A new year can be enough to bring out the amped-up SoulCycle instructor in all of us. There’s a sense of urgency to rewrite the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of resolutions, the prospect of a new year still holds a wealth of possibilities waiting to be exploited.
But New Year’s resolutions are notoriously difficult to achieve. So how do you capitalize on the excitement and set yourself up for success?
Here are six solid steps to get you started:
1 Update your website and LinkedIn account
Log in to your professional accounts, like your website, LinkedIn or a Facebook page for your business, and add in your various wins from last year. To jog your memory, check out your annual review, or look back through your files and social media accounts. While you’re at it, ask for recommendations, testimonials, and feedback on your work. That will boost your professional reputation, shed light on your strengths and weaknesses, and allow you to practice engaging in constructive conversations. It’s also a good idea to set up a quick Google doc to keep track of your various feats over the course of the year. Make sure it’s accessible and visible throughout your workday so that you don’t forget it’s there.
2 Set goals for the year
New Year’s resolutions may be notoriously forgettable, but you’ll be much more likely to achieve your goals if you articulate them than if you leave things up to chance. Imagine you’ve lived your ideal year. What will you have accomplished? What’s most important to you and why? Your goals should be ambitious but within reach, and reliant on your own work. Once you have a general idea, dig a little deeper: How will achieving each goal make you (or others, if applicable) feel? Who can help you get to the finish line? What tools, software, or systems do you need to get it done? Will you need to give anything up?
Next, create a step-by-step action plan with deadlines, which increase your chances of success. Try to create positive feedback loops and limit yourself to changing just one habit at a time (a Gantt chart is useful here). The more second-nature those habits become, the more willpower you’ll have to tackle other goals. The bottom line: If you learn to love the process and create a detailed plan, the results will follow.
3 Create a recurring check-in meeting with yourself
On the way to reaching your goals, you’ll likely learn things that will reshape and refine your methods. A weekly half-hour review can help you make sure you’re still on the right track, that your rewards are still a source of motivation, and allow you to make corrections. As investment manager and Guinness World Record holder Stephen Duneier said in his TedTalk, “How to Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals”: “Even a marginal improvement in our process can have a huge impact on our end results.” Just be sure to end with an action item to maintain your momentum.
4 Be positive, but plan for the worst
Think back to your toughest week this year. Maybe you had a bunch of deadlines unexpectedly pile up right around Thanksgiving, or you got sick a month after starting to train for a marathon. How would your plan change to accommodate those kinds of obstacles next time? What would motivate you to keep going despite those setbacks? You may, for example, consider putting some money behind your goals through a tool like Beeminder, which charges you for getting off track. Or you may try the research-backed strategy of using an accountability partner or group to help you bounce back when life gets in the way.
5 Take care of holdovers
You know that list of things that’s been on your to-do list, swimming around in your head for what feels like forever? These could be tasks like updating your address, decluttering your house, or unsubscribing from newsletters that you never have time to read. That nagging feeling you get from unfinished tasks is the Zeigarnik effect at work in your brain. To overcome it once and for all, write those tasks down and schedule time to take care of them. You’ll feel so much better.
6 Invest in yourself
Skill-building is a noble pursuit, and it doesn’t have to be a money-making scheme to be worthwhile (nor does it have to cost money). Think about your goals, the kind of life you want, and invest accordingly. If your company offers an annual education stipend, research ways to use it. Others might try taking an online course through a site like Lynda, also known as LinkedIn Learning. It offers courses on everything from marketing and communications to coding. You may even be able to access it for free using your library card. That way, you’ll learn something new and make a step toward the person you want to be.