Happy New Year! We drink, we stay up late, we kiss people, we watch fireworks, and revel as 2010 begins. I’m particularly excited about this New Year’s because I’m hoping that people will start saying the year as “twenty-ten” instead of “two thousand and ten.” Hey, I can dream.
But this also means it is time to make the dreaded New Year’s Resolution, a solemn promise to yourself to completely change who and what you are, to be a better human being, just because it’s time to buy a new calendar. Unfortunately, most people have trouble with the follow-through, and the whole fix-your-life-right-now program falls apart.
Here’s how to make it work.
First, don’t make a vague Resolution. Don’t say you want to be a better person, be nicer, lose weight, save money, or anything a beauty contestant might say. You need to be specific. Who are you going to help? How will you help them? How much weight will you lose? How much money will you save?
Modern business wisdom says it is easier to succeed at something if it is measurable, so plug some numbers or dates into your Resolution.
Second, don’t make one big Resolution; make a lot of little ones. If you only have one Resolution, and it falls apart for whatever reason, then you’re back to square one. But if you have several Resolutions, then even if some of them fall through, you may still succeed at the others.
What should your Resolution look like, then? Let’s start with the classic “Lose Weight.” (Note: Yes, this is work-related. Your health impacts everything that you do. And your appearance impacts your self-esteem, general happiness, and how others see you and act toward you.)
So instead of saying, “This year I’m going to lose weight” or even “I’m going to lose 20 pounds,” trying saying that this year you are going to:
- Replace soda with water.
- Replace coffee with tea.
- Use the stairs at work instead of the elevator.
- Eat oatmeal for breakfast.
- Stop getting fast food for lunch.
- Stop keeping candy in your desk.
- Snack on dry pretzels / popcorn instead of delicious chocolate.
- No donuts.
- Bring lunch from home instead of buying it.
- Go to bed earlier. (Apparently, increased sleep can aid weight loss.)
This way, even if you only stick to only two or three items, you can still make some progress toward your ultimate goal of “losing weight.” And better yet, your Resolution list is actually a detailed game plan, which is much better than signing up at a gym to take $50 a month so you can hang out with a bunch of strangers in spandex.
Which is not ideal.
Now, let’s try something more work-focused: “Make more money.” The first thing you need to do is get some information:
- Check your performance goals for the year.
- Research whether your company offers bonuses for helping to find new employees, or landing new clients, or anything else specific.
- Research what the average salary is for a person with your job title.
- Research what your company’s full salary range is for your position.
- Look at job postings to see whether there are similar jobs being offered with higher salaries.
You can try to earn more within your current position.
- Earn your full performance bonus.
- Earn a supplemental bonus.
- Request a raise. (It may help to get technical certifications or a Master’s degree, too.)
You can try to earn more by getting promoted.
- Find out what positions your company has that you might reasonably be promoted into.
- Learn what responsibilities that job involves.
- Demonstrate to your bosses that you can do that job.
You can try to earn more by getting another job.
- Get a new job with a higher salary. (You’re familiar with this process, right? Resume, interview? You know the drill.)
This way, when you make your Resolution, you can focus on a specific goal with a specific plan for making it happen. And that’s the whole point of the Resolution, isn’t it? Making it happen?
But there are probably a lot of other useful things you could resolve to do. You could focus on your education, or your relationships with your coworkers, or just on your organizational skills. But don’t forget that half of “work life” is “life.” So you could also think about many other things outside of the office.
How about your commute? Is it too long? Too slow? Too expensive? It might surprise you how much it improves your day when you have a shorter, less stressful drive every morning and evening. You can spend a few days trying to leave home at different times, or taking different roads. You could also experiment with the buses, the metro, or riding your bike.
Maybe you’re working too many hours, long evenings, and coming in on weekends. Why is that? Is your company short-staffed? Or maybe you’re just not planning well enough, leaving you to scramble to meet deadlines on nights and weekends. Whatever the reason, I doubt it’s making you happy. Once you find the cause, you may be able to find a solution, even if the solution is for you to cut the slow-pokes out of the picture and do a little extra work during the day. Remember, more work does not necessarily mean more time.
When you take stock of your life or your job and you think about what you’d like to change, focus on the specifics, on the details. It’s unlikely that there is one Big Bad Evil Force that’s making your life difficult or unpleasant. It’s more likely that there are many Little Yet Still Annoying Forces that are chipping away at your happiness or success. So the best plan is to chip back, one little problem at a time.