Good things don't come easy. Luck will get you part of the way, but giving things a go will reap big rewards with your progression at work. Try not to be deterred by the thought of failure – because not failing may mean you're not reaching high enough. Playing it safe at work might seem like the easy option, but if professional development is on your agenda, then staying comfortable could prevent you from accomplishing great things.
Thought about a bridge climb? Want to bake a seven-layer cake? How about joining a meet-up where you don't know anyone? Make 2020 your 'stretch and grow' year by doing something that you wouldn't normally do. Routines are as much about comfort as they are about efficiency. Making small but meaningful shake-ups to your routine – like walking a new way to the bus stop or having lunch at a different time – will lead to meeting new people, seeing different sights and kick-starting ideas.
Like a swear jar, this is a great way to become more aware of the language you use and how it can affect you. It's so easy to stress ourselves by using emotionally charged phrases like "I'm busy", "I'm stressed". Put a 'busy jar' on your desk and pop a gold coin in to the jar every time you consciously tell yourself that you're busy or stressed. The fewer times you say it, the more you'll reduce your own stress levels. Worst-case scenario... you might be able to buy yourself something special at the end of the year.
Feedback, both positive and negative, is very helpful. Top performing people tend to stay at the top of their game because they consistently search for ways to be and do better. 'Continuous improvement' becomes less catchphrase and more a true focus. Sometimes your manager might need a nudge to get the process started. Don't be shy of asking for feedback throughout the year.
Team & work relationships
There are loads of ways to develop your career, but success also comes from fine-tuning the way we interact with the world. The need for empathy in the workplace is a hot topic. Some of us are naturally tuned into this and some of us aren't, but the good news is that building kinder workplaces is not hard.
Here are four easy tips:
- Be quiet, inside and out
- Fully watch as well as listen
- Ask yourself what you are feeling
- Test your instinct.
Other ways to boost your kindness reputation: smile, give recognition, use people's names, ask for opinions, ask questions and show patience.
Our workplaces are agile and fast paced and often the vital activity of building strong relationships with colleagues is put to one side. Getting to know people is instrumental in helping you succeed. Being genuinely interested in your colleagues not only helps ease the stress of the day, it adds to job satisfaction, career growth and it makes you feel good! We know that people respond well when they feel respected, so why not take the time to go beyond the chit-chat; share who you are and find out about your colleagues. You just might be surprised at what you learn!
Congratulating others when they succeed starts a positive feedback loop. There's something powerful about being able to genuinely revel in their success. It helps you develop the same feelings you need for your own achievements, grow networks and feel happy. It also boosts your sense of well-being and let's face it, people like people who make them feel good!
It's exhausting trying to be perfect, especially in a world where we are bombarded by images of perfection which create unrealistic expectations of ourselves. Many of us strive to have a strong work ethic (and working hard is a positive quality), but there's a difference between that and being a perfectionist.
- Recognise your perfectionist tendencies: being aware of these tendencies is enlightening.
- Build trust and learn to delegate.
- Affirmations: silence that critical, internal head-talk by replacing it with a positive affirmation.
- Set yourself realistic goals.
- Done is better than perfect – a great phrase to remember when you are working to make something perfect.
It may sound counterintuitive, but breaks are a highly effective time management strategy. Research shows that micro-breaks are good for you. The ability to concentrate is increased and stress is reduced, so take the time to make that cup of tea.
Emails, texts, phone calls and social media messages are some of the biggest distractions in the workplace – so much so, studies show you could end up wasting 759 hours each year due to these interruptions. Reduce these distractions when you are working on priority tasks by putting your phone on silent mode and turning data off. You'll save time and increase efficiency.
Binge watching a Netflix series sounds like a great idea, but having a good night's sleep is vital to being fully alert at work. Resting your head on your pillow for six to eight hours is a key contributor to a healthy lifestyle. Having a good night's sleep reduces sleep-deprived symptoms like nodding off during meetings, excessive yawning, having a foggy brain or being irritable, through to even bigger risk areas like diabetes or sleep apnoea.
Mark Twain said "Eat a live frog every morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day". His point: get into the habit of tackling your major task first thing in the morning to get it out of the way. Jump in and get started.
Being in the zone, finding your groove or feeling the flow are terms we use to describe those times when we lose track of the world around us as time flies. These are times when productivity skyrockets and we experience that sense of utter fulfilment. It's a wonderful state that only happens when we are fully present in the moment. Find your flow every day by clearing your mind of noise and distractions (meditation is an excellent way to do this, or any other activity that you enjoy doing) and avoid multi-tasking. Become immersed in one task and do work that makes you come alive inside.
Mental health & work-life balance
Change the world in 2020. Helping others is key to making the world a better place. Research shows that being helpful to others has a knock-on effect, as far as how we feel about ourselves. It's a great way to build self-esteem, with the inner enjoyment experienced in helping others enriching and expanding your life. As the Dalai Lama says, "It is not enough to be compassionate – you must act".
Every year, we set ourselves health goals that can be impossible to achieve, so why not make 2020 'the year of three'?
Here are some to choose from:
- Remove one sugary food from your daily diet
- Plan for a great sleep; go to bed at the same time
- Add a daily grateful check – the gratitude attitude
- Walk for 30 minutes a day
- Learn to meditate
- Eat some super foods
- Eat mindfully. Turn off the television. Chew.
Many people have an aversion to networking, which is such a shame, because networking events are a terrific opportunity to meet other professionals in your industry. You get to make new connections, stay on top of what's happening in your field and increase your personal brand so from a career perspective, they are highly valuable.
We've all found ourselves rushing from one meeting to the next with the clock ticking loudly. But to be at our best selves, we need to avoid the anxiety rush caused by using the simple technique of 'adding a buffer'. Your buffer will become your refocusing lane, allowing you to declutter your brain, recharge and reduce your anxiety.
Have you got that niggling feeling that a colleague or someone you know or care about isn't behaving as they normally would? Trust your gut instinct and act. You don't need to be an expert to reach out, just a good friend and a great listener. Starting a conversation could help them to open up.
It's not how good you are – it's how good you want to be! It might sound cliché, but you have untapped potential and full control of your career choices. It's called having a 'growth mindset', which is based on the belief that you can grow as you thrive on challenges, learn new things and stretch your existing abilities. For 2020, take note of how much your actions influence your career. Take more active control by intentionally networking and attending conferences.