By: Bianca Barratt
It’s the same every year – “this is the year I’m going to leave on time every night,” or “this is the year I’m going to read a new book every week,” we tell ourselves every January the first, filled with optimism that the new year will be the one where everything changes. Sometimes we’re right – especially if we’ve mentally prepared ourselves for the goals we’ve set – but, more often than not, life gets in the way.
It’s common knowledge that one of the reasons most resolutions die a pitiful death the second week in January is that we usually fall into the trap of setting goals that are too big. A little like “statistical numbing” –the idea that humans have a greater emotional response to one, rather than wide-spread, tragedy – we find it difficult to wholly get on board with goals that will take a long time to reach.
We need something to work towards in order to motivate ourselves to go to work every day, though. The good news is, there are plenty of small goals we can set ourselves that can actually make a big difference to our working life and career as a whole.
Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling.
Get into the habit of negotiating. This one might seem like a no-brainer but many of us don’t actually negotiate when we get offered a pay rise or promotion. Everything from your salary to your fringe benefits should be seen as a conversation between you and your employer, rather than a binary choice. If you’re not sure how to go about this, start by asking people you trust who have orchestrated a successful negotiation for advice. Also, start small – see what areas of your working life you might be able to tweak (perhaps working hours or time to complete a project) as a form of practice.
Work on your body language. Do you play with your hair, bite your nails or slouch? Do you ever catch yourself doing these things at work? Make a commitment to stamp out one of your bad physical habits as they often give off negative signals to our superiors. Hair twirling can be misconstrued as immaturity, nail biting as nervousness and slouching as a lack of assertiveness. Being taken more seriously could be as simple as speaking more slowly, looking people in the eye and working on your posture.
Make a new connection every month. As much as most of us hate the idea of “networking,” it’s necessary for forward career movement. If the idea of walking around an industry event schmoozing with a room full of people you don’t know fills you with dread, make a commitment to meet up with just one person who inspires you each month. This could be someone you already work with, someone you’ve connected with on LinkedIn or someone you just really admire. The majority of people will be flattered to be seen in such a way and will be more than happy to meet you for a quick coffee, lunch or after work drink. This simple act could help you find a mentor, inspire you or even lead to new job opportunities.
Stop multitasking. Seriously. It doesn’t work. Make a list of things you need to do that day and work through each one methodically. When our energy and attention is scattered, it’s almost impossible to work efficiently and complete things to the best of our ability.
Keep your stress in its place. To advise you to let go of your stress entirely would be unrealistic – we all suffer through difficult working days and overloaded schedules. But what you can do as you leave work is take a few moments to let go of the day and get out of that “work stress” frame of mind. We often carry over our stress from work into our personal lives and misguidedly direct it at situations or people it has nothing to do with – usually our partners, family or friends. Spending a few moments each day mentally detaching yourself from your work will have a positive effect on both your personal and professional life. It’ll help you separate the two in your mind, improve your relationships, allow you to have quality down time and to return to work the next day more refreshed and in a better frame of mind.