The beginning of a new year is a time to pause for reflection, to celebrate the high points and make peace with the low points of the past 12 months.
It's also an opportune time to plan your goals for the year ahead. But while the idea of making New Year's resolutions might energize and excite you at the start of the year, by February, that list often feels too difficult, or your schedule gets too busy to see those plans through.
But committing to – and crushing – your New Year's work resolutions doesn't have to be stressful. Below, career coaches Susan Peppercorn and Letisha Bereola offer their best advice for setting and keeping your New Year's career goals.
Ask self-reflective questions
It's hard to stick to a New Year's resolution if your heart's not in it. When you commit to making a change, you first need to make sure that your actions align with your core values.
Peppercorn recommends two thought exercises to help you decide which resolutions are most important to you. The first is making a values list: Start with 20, then edit that list down to five.
"Values are the bedrock on which you make decisions," she tells CNBC Make It. "When you rank these values – community, authenticity, faith, whatever they are – you can set goals based on those values."
The other exercise is called the "best self visualization": Picture yourself a year into the future. Then ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I doing?
- Who am I with?
- How do I feel?
Peppercorn says this exercise should show you what you want your future to look like "without judgment" – and inspire you to take action.
Focus on smaller goals
The number one reason people don't keep their New Year's work resolutions, according to Peppercorn, is because they're too big or vague.
The next step after deciding on a resolution is to break it up into small, realistic objectives that will help you meet that larger goal.
"That way, the resolution seems less intimidating, and rewarding yourself for completing those smaller tasks along the way will help you stay motivated," Peppercorn adds.
For example: if your New Year's resolution is to find a new job, three smaller action items could be editing your resume, updating your LinkedIn profile and sending three emails to network with hiring managers letting them know that you're seeking new opportunities.
It's also smart to map out a timeline of when and how you want to make strides toward your career aim. Bereola recommends focusing on "one quarter at a time."
You should prioritize one or two action items to work on every three months that will help you meet the goal. If you want to leave your job in 12 months, for example, you can focus on saving money for that leap during the first quarter of the year.
Find an accountability partner
Sharing your New Year's resolution with a trusted friend or co-worker can help you track your progress, stay focused and celebrate your progress.
"It can be really hard to keep resolutions on your own, but bringing a friend or mentor into the conversation can make it fun and get you out of your head," Bereola says.
You can create a shared Google Doc with your accountability partner where you write down your goals, deadlines, plans and other thoughts or schedule a monthly check-in to update each other on your progress.
In fact, people with accountability partners are 65% more likely to reach their goals, according to research from The American Society of Training and Development.
"It's just not as motivating to work on your goals alone," Bereola says. "Find a partner and bring them on the adventure with you."
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