Turning the calendar at the end of the year means a fresh start, prompting many of us to make a list of New Year’s resolutions. But resolutions aren’t just for losing weight, eating right or making other personal improvements. They can also be aimed at making changes in your work life. Setting a few concise goals and priorities is a great way to kickstart the new year and sharpen your career focus.
A solid place to begin, says Louisiana small business consultant and professor Cathy Denison-Robert, is to visualize the changes you want to make.
“Ask yourself, ‘what do I want my work life to look like by the end of the year? What does success look like to me?’” says Denison-Robert, president of Cathy Denison-Robert PhD Professional Services, Inc. and associate professor of business administration and interim director of the Bachelor of Business Administration program at Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University.
“Draw a picture in your mind about what you want to improve or accomplish, see the end results, and back out to the beginning to list the steps to help you get there,” she says.
There’s a certain sense of excitement in making a list of resolutions, but within a few weeks, many of us have already felt our commitment slip.
“Call them what you will, resolutions, intentions, new habits or goals, they often share one thing in common,” says leadership consultant Melinda Stallings, CEO of Melinda Stallings International. “They are short lived.” Stallings says what makes the difference in keeping resolutions is to exchange old habits for new ones.
“It’s when a person decides that whatever was working before is not working now that they will even attempt to begin a change,” says Stallings.
Workplace resolutions don’t have to be confined to individuals. Managers could consider inviting their teams to participate in group resolutions, such as improving communication with one another. It might be a good idea to have the team engage in a book club exercise in which each person reads a title like bestseller, Crucial Conversations, Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, says training consultant Julie Laperouse, a director at Emergent Method.
Ultimately, workplace New Year’s resolutions can be an effective way for professionals to evaluate their goals for success, pinpoint their focus and change what’s not working.
Here are a few places to start:
“As you set resolutions this year,” says Laperouse, “ask yourself ‘what is most important to me right now in this phase of my life?’ Write these things down and then refer back to them throughout the year as you’re pulled in different directions. Make sure everything you say ‘yes’ to is in line with those priorities.”
Denison-Robert suggests adapting a “servant-leadership” approach to your work, in which leading includes a commitment to serving those you manage or work with daily. “Be a servant first as you lead others and help your team feel valued each day,” says Denison-Robert. “You’ll create a much more productive and satisfying work environment.”
Resolutions are hard to meet if they’re too general. Distill your goals down to the specifics, say experts. For example, if you want to broaden your network, you could commit to developing five new contacts per quarter. Also, include how you’ll do it. You could participate more in the networking organizations you already belong to, or join new ones. You could also challenge yourself to asking one professional you admire out for coffee or lunch each month. Hold yourself accountable on a regular basis.
Resolutions are challenging, but one of the best ways to ensure success is to have an accountability partner, says Stallings. “This is a person who will hold you accountable for sticking to your resolutions,” she says. “It can’t be anyone who will let you slide, and it won’t be fair for you to get mad at them as they point out your missteps.”
It takes a minimum of 28 consecutive days to integrate a new habit, and part of the journey in self-improvement is to occasionally slip up. But don’t be discouraged, say experts. “Just tell yourself that you will begin again,” says Stallings. “Go back to the visualization of what your new life will be like and start over.”
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