It’s that time again. New Year’s is here and with it our resolutions. This year though, we’re going to keep them. Right? Right! Whether they’re your personal resolutions or your professional resolutions, here are a few tips that will make them easier to keep.
Don’t make them on New Year’s Eve. If you haven’t decided what you’re going to commit to this year, don’t rush it. General promises to yourself to be more engaged at work, to be healthier, to network more are too vague and too easy to let fall by the wayside. Take your time and think about what you really want to accomplish in the upcoming year. Whatever you decide on, it should align with what you value in yourself and in your work. And it needs to be specific. “Do more networking” is fine. “Reach out to one contact a week and go to 6 networking events” is much better. Having a specific goal to reach will let you mark milestones along the way and feel like you’re really making progress.
When you’re making these resolutions, there are a few things to think about in the wording. Affirmative steps are easier to take than negative ones. “I’m not going to eat as much at company lunches” is hard to keep. “I’m always going to eat the salad and vegetable,” much easier. “I’m not going to be as quiet at our meetings” doesn’t give you actual direction. “I’m going to speak up once at every department meeting” gives you a clear, positive goal to reach. The other language to think about using is “if/then.” Some studies say that you’re three times more likely to stick to your plan using it – after all, our brains love contingencies. You’re not stopping yourself from doing something; you’re giving yourself a challenge. “I’m not going to multi-task at work” can become “If it’s between 11 -3, I won’t check email.” You’re still going to check email (a primary culprit for distraction), but you’ve given yourself clear parameters.
Once you’ve decided what to do, write it down. It can be a sticky on your desk, a note in your drawer and, most importantly, your calendar. If there are admin requirements that you need to get better at, put them in at specific dates and times. Committing to getting out of the office for lunch once a week? Put it in, even if you don’t have plans yet. Focusing on building skills, add “read trade magazine” on Friday mornings once a month. It’s easy to think big picture when you’re contemplating your year, but when you get into the weeds of day-to-day work, anything that’s not a habit falls through the cracks. After all, all of this resolution keeping is about habit. The more regularly you do something, the more habitual it will become and the more likely you’ll incorporate it into your life without thinking.
And the last key to success? Share your goals. Motivation is great – it gets us going, but rarely keeps us going. What does work? Friends and acquaintances. Let people know what your goals are so that they can be a part of helping you. If you tell people that you have a networking goal, for instance, they’ll know to come to you with opportunities. It’s takes some of the work off of you and gives you community support. To a successful and thriving 2016!