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What’s your new year work resolution?

For many people, the start of a New Year is a good time to wave goodbye to bad habits and look ahead to new beginnings at work. We take time to consider what we want to achieve, improve and learn to make this year more successful than the last.

But all too often and all too soon, our lofty work resolutions are forgotten. By 31st January, our workload has intensified, other priorities dominate our time and our New Year’s resolutions seem near-impossible to achieve.

To break that cycle and ensure you achieve your work resolutions this year, our advice is to make them SMART, or in other words specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Vague resolutions like “Earn a promotion” or “Make more money”, are too ambiguous. In contrast, “Improve my communication and leadership skills and by December present evidence of my success to my boss to show I’m promotion-ready” is much clearer. Crucially, the latter can be more easily broken down into achievable steps, each with a realistic timeframe.

If you’re not sure what career-related resolutions to focus on this year, here are six concrete goals to help start your New Year at work right:

Resolution #1 Set weekly goals

While grand resolutions sound impressive, the reality is that smaller weekly goals are far more achievable and therefore more likely to lead to success. So, every Monday morning think of one small and achievable goal you want to accomplish that week. Then time-block enough minutes or hours to realistically achieve it – after all, your goals aren’t going to help you improve or achieve anything if you don’t action them. Having said this, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t meet a weekly goal. Priorities change and, sometimes, meeting that week’s goal simply isn’t possible. Luckily, every Monday provides a clean slate to start working towards your goal again.

Resolution #2 Learn a new skill

Identify one or two new skills that you can develop this year. Either focus on skills you need to improve or new skills that could be useful to your ongoing career longevity and success. Then take charge of your development by deciding how you’ll upskill, such as working on a stretch project or attending regular webinars. To achieve this New Year’s resolution, make sure you diarise regular learning opportunities and review progress at least twice during the year.

Resolution #3 Trial various approaches to achieve a work-life balance

Striking the right balance between our work and personal life isn’t easy and everyone’s idea of the perfect work-life balance is different. If you want to improve your balance this year, trialling different approaches makes for a good New Year’s resolution as it allows you to identify the method that works best for you – and your employer. For example, one month you could start and finish work an hour earlier to take the kids to the park after school, while the next you could turn your work phone off at 7pm every night to spend time doing something you enjoy. By experimenting in this way, as the year progresses your ideal solution to improving your work-life balance will become clear.

Resolution #4 Improve your time management

Many of us start each New Year by resolving to manage our time more effectively. But a swelling inbox and long to-do list soon take over and we end up rushing around our workplace, struggling to complete our most important tasks. The good news is that effective time management is not hard and can be broken into three main goals: prioritisation of your urgent and important tasks; time-blocking; and committing to your plan. To help you set – and keep – this New Year’s resolution, we’ve produced a range of time management tips.

Resolution #5 Find a mentor

A good mentor can make your career. Not only will they encourage you and open doors, but they’ll help you navigate the world of work and overcome any skill or knowledge gaps. So, if you don’t already have a mentor, finding one is an obvious New Year’s resolution. Start by identifying what it is that you need help with, then look within your network for someone who is an expert in this area who you admire. Make sure you approach them in an authentic way and, if they agree to mentor you, nurture the relationship. To get you started, here’s our advice on how to be a successful mentee.

Resolution #6 Find a new job

Finally, if you’ve been looking for new challenges or opportunities in your current role but have exhausted all your options and still haven’t achieved your goals, perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere. If you decide to look for a new job where you can succeed and thrive, then put a plan in place - our blog on how to get a job can help. Think about what you want from your next job, update your CV/CV, pair your online and offline content and prepare examples of previous successes to share in an interview. By making this a New Year’s resolution, you’ll take a brave step towards making the most of your career this year.


About this author

Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director, began working at Hays in 1993 and since then he has held a variety of consulting and management roles across the business. In 2004 he was appointed to the Hays Board of Directors. He was made Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand in 2012.

Prior to joining Hays, he had a background in human resource management and marketing, and has formal qualifications in Psychology.

Follow Nick on LinkedIn

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