“New Year, New You.” It’s a phrase I’ve seen everywhere recently and while I readily embrace a fresh start in January, this year is a bit different. 2021 is about more than starting fresh or reinventing ourselves– it’s about applying the lessons we learned last year to revive and thrive.
These are four things I’m doing differently in 2021 that are helping me grow personally and professionally:
Dropping work-life balance in favor of “one big life.”
As many of us continue working from home – whether that’s in a home office or at the dining room table – the compression of our personal and professional lives magnifies. Applying our normal “in-office” routines to work-from-home life does not always translate well. It’s easy to grind straight through a long day and feel burnt out, and it’s also just as easy to procrastinate with household chores or other personal tasks. Rather than maintaining a distinct 8 to 5 routine, consider opportunities to lean into your peak performance times and better meet your personal needs.
I’m an early riser and do my best work first thing in the morning when my focus and energy are at their peak. Taking a midday break – eating lunch outside, going for a short hike – is a refreshing mental reset. If I skip this break and plug away all day, my productivity and performance can decline. Acknowledging this reality has been tough; part of me would love to be the person who can power through extraordinarily long workdays, day after day. But by shifting my schedule to better match my natural rhythms, I’m able to deliver a much higher quality of work while still being responsive to candidate and client needs.
Being honest about big-picture goals.
It’s easy to find yourself on a “career highway,” moving forward in one direction with a single-minded focus on hitting the big milestones. I’ve been guilty of this too, and I continually challenge myself to come back to the passion and purpose that’s right for me.
This year, consider how you can bring greater intentionality to your professional progress by being truly candid about what’s right for you. For example, maybe your boss is ready to give you a promotion, but you know deep down you’d like to cut back on hours to spend more time with your family. Or, maybe you’re eager to land a promotion, but your boss doesn’t think you’re ready. Now is the time to either make a case for promotion or take the time to look for a new opportunity.
When we’re honest with ourselves about our needs, we can confidently chart our own path forward. That could mean a lateral move to a new emerging industry. It could also mean proactively asking to take on new projects to grow your skillset or beginning the process towards an advanced degree to bolster your promotion potential. Perhaps you look for opportunities to gain insight into whether your current company is actually the right place or if it is time to leave. No matter the outcome, what’s important is your willingness to be honest about your needs and take action to meet them, rather than letting external expectations dictate what’s possible.
Talking to the stakeholders in my life.
Every week, I set aside time to review the previous week’s goals, identify opportunities for improvement, and clarify what I want to accomplish for the coming week. The most important part of this process? Talking to my husband. He’s my top stakeholder and the person I trust to give me candid feedback and hold me accountable. Having a short conversation with him about my weekly goals is essential. Saying the goal aloud, rather than simply writing it down, creates an important accountability loop that keeps me focused and motivated all week.
Your stakeholder doesn’t have to be a spouse– it might be a trusted friend, a close colleague or a mentor. Choose someone who knows you well and will champion your goals without sugarcoating the truth.
Giving myself grace.
Realistically, we’re never going to show up 100% every single day. On days when I’m not at my best, I tend to “rabbit hole”– getting caught up in what’s not working and perceiving I’m underperforming. I can magnify small misses into much larger issues. As a recovering perfectionist, my challenge is to check myself when I start to “rabbit hole” and redirect that energy into taking positive action.
Now, more than ever, there’s a lot outside of our control. Sometimes, no matter what we do, we won’t achieve a goal or deliver our best work on a given day. Think about the understanding we naturally extend to others. How can we extend this understanding to ourselves? By being generous with ourselves, we give ourselves permission to reset and try again.
What are you doing differently this year? How are you applying lessons learned from last year and letting go of habits that no longer serve you?