Every year, even before the last strains of Auld Lang Syne have faded, millions of us look toward the new year with resolutions to improve ourselves and our lives. We resolve to exercise more, eat healthier, develop more business, save more money, spend more time with family, and a myriad of other hopeful goals. Unfortunately, our early optimism is often unrealistic, and many of us lose motivation or become too busy to pursue those ambitious goals as the year wears on.
If you’re considering setting professional goals for yourself for the coming year, we have five tips that may help you to succeed.
1. Take Care of Yourself
No matter what your professional or personal goals are, it will be easier to pursue and achieve them if you take care of your physical and mental wellbeing. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to mean a major lifestyle change. It is as simple as paying attention to your needs and making small changes that fit within your already busy schedule and that will improve your sense of wellbeing on a long-term basis.
For example, make sure you are getting enough sleep, at least 7 hours each night, to promote health and wellbeing. Try getting into a healthy sleep routing by going to bed at the same time, getting up at the same time, avoiding alcoholic drinks in the evening, and removing electronic devices from your bedroom. Another way to take care of yourself is to take a 10 or 15 minute “me” break once a day to do something you truly enjoy. This might be sitting quietly with a cup of tea and thinking about things for which you are grateful in your life, or taking a short walk in a park and listening to the sounds of nature, or playing with your dog. Whatever it is, be fully engaged in the moment. You will return to pursuing your goals with renewed energy.
2. Prioritize and Reprioritize
Our goals and desires when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve influence our resolutions for the year, but our goals and desires are not static. They change over time, and we often have competing goals. Recognize that you are only one person. You have limited time, resources, and motivation.
Consider all of your goals and how important they are compared with each other. Prioritize them to help yourself remain realistic and focused on what really matters to you. As the year progresses, reconsider and reprioritize. Treat your goals and resolutions as situational and adaptable rather than as static, immovable objects. Making progress toward a newly relevant priority is far more desirable than beating yourself up over quitting on a resolution that has become a low priority for you.
3. Set Professional Boundaries and Keep Them
When you spend your day juggling meetings, phone calls, and emails, it is easy to lose yourself and your long-term goals in the scramble. As professionals, we strive to assist our clients and to be good colleagues. For some of us, that might mean continuing to work and answer calls or emails late into the night or during our time off on weekends and holidays. Technology has improved our ability to stay in touch, and that is not always a good thing. Our clients come to expect us to be available to them 24×7.
Without professional boundaries, we often feel overworked and overwhelmed. It becomes impossible to pay attention to our larger goals and priorities when we are stuck in the weeds. Developing and maintaining professional boundaries might be as simple as saying “no” to requests that you work during your time off, not answering the phone during off-hours, or not replying to an evening email until you are in the office the next morning. You need to assess your situation to develop boundaries that work for you. Once you’ve set them, stick to them. Communicate clearly to others to set their expectations. Maintaining professional boundaries helps you to have time and energy for yourself and your goals.
4. Celebrate Your Moments of Triumph
It is easy to become discouraged and lose motivation if you feel like you aren’t making progress toward a goal. But every day that you try is a day that you succeed. Instead of focusing solely on the finish line, recognize and celebrate the baby steps you take that move you closer to it.
For example, if your New Year’s resolution was to develop more business, pat yourself on the back when you get on LinkedIn and comment on a post written by a potential client. That’s progress on which you can build! Celebrating those small daily moments of triumph can help you to stay motivated as you push forward toward your end goals.
5. Be Patient With Yourself
We are often our own worst critics, treating our every slip-up as an irredeemable failure. Sometimes that can motivate us to work harder and overcome the mistake. Unfortunately, our self-criticism can cause us to become discouraged and feel that we will never reach the goal, which can lead to giving up.
We all have good days and bad days. We make mistakes, we miscalculate, we over- and underestimate, we become weary and careless. That makes you human, just like everyone else. Be patient and kind to yourself. Forgive yourself when you make a mistake, and get back on that horse. And when you do, celebrate that as a moment of triumph as you work toward your goals.
“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
— Harriet Beecher Stowe
We wish you a happy, healthy, prosperous 2023!