If you’re like everybody else, you’ve found yourself staring cross-eyed at the calendar wondering just how another entire year managed to slip right by.
Yes, when your schedule is constantly crammed full with deadlines, meetings, projects, and personal commitments, time really flies. And, that can often leave you feeling like you didn’t actually leverage that previous year to your advantage.
While that feeling is frustrating, it also serves as motivation to map out a strategy to help you really make the most of the upcoming year—particularly when it comes to your professional development and your work life.
So, with that in mind, what exactly can you do to lay out a plan and make this year your best one yet? Here are six simple steps to help you get started.
Before you can move forward into laying things out for the upcoming year, you’ll want to take some time to think back on how things went for you over the previous year in regards to your work.
What do you think went exceptionally well? What could’ve gone better? What major career accomplishments are you proud of? Are there any areas where you feel like you fell short?
Whether you discover that you could be more focused or you’re disappointed that you didn’t follow through with getting that professional certification you’ve been wanting for ages, taking the time to reflect will provide important context as you move through the rest of the steps.
TIP: Eager for some more thought-provoking questions? Michael Hyatt has some great prompts to help reflect on your year.
Nothing gets your year started off better than a positive attitude. For that reason, while you’re reflecting, also take some time to appreciate the things—both big and small—that have already happened.
Did you land a promotion? Receive a professional award? Wrap up a project that was really important to you? Do you simply feel grateful to work with such an excellent team?
Take a minute to really acknowledge those positives. Doing so will help you plan for this year with an attitude of enthusiasm, rather than dread.
TIP: Take this practice one step further (and nurture your business relationships) by taking some time to write gratitude letters to the employees, colleagues, clients, and connections that you’re thankful for.
‘Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions. After all, nothing starts your year off on a more inspiring and motivated note than laying out some large objectives that you can spend the next 365 days pursuing.
Unfortunately, resolutions are tough to maintain—research shows that only an estimated 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.
When you’re fired up for a brand new year, it’s easy to come up with a long list of all of the things you want to do differently. But, ultimately, that might just overwhelm you.
So, try to limit yourself to three big things that you want to accomplish over the course of the year. That’s enough to feel like you’re really making some progress, without spreading yourself too thin.
TIP: Another way to set yourself up for success with your resolutions? Phrasing them as questions, instead of statements. Here’s why it works.
There’s another big reason that we all have the tendency to let those objectives of ours fall by the wayside—because we don’t have an actionable plan to actually follow through on them.
That’s why simply setting your resolutions isn’t enough. After you have your list of goals (or questions), it’s time to pull out your calendar and actually start penciling in how you’ll achieve them.
Do you want to make more time for networking? Get some events and coffee dates scheduled in this first quarter of the year. Do you want to be able to attend more meetings for that professional association you’re a part of? Get them all on your schedule now. Did you vow that you’d achieve better work-life balance? Add some personal time too.
By taking that first step to plan out various milestones and check-ins, you’ll be much more likely to hold yourself accountable. There’s nothing like having a commitment in your calendar to keep you on track.
TIP: Feel like there are never enough hours? Here are 5 strategies to add more time in your workday.
There’s nothing worse than returning to the office after a holiday break feeling motivated to grab this year by the horns—only to see that you left everything in an absolute mess.
In order to start the year off on the right foot, take some time to clean up. Is your desk a disaster? Are your computer files a tangled web of documents that only slow you down? Have you been meaning to sort through your junk emails for ages?
Yes, that’s tedious work. But, taking care of it before diving headfirst into your goals will help you feel as if you’re starting with a fresh slate—which is important when you’re aiming to maximize your year.
TIP: Keeping your workspace clean isn’t a one-and-done sort of thing. Check out these other important end of day to-dos to make tomorrow easier.
Checking these steps off is sure to start you on the right track. But, there’s one more important thing to remember: Planning to make 2018 your best year yet doesn’t mean that it’ll be flawless at all times.
Unplanned circumstances or emergencies will still crop up. Your best laid plans will have a way of running off the rails. Things happen.
Remember to have some patience, give yourself some breathing room, and roll with the punches. Being able to adapt and stay positive—even when your perfectly outlined strategy goes awry—is a surefire way to really make the most of this year.
TIP: Constant workday interruptions happen. Implement these tips to help stay focused.