New Year, New Career Resolutions

The midnight toasts have been made, the last of the holiday decorations have been put away and you’re back at work. Now what? For many, greeting a new year wouldn’t be complete without making resolutions. This year, in addition to your personal goals, resolve to be the best professional you can be.

“It’s really easy to get caught in the proverbial hamster wheel of the mundane day-to-day life of work,” says Cathy Francois, assistant director of career programming for UMUC’s Career Services in the Office of Institutional Advancement. “Setting career resolutions will help you get the gears going to move your career forward.”

Short on ideas? Here are some to get you started. Write them down, post them in a place where you’ll see them every day and watch your career reap the benefits.

Take back stolen time

There’s one thing no amount of money can buy: time. We’re all given the same 24 hours to spend each day, and it’s up to each of us to use them wisely. If you feel like you’re always short on time at work, you can take back control.

Start by making an audit of how you spend your precious hours. Write down everything you do for a few days—including the time you spend checking your social media accounts and getting lost in the news. Then, sit down and examine your logs for wasted moments.

Are you on the internet each day for longer than you realized? Is there an opportunity to consolidate meetings and errands? Are you taking on tasks that others could easily handle? Once you take a closer look at how you spend your days, there’s a good chance you’ll find lost hours that you can reclaim to use on your core focus areas at work.

Reduce stress by getting your priorities in order

Are you always saying yes to new assignments only to feel buried—and slightly resentful—when your overloaded plate causes you stress? Stress can be harmful to your job performance—and your health. If you feel like you’re stretched too thin, it’s time to step back and evaluate your priorities.

“Prioritizing your work can help you develop a plan to tackle each task strategy,” notes Francois. “It’s empowering and can help you overcome the anxiety that may come with a large workload.”

Take inventory of the projects you’re working on. Then, take a look at your organization’s and team’s goals. Are you spending a significant amount of time working on projects that aren’t directly aligned to your company’s goals? If so, it’s time to talk to your boss so you can agree on your priorities—and delegate or discontinue work that isn’t going to further your organization’s strategic objectives.

Zero in on your professional goals

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks and lose sight of the long term. A new year offers a perfect opportunity to pause and reflect on what your professional goals are. Take some time to think about where you’d like to see yourself in a year’s time. Are you working toward a promotion? Are you hoping to dive into a new industry or field?

Then it’s time to map out a path to get yourself there. That may involve taking advantage of professional development opportunities or accepting stretch assignments to learn new skills. Whatever it takes, resolve to put in the time and effort to help you achieve your professional goals.  

Keep it simple

Whether they’re professional or personal, it’s best to keep your resolutions simple to increase your chances of success. Choose a few that resonate with you, write them down and evaluate your progress regularly. For some people, it may help to share them with a supportive colleague, friend or family member who can keep you honest about your progress and keep you on track.

“I recommend setting monthly or quarterly benchmarks for each goal and share them and your progress with a mentor or an accountability partner,” Francois says.

Making—and keeping—professional resolutions can help provide you with the time, energy and clarity you need to work smarter. In the end, this exercise can help you achieve your professional goals, this year and beyond.