It’s a brand new year, which means it’s the perfect time to become a new, better version of you. Here are 15 things you can do to help make 2015 your best year yet!
1. Plan ahead
Plan your day the night before:
- Make a list of what you want to accomplish at work the next day, with the understanding that you may need to change things up if that’s what the day requires.
- You figured out what you need to do while at work, but what are you going to eat for lunch? Packing a good lunch the night before will help you eat healthier and save money. By having your lunch on hand you won’t end up running out to whatever drive-thru is closest.
- Now, what are you going to wear? Nothing is worse than waking up and rushing to find something to wear with only one eye open. While picking whatever is clean and not wrinkled will get you covered enough to go to work, it probably won’t leave you looking your best, which in turn won’t make you feel your best. And when you don’t feel your best you aren’t likely to do your best work. (It’s amazing that a nice sweater or pressed pair of pants can set the tone of your entire day!) By taking just a few minutes to lay out your outfit at night, you will save yourself a lot of frustration in the morning.
- Make sure to wake up early enough for what the morning may bring, which can vary from day to day. Will you need to scrape off your car windows? Will you have to let your car warm up before you take off? (I’m a Wisconsin girl, so these are things on my mind for about half of the year). Is there construction on your morning route or, even worse, will you need to find a detour? Make sure to leave yourself plenty of time for any snags that could threaten to mess up your a.m. routine.
2. Learn to prioritize
Managing your time once you get to work is just as important:
- Make a plan and stick to it (this will be easier if you made a to-do list the night before). However, while you think you may have your day planned, remember to stay flexible because new tasks to do will undoubtedly arise throughout the day.
- Keep track of things that come up during the day by writing them down right away (I use a lot of post-its) or make a note of them in your phone or other device if you prefer. Decide right away what needs to be tackled immediately and what can be put on the back burner for a little while.
- Make sure to prioritize your day in a way that makes sense to you. What works for you may not work for everyone else so be sure, if you are able, to schedule your day according to your productivity. If you know you are more productive in the mornings, use this time to take on your toughest or most creative projects. Use the other times of the day to work on less thought-provoking projects, to respond to emails, or conduct and attend meetings during this time.
- Take things one step at a time. Instead of thinking “I have so much to do, I have no idea how I am going to get it all done,” break things down into tasks. Work on one task and when you are finished, move on to the other, instead of trying to look at all of the things you need to accomplish all at once. Plus this will make things easier if new tasks arise and you need to multi-task or re-prioritize during the day. If you feel completely overwhelmed off the bat, you are going to be stressed and unable to perform your best.
- If you do feel overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help!
3. At the same time, don’t be afraid to say no!
I’ve fallen into this trap throughout my working years on more than one occasion. “Yes I’ll attend that meeting.” “Yes I’ll make food for the pot luck. “ “Yes I’ll go with you to the after-work function”. “Yes, I’ll pull my hair out because I have no idea how I’m going to fit this all in!!”
At some point you do need to realize that it’s simply impossible to do everything and you will have to say “no:”
- You can say “no” graciously, and most of the time people will understand. Choose to say “no” to the things that won’t make a significant difference to you, your work, or to others.
- By saying no to one thing, you are leaving room to say “yes” to something else; that something else may be a game-changer, something you’ve been waiting for, something you are excited to say “YES” to!
- If you simply can’t say “no” because too many things are just too important (and make sure they are), then delegate! If you are able to, see if someone on your team can take over a task or two. Just be sure to explain why their help is needed and what a positive impact they will have.
4. “I love ya, tomorrow…”
That Annie sure knew what she was talking about. Understand that some things can be done the next day. If you try to accomplish everything on your work “to-do” list, you will never leave work. That’s because we all know that as quickly as you cross something off the list… one or two, or 3 or 4 (ok, you get the idea) more things will be added.
Plus the great thing for all of us is that tomorrow is a brand new day. If you had a horrible day today (and c’mon we all have days like this), don’t worry because you can start tomorrow with a clean slate. As a part of that clean slate, though, it is important to start clean with everything-that means if something or someone frustrated you the day before, don’t carry that into the new day. Start the day with a positive outlook to ensure the best day possible!
5. Limit your time on social media
How many times a day do you think the average smartphone user checks Facebook? 3 times? 5 times? 10 times? Nope, the answer is… (drum roll please)… 14 times!! A research report by the International Data Corporation (IDC) shows the average daily time on the site, just via smartphones, is half an hour. Just think about what we could accomplish during that time! If your job allows, try limiting the number of times you check your phone throughout the work day. Try saving your smartphone time for your break or on your lunch, because even when you think you are just going to do a “quick check” it can take a while to get back into work mode. Plus, we all know we probably aren’t going to miss too much social media excitement in those few hours.
Social media addiction isn’t just a problem at the office either. The IDC report shows many of us don’t even give ourselves time to get the sleep out of our eyes before we check our phones in the morning (guilty, again!); 79% of smartphone users reach for their devices within 15 minutes of waking up, 62% of which don’t even wait that long. Try to unplug in the evening before going to bed to ensure you are getting a good rest, and take a little time to enjoy the morning before jumping right in to the social media mix. It can do wonders for your mood.
6. Invest in your success
Purchase something that will motivate you to reach your goals. Maybe a new piece of furniture will make you excited to go to the office, or a new chair will make you more comfortable while you are there. Perhaps a plant will add a “homey” feel that relaxes you while you work, or a fancy new organizer will help keep you on top of your game. A little splurge on something you feel will lead to your success in the workplace can definitely be worth the investment in the long run.
7. Get active!
There are several ways you can add some activity to your office time:
- Stand at work. By adding an adjustable height desk to your workspace you can easily switch between sitting and standing, you can feel more productive, fight off many health concerns associated with a sedentary lifestyle, and even lose a few pounds. What could be easier?
- If you’re looking for another option, you may want to consider active seating. By choosing furniture that encourages movement and challenges your body, such as the Muvman or even a stability ball, you can also fight off “sitting disease” while having fun at your desk!
- Get Up! How many times have you emailed a co-worker in the other room just so you didn’t have to get up to go talk to him or her? By getting up and around you will feel better and it will also give you a chance to clear your head. Take a walk down the hall or get up and grab a glass of water; adding these easy steps to your day will add up quickly!
8. Stay healthy
Exercise is one way to help you stay healthy, but there are other things you can do, like get enough rest, eat healthy (which you can do if you pack your lunches), and try to reduce stress which can weaken your immune system.
If you aren’t successful in fending off the latest cold or flu… stay home! That’s what sick days are for! You may just have to ignore that one co-worker who will try to make you feel bad for taking the day off or question if you were really sick, but I’m sure deep down they appreciate you not coughing on their keyboard. Another habit many of us have is to go to work even if we feel like death warmed over, because we want to “save” our sick days for when we really need them… and then we never end up using them. You know the drill, December rolls around and you have a bunch of days to use, but can’t, because you have too much to do at the end of the year, or can’t take off because everyone else is on vacation. Please don’t lose them… use them!
I will be focusing on more ways to stay healthy at work in another blog this month so stay tuned!
9. Turn away from toxins!
Managers who expect employees to come to work even when they are ill are just one sign of a toxic workplace. These types of managers are known as “immature” managers because they lack the empathy and support needed to create healthy work environments. My advice… stay away from toxic workplaces!! You wouldn’t knowingly put toxins into your body, so why would you knowingly put yourself into a toxic environment for 8 hours a day? We spend a huge chunk of our lives working, so it is vital to find a place where you can surround yourself with positive people who motivate you rather than those who prefer to criticize you (I know, this is easier said, than done).
It’s been found that unmotivated employees are likely to put forth little to no effort in their jobs, will avoid the workplace as much as they can, will leave their job if given the opportunity and will also produce low quality work. On the other hand, employees who feel motivated to work are likely to be persistent, creative and productive.
A professor at the University of Utah, who is also a Behavioral Theorist, conducted studies on worker motivation. He concluded that hygiene factors such as salary, fringe benefits, and working conditions can prevent dissatisfaction, but they do not motivate the worker. He found that motivator factors such as responsible work, independence in doing the work, and satisfaction arising from the completion of challenging tasks, increase satisfaction from work and motivate people toward a greater effort and performance.
So if you can, as we start a brand new year full of endless opportunities, try to surround yourself with co-workers and managers who appreciate you and what you add to the organization, and motivate you to be your best self. And try, try, try to stay away from those who feel the need to always you cut you down or make you feel like no matter what you do, it won’t be good enough. As long as you do the absolute best job you can and truly put forth 100%, you can head home with your head held high!
10. Don’t eat lunch at your desk
Many of you may choose to eat lunch at your desk because you want to show you are a hard worker, but one study found that employees who feel pressured to work through their lunch experience greater fatigue. By taking a proper lunch you will allow yourself, and your brain, a break. This can lead to higher productivity, and a change of scenery (other than your desk) can also quicken stress recovery.
The study also shows that you should stay away from business lunches if you can. It found that employees who were forced to socialize with co-workers or talk about work during lunch had higher levels of fatigue, while talking on the phone with a friend led to lower levels.
11. Allow yourself time away from work
While you may want to prove to everyone in your office that you are the best worker, it’s important to recognize that working the most hours does not necessarily make you the best:
- You’ve probably heard the saying “work smarter, not harder”, and that is definitely true in the workplace. It also means that working the longest hours does not mean you are getting the most done. If everyone around you seems to be able to get their work done during their assigned shift but you feel the need to come in extra early or stay late to get things you may need to re-evaluate your role. Are there things you can eliminate during the day that are taking up valuable work time? Is the work you are doing something you enjoy and are motivated to complete? Or maybe you simply have too much on your plate. If that’s the case, sit down with your manager and see if you can find a better way or schedule to accomplish your assigned tasks.
- Take breaks! It’s been found that on average our brains are only able to remain focused for 90 minutes; then we need to take at least 15 minutes rest. By taking these breaks you are allowing your mind and body to renew. It may be hard to take such breaks depending on your job, but try to squeeze in a quick refresh like this when you can.
- Take a vacation! Many employers actually like it when their employees take vacations to new places and experience new things because it triggers creativity and also leaves employees feeling re-charged. Again, don’t feel guilty about using your vacation days-they are yours to use!
12. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
You’re probably familiar with the old saying “there’s no such thing as a stupid question.” While we all know this isn’t 100% true, many of us are still afraid to ask valid questions. While we may feel it makes us look unknowledgeable or that we are “bugging” people, asking questions can actually show that you are interested in your work and that you care enough to make sure it is done properly. I also look at questions as an indication of growth and learning. If I never asked questions, it would probably mean that I was never learning anything new. Who wants to go through life never learning anything new?!
Asking questions is also a way to avoid miscommunication which is one of, if not the biggest, problem in the workplace. We all have different ways of communicating, which means we all interpret information differently. So understand that it is okay to clarify what you are being told, rather than working off assumptions-because we all know what happens when we assume. Just be sure you aren’t repeatedly questioning things that have already been explained to you!
13. Learn something new
Personal development can be key to helping you grow as an employee and a person. There are many things you can do to become the person you are capable of being. Here are a few:
- Attend a training course or seminar. There are likely many learning sessions available in your community that can help you sharpen your skills or learn new skills that will advance you toward your professional and personal goals. Your local chambers of commerce are a great starting point to determine what types of things are being offered in your area. This will also jump-start your networking efforts which will open up countless opportunities.
- Volunteer. Find a cause you are passionate about and find ways you can help. Local organizations are always looking for assistance and many of them rely on volunteers to keep their doors open.
- Read a book. I have to admit, I am not the most avid reader there is, but books are a great way to expand your knowledge and skills. Find a topic you are interested in, and then explore! Survey your family, friends and co-workers to find books with which they have found success.
- Step out of your comfort zone. Sometimes the best experiences happen when you “color outside of the lines.” I am always very anxious in new settings and around new people (you can often find me giving myself pep-talks in my car), but I never regret trying new things. Just a few months back one of my good friends asked me to attend a presentation by a visiting Buddhist chaplain. This was something I have never experienced… at a place in town where I have never been. I fought off the anxiousness and made it there, which turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made. I came away with a new way of looking at things and even purchased his book so I always have new inspiration at my fingertips. Unchartered waters can be scary, but I highly recommend exploring them!
14. Reflect on the day, and your work
At the end of each day, take a few minutes to reflect on your experiences. What worked well today? What did not? Why? Use your insights to help adjust your plan for the next day. But as you critique the day’s happenings remember to not be too hard on yourself. We are our own worst critics and it is easy to beat ourselves up so much that we become almost numb to the positive impacts we are making. Understand that no one is perfect. No one. As soon as we realize that, we can be open to understanding our trials and triumphs for what they are and use what we learn to make ourselves and our lives better.
15. Set realistic expectations
This ties in to our ability to reflect on our successes and failures and the realization that perfection is unattainable. Who wants to be perfect anyway? That would be boring! Instead set your goals high, but don’t be afraid to fail. If you fail, don’t be afraid to try again. You will likely never regret the things you have tried, but rather the things you did not. Believe in yourself, reward yourself when good things happen, be understanding when they don’t, and be willing to work at it. Big things typically don’t happen overnight… so enjoy the journey!
Do you have any advice for us to help make 2015 our best year? What are your goals? What have you tried in the past that just didn’t seem to work? What worked really well? We’d love to hear your input in the comments section below!