for real change in your work life, which will jump-start your career.
Yes, we say it every year (it was No. 2 on the list of Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions in 2014, according to Statistic Brain). We even intend to make it happen, but organization is a huge topic, and most of us can’t hope to undertake it, without more specific and actionable goals.
So, here’s what you can shoot for: Organize your workspace. (Yes, that desk that has stacks of paper a mile high). Or, plan to stay on top of your filing projects. Resolve to stay current, by making it a priority to complete it by the end of the day, or week.
Better yet, use a calendar to schedule out specific resolutions for each month. This week, you can organize your desk. Next week, you can organize your car. The week after that, you can organize your junk drawer. Taken together, it would feel overwhelming; but when you accomplish one organizational task at a time, you can reward yourself — and, perhaps, even your team — for reaching that goal.
2. Get Balance.
When you envision this resolution, you may picture yourself on a tightrope. There’s fear, stress, and also the not-quite-realized possibility of happiness if/when you’re able to strike a balance between your work and home life. Since the compartments of your life are sometimes ill-defined, you may feel pulled in different directions, stressed out, overworked, under-appreciated, and frustrated.
Instead of calling it “balance,” your resolution may be to: reduce stress, work less, and spend more time with your family. All of those are great resolutions, and timely ones. They are also intrinsically tied to your overall career focus. You probably work so much because you feel that it’s required, you need the money, and/or you’re working toward advancement. All that overtime is a reality in many professions and you may love that; but you also realize for health or emotional reasons that you must find time for life outside of work.
So, how do you make that resolution real and actionable? Name that goal for what it is, and brainstorm specific ways that you can accomplish it. In a survey of nearly 500 working Americans, “48 percent of those surveyed said they want to leave work on time this year, while 44 percent wish to regularly take a lunch break. Another 44 percent hope to use all of their vacation time,” according to Deseret News. Each of those resolutions are specific ways to bring more balance to our lives.
A typical resolution may be to keep on top of your email, or respond more promptly to phone calls. The truth is, though, that real communication is at the core of most of our daily activities. If we are making resolutions that will revitalize your career, those belated messages may be just a symptom of a much larger issue.
Workplace communication often fails for very basic reasons. You’re just too busy; or you make assumptions. Perhaps the most common reason was voiced by Bob Kustka, The Fusion Factor CEO, who told Businessweek:
“Communication is not easy. Even in close, personal relationships, we forget to keep someone informed or communicate in a way that leads to misunderstanding. Communicating to larger audiences in the corporate setting requires even more careful thought.”
Unfortunately, some of us also just aren’t very good at communicating. That goes beyond simply checking emails, and it may require you to take a step back and look closely at what you do and how you do it. It may also be helpful for you to ask your co-workers for their feedback. You may find that by working to improve your communication this year, you won’t be as overworked, frustrated or stressed out. You may even enjoying your job and co-workers a lot more.
Yes, your life is busy. We all get that (and we commiserate), but there’s still time to learn.
Why would we say that? Learning is another one of those essential activities that we all must fit into our work day. Beyond just helping your career, it will re-invigorate your workday and may even remind you of why you chose your profession in the first place.
First, though, we must set aside the notion that education can only be obtained in the classroom. Most of us have been in the classroom, and we’ve learned a lot, but we all have the opportunity and responsibility to continue learning outside of that classroom environment. That means you’ll read and watch tutorials and training videos. (You’ll love lynda.com, and Youtube offers lots of free tutorials.) That also means that you’ll need to ask lots of questions, listen more, and find others in your network who can collaborate with you and help you grow.
It’s a three-letter word, but it’s one of the most powerful. It means you have to start doing something, preferably today. Of course, this word is also a broad and over-arching one. It could mean anything. What do you do? What do you say? What will this resolution be?
In this context, the “act” doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. It can be a small thing — maybe as simple as looking at the one thing that you dislike or fear the most at work, and then acting to make it better.
“Psychological scientists have found that people who want to change — to do better at work, for example — are willing to take the short-term pain of hearing negative information about themselves, if they actually believe that bearing this pain will actually help them improve in the long run,” writes India R. Johnson at the Association for Psychological Science.
Go back to the old saying about impossible really meaning: “I’m possible.” Recognize the fear for what it is. Perhaps you’re even afraid of success. Somewhere amidst the resolutions and goals for the coming year, you may also find new reasons to hope for, and work toward, a new start in your career.
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