We’re now into the new year. You might have already made (and perhaps even broken!) a few New Year’s resolutions in your personal life. But have you made any professional resolutions to improve your work life? If you need some inspiration, we have some ideas for work resolutions that might help enrich your professional life in the coming year.
1. designate electronics-free times
The majority of us are guilty of being attached to our phones and other electronics like they’re a phantom limb with can’t live without. We dare you to try and recall the last time you were farther than an arm’s length away from of some sort of electronic device. It’s a lot harder than you think! But just because the technology is there, doesn’t mean it needs to capture our attention all the time. Designate a certain amount of time each day (or week, if that works better with your schedule) where you set aside all screens and focus on offline activities such as reading a book, cooking or spending time with your family.
2. give 'inbox zero' a try
For those of you not sure what Inbox Zero is: it’s an email management style where you have no unsorted or unopened messages in your email. True Inbox Zero involves handling messages when you read them, or sorting them to be dealt with as needed at a later time, and deleting everything else, so you have a completely empty inbox. If you’re sitting on a pile of thousands, or maybe even tens of thousands of unopened emails, that can seem like a pretty daunting task. Our recommendation? Start small. Unsubscribe from those daily emails newsletters and promotional emails you never read. Delete or archive older unopened emails because let’s face it: if they’re more than a couple weeks old, you were never going to read them anyway. Make it a goal to deal with all your new incoming emails each day. It’s amazing how an uncluttered inbox can lift a weight!
3. get active on LinkedIn
Like it or not, LinkedIn is the professional social network, and if you’re serious about networking and building a personal brand for yourself, an active and up-to-date LinkedIn profile is a bare necessity of being a professional in today's day and age. Why not take it a step further? Instead of being the LinkedIn mooch who only engages when you need something (read: a job) set aside some time daily or weekly to build some goodwill on the platform, so that when you’re ready to launch a job search, you’ll already be in everyone’s good graces and have a plethora of content and history on your account to vouch for you.
4. step outside of your comfort zone
It can be really easy to get into a rut at work, especially if you work in an industry where you have a lot of tasks that must be repeated daily or weekly. You come into work, do what’s expected of you, go home, rinse and repeat until retirement. (Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration.) But seriously, a lot of workers are definitely stuck on the repeat cycle. Make an effort to take on projects that’ll stretch your abilities. And if you’re not regularly offered them, ask for them! That in and of itself might be stepping outside of your comfort zone! Do things that scare you a little bit. That’s the only way you’ll grow professionally.
5. learn something new every day
In today’s fast-moving business climate, it can be mere months before your skills are out of date. The software we work with daily is constantly receiving updates, and new and more efficient tools are being churned out at a dizzying rate. To stay on top of the pack, you must be an adept learner. Now we’re not saying you should learn a new professional skill each day… that sounds exhausting. Learning can involve small things, from getting to know a coworker a little better, to reading an interesting article, to trying that new gmail feature Google has been pestering you to try.
6. use all your vacation time
26% of Canadians have admitted to not using the paid vacation offered by their employer. Think about that for a second: 1 in 4 Canadians ignore their right to get paid for not showing up to work! At some workplaces, doing so is even considered a badge of honour, concrete proof that you’re a hard worker. This kind of thinking needs to stop. Using vacation isn’t weakness or proof of laziness. All full-time workers in Canada are guaranteed at least 2 weeks of paid vacation. It’s a fundamental right and for good reason. Overworking is real, and can cause burnout and a drop in productivity, no matter how much you love your job. So use your vacation. You deserve it!
7. leave the office at 5pm sharp
Look, there are always going to be days where you stay late just to finish off that one thing you really need to get done ASAP. But those days should be the exception rather than the rule. Hourly paid workers wouldn’t think about putting in extra hours without being paid for them. Salaried workers, on the other hand, are often treated as if they’re on-call 24/7 for the privilege of being salaried. Say goodbye to your guilt about leaving the office on time. And maybe even leave a little early once in a while.
8. take more breaks
Canadian law entitles workers to two 15 minute breaks or a half-hour meal break for every 5+ hour shift they work, and employers often offer more. Yet, many people don’t take these breaks, and worse, some workers don’t even know they exist. Studies have shown that people who take more frequent breaks and work hard for short bursts in between are actually more productive and alert than their counterparts who work non-stop. In fact, there are whole task management philosophies built around the principle. The Pomodoro Technique is a popular one. There’s also evidence that it’s better for your health. In addition to reducing stress, it encourages you to move from sedentary positions and reduces your risk of heart disease, obesity and other chronic illnesses. Our point being: taking breaks is good for you!
9. ask for help when you need it
We all want to be self-sufficient. There’s a certain pride in being able to do things on your own. That said, no one is an expert in everything and there are times when you’d be better off asking for help. Now that doesn’t mean that you’re foisting work off on someone else. Think of asking for help as an opportunity to collaborate and a learning opportunity. Instead of doing a sub-standard job at a task you’re not sure about, ask for help from an expert who can show you the ropes so you can become self-sufficient. If you’re asking for help because you’re overloaded, there’s no shame in that either. Be honest with yourself about your workload and what you can reasonably handle.
10. reach the next stage of your career
It’s never a bad time to make career progression your goal. There’s no one right way to advance your career, either. To you career advancement might mean a promotion to a management position. TO someone else it could be taking on new responsibilities in their current role, or a change to a new department. For some people who are happy with their current responsibilities, a career progression could involve negotiating to work from home occasionally. Whatever your career goals are (and it’s always a good idea to have a list!) evaluate the steps you need to take to make them happen in the new year.
11. find a new job
If you’re not happy with your current job and no new year’s resolution is going to change your mind, make it your new year’s resolution to find another job. January is a great time to launch a job hunt, because businesses (and their employees) have recovered from the holiday rush and are often in a mindset to start fresh and reevaluate their needs and budgets. That means a lot of hiring decisions are often made during this time. Clean up your resume, think about your personal brand and get out there and find a shiny new job.
Is your work resolution not on this? We’d love to hear what you’re doing to enrich your work life in the coming year! Share your professional new year’s resolutions with us on social media!