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Sticking to Your Career Resolutions After January

According to U.S. News & World Report, the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is said to be about 80%. What’s more, most lose their resolve by mid-February. So, while we all dove into 2020 saying this was the year we were going to keep track of our expense reports and stop using DoorDash to eat at our desks every day, we’ve arrived at the time of the year when career resolutions usually go out the window.

As we settle back into a normal rhythm of work after 6 weeks of holiday schedules, let’s investigate ways we can make positive changes to our work life this year.

Determine a word of the year

Many successful people (like Melinda Gates) advocate for choosing a word of the year. This word can either serve as a reminder for how you can best support yourself in making positive changes or it can be something you want to equip yourself with to move to the next levels of success. 

What is one word that defines what you want and how you need to get it?

Let’s say your goals for 2020 are to spend less time getting distracted by social media, be more organized with your computer files, increase your ROI by 10%, and get up earlier in the mornings so you don’t roll into work half-asleep every day. Those things could all be summed up as being efficient and now you have a single word to be your mantra. 

When making a decision, action, or reaction, take a minute to ask yourself if this supports efficiency. If it does, go for it. If it doesn’t, maybe take a second look and see where you can adjust to meet your goals.

Tiny habits build big results

BJ Fogg runs the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford and has invested over 20 years researching and teaching insights about human behavior. He knows a thing or two about teaching health and productivity, including teaching a student that went on to co-found Instagram. Instagram! If it works to come up with Instagram, it’ll probably work for you too.

Fogg’s proven strategy is to start smaller than small. Difficult behaviors require a lot of motivation and as humans, our motivation levels go up and down all the time, so relying on motivation alone to create a new habit isn’t often successful. Fogg wants you to start tiny, so tiny that the action doesn’t require motivation or celebration in order to complete it. 

“A good tiny habit takes less than 30 seconds, requires no real effort and doesn’t create pain or bad emotions. – BJ Fogg”

Let’s go back to the goal of being more organized with your computer files. Retroactively going back to organize years worth of files would be daunting and will most likely be the first thing tossed to the wayside when things get busy. So, a tiny habit would be to create one folder a day. 

Start a “2020” folder on day one. Then the next day, add a folder within that for a project or client name. And day by day, take less than 30 seconds needed to create all the folders you need until the entire system is in place.

From there, you can pick one folder and once a day, add a file to the appropriate place. It can be something you do while you’re waiting to dial into a conference call or the last thing you do before you leave for the day to check off one last task and leave on a high note. 

Soon adding the files to the right place as they’re created will be easy and natural and one day the entire thing will be organized. Little, repetitive, easy tasks are key to building up to great habits.

Define success

Working hard but not feeling like you’re getting anywhere is frustrating, unmotivating, and just plain annoying. In order to fend off burn out or feeling aimless, accurately define a goal. This means you can clarify your ideas, focus your efforts, use your time and resources productively, and increase your chances of achieving the desired results. 

Many professionals advocate for the use of SMART goals:

Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
Achievable (agreed, attainable)
Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)

This looks daunting but when broken down, it becomes manageable steps. Let’s go back to the example of you wanting to get up earlier in the morning to start the day more focused and alert. That’s a good goal, but also vague and not very measurable. So, let’s put it through the SMART formula.

“By the end of this month (time) I want to get up for work 15 minutes (specific, achievable) earlier than I currently do (measurable) in order to build up to my goal of one day getting up an hour earlier (relevant.)”

Automatically going from waking up at 7am to waking up at 6am would be a huge system shock and, frankly, isn’t very likely. But with a SMART goal, you can break the overall goal down into manageable chunks. By adding in the Tiny Habits that we mentioned earlier, you could accomplish this goal by setting your alarm for 1 minute earlier every day until you make it to the 15 minutes.

Staying motivated for an entire year on one big vague goal is overwhelming and often too easy to give up on. By implementing smaller, more manageable, flexible objectives throughout the year, you’ll come to the end of the year with a whole host of better habits and a list of goals checked off.

About Haley Williams

Haley Williams is a PR pro living in Indianapolis. She enjoys her book club, too much Mexican food, and being a cat mom.