The New Year is a perfect time to recalibrate your mindset and take the longview on what you want and need from your career. But resolutions can come and go unless they are a realistic push and specific enough to put meaningful changes into motion.
It’s difficult. A 2014 poll by the University of Scranton found that 77 percent of people adhered to their New Year’s resolutions the first week before dropping to 46 percent after six months.
What we know, however, is that resolutions need to be fluid to keep up with evolving professional circumstances and shifting personal goals. Research also suggests that it’s best to avoid temptation, plan a course of action, and resist abandoning goals if you slip up, writes Max Ufberg, national editor at Pacific Standard.
The S.M.A.R.T. approach
A great way to craft resolutions that work is the S.M.A.R.T. system. Its elements are designed to help you gain clarity and figure out how to focus your resources, time and energy to achieve what you want. They are:
- Specific. What do you love to do? What do you want to accomplish? What actions will you take? Why is it important to you and/or your organization?
- Measurable. What data will measure the goal? (How much? How well?) How often will you track your progress?
- Achievable. Is the goal realistic? Do you have the necessary skills and resources? What do you need?
- Relevant. How does the goal align with broader goals—yours and perhaps your organization’s? Why is the result important?
- Time-Bound. What is the time frame for accomplishing the goal? What is realistic? How many deadlines should there be?
In short, the S.M.A.R.T. approach asks:
- What do you want to achieve?
- Why do you want to achieve it?
- How are you going to achieve it?
The most common work resolutions for 2020 include getting a raise, learning a new work-related skill, getting a promotion, being more productive, looking for a new job, and starting a business, according to a Harris poll conducted for Zapier. Yours may be different.
Laura Weldy, a Nashville-based certified coach and leadership consultant, advises asking yourself whether something is truly important to you or something you feel you should do.
“For those of us with a full-time job, I love the idea of crafting some resolutions around the progress you desire to make in your career and the lifestyle you want for yourself in your downtime,” she says.
7 Steps to Effective Resolutions
- Reflection: An easy place to start is to reflect on your current job (your key areas of responsibility and skills) and how it compares to where you would like to be a year from now. Review your core work values and your definition of success. What would you do if you could do anything? What kind of impact do you want to make? What kinds of skills and people interest you?
- Get it on Paper: Write down clear statements setting an overall goal and intermediate goals. The more specific you are, the more likely it is you will succeed.
- Incorporate Mentors: Seek the advice of friends and colleagues. An experienced executive recruiter can also help you talk through your professional and personal goals in the context of your industry and job market. An Individual Development Plan (IDP) may be useful for this part of the process, too.
- Ask Why? The answer to “why is this important?” is your motivating force, and a compelling reason for you to pursue your goals and what have to do to achieve them. Remind yourself of the “why” on a regular basis.
- Spell out the Tactical Steps: Daily, weekly or monthly—that need to be taken to achieve your goals. Consider the necessary tools, time, skills, and energy, and take a moment to anticipate obstacles.
- Measurement: Determine how you are going to measure your progress. Set some milestones along the way that will remind you to gauge if you’re on track or if your plan needs adjustment. Consistency is key.
- Set Realistic Deadlines: However don’t be discouraged if it looks like it might not be met. It’s often helpful to find an accountability buddy so that you each have someone to turn to for encouragement and support along the way. Plan a quarterly lunch with this buddy.
“The fact that you started a list of resolutions means you are now closer to achieving your goal than you were yesterday. Do not give up,” says Carl Pullein, a renowned productivity and time management coach. “Readjusting your time line does not mean you failed. It just means you did not get your timeline right the first time.”
What are your New Year’s resolutions for 2020?