Once you’ve settled down from all the excitement of the holiday season, it's important to look towards the New Year and have a plan. It can be temping to procrastinate and forget about your workplace responsibilities, but staying on track even in the face of a relaxing holiday is very important. Instead, consider using downtime over the holiday break this year to set yourself up for a great start to 2017.
Here are four ways to set yourself up for a productive 2017 and get ahead of the inevitable New Year’s resolutions.
1. Think about what you've done in 2016
Take a look at your past year. You have the luxury of doing this without the day-to-day distractions of emails, meetings, and requests from colleagues, so take advantage of the time to stop and review. What worked for you in the past year? Did you start new habits that made your day easier? Did you cut out distractions? Start a new job?
On the flip side, be honest about what didn’t go so well. If you felt like you didn’t have enough time to get everything done, what could you have done to streamline your schedule?
2. Think about your goals for 2017.
Once you get a picture of how your year went and what you might be able to do to improve next year, set some reasonable goals. Try not to fall into the New Year’s resolution trap, where we set goals based on a kind of idealized version of ourselves. Sure, it would be great if you could change everything on day one—no junk food, hitting the gym every day, never checking Facebook at work, or other worthy resolutions. Human nature usually has other plans, though, and we often slip right back into our previous ways by, oh, February.
For your professional goals, make sure you’re staying practical and possible. If you think you’d like to change jobs, give yourself a timeline (complete with achievable steps) throughout the year. For example:
February: Update your resume.
March: Research potential companies and recruit a friend to run through practice interviews with you.
April: Start applying for job openings.
Regardless of whether or not you want to leave your current job, think of the bigger picture: what would you like to be working on? If there’s a dream project you have within your existing role, or one that would be a little bit of a stretch for you, start mapping it out. Make an outline of what would be involved, and have a plan ready to discuss it with your manager after the holidays.
Whatever your goals are, it’s crucial to do your prep work. The SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely) guideline is very helpful for building goals, weeding out unworkable ones, and saving yourself some grief.
3. Catch up on unfinished business.
Was there something you wanted to check off your to-do list before you rushed out the door for the holiday? Now’s your chance to take a crack at it without calls, meetings, or other workday tasks getting in your way. I know it’s your time away from the office, but if you take two hours now to set yourself up for the return to work, think how calm you’ll feel next week while everyone else is scrambling to get back to work.
4. Reach out to your network.
The new year gives you an easy “in” to reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Even if you don’t have many of your professional contacts on your annual Christmas card list, a “Happy New Year!” note is a great opportunity to reconnect for 2017.
Even if you do all four of these things, you’ll still have plenty of time for holiday joy and relaxation with friends and family. Think of it as an investment in yourself for the next year… and you don’t even have to hit the gym or give up that bad habit to do it.
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