How the Pros Follow Through with New Year’s Resolutions

Fess up. You’ve already blown a couple of New Year’s resolutions, haven’t you?

Perhaps it was the one about eating healthy. (Who can resist the double chocolate chip cookies someone brought to the break room?) Or, maybe it was your determination to be nicer to your irritating co-worker – until she asked if you had gained weight over the holidays.

Whatever your track record on resolutions, there is still plenty of time to make important ones regarding your career and business success for this year. If you’re a little worried about making your resolve stick or don’t know how to plot out your success, consider these ideas from others:

Deborah Shane, a career branding strategist and author of Career Transition: “I don’t make resolutions. I create intentions and then set myself up for things to happen. For this year, I’m going to qualify my time even more and say ‘thanks for thinking of me, but no.’”

Jason Seiden, co-founder of Ajax Social Media and author of Beyond Social: “I am going to get actionable. I looked at every aspect of my business and attached specific numbers to any area that didn’t already have them.”

Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and author of Me: 2.0: “My big new year’s resolution for 2012 is to meet new people, get a new hobby and join a few organizations. When you run a virtual company, and you’re introverted, it can be hard to remove yourself and meet new people in real life.”

Many career resolutions can center around such ideas that will work for anyone, no matter the industry. Consider these as part of your plan this year:

1. Step outside your comfort zone.

Schawbel is known for his social media savvy, but his resolution is aimed at not only helping his professional life by making more face-to-face contacts, but enriching his personal life as well.

“My transition from hermit to socialite won’t happen immediately,” he says. “I’m slowly getting myself out there by paying for local events, which will force me out, and committing to go out during the week.” He’s even planned for potential backsliding on his new plan, and will join a few groups with longer commitments “so I don’t just hide behind my computer after a few weeks of being outgoing.”

Don’t look at networking as something where you just “wing it.” If you create a plan – to join your local chamber of commerce or attend an industry event to meet certain people – you’re much more likely to follow through, especially if you commit to an event on a certain day. Registration fees and airline tickets that are nonrefundable are a good way to force yourself to attend an event.

2. Don’t sit on the sidelines.

Shane says she has already nabbed a couple of projects for this year, but plans to be more proactive in going after work. She says she will ask those she already interacts with “to hire me to do things that I specialize in that they might be thinking of outsourcing.”

Seiden says he also plans to be more focused in his business. “The last few years have included a lot of wheel spinning. January for me has been a rework of my strategic plan, including the delegation or elimination of anything that isn’t related to my No. 1 priority.”

Amanda Krauss, a web developer, says she has decided to also revitalize her business by reorganizing her web presence, continuing to learn more about mobile design and making more use of Twitter. And, oh yeah, “translate a joke a day from the Philogelos,” a 2,000-year-old joke book written in Greek. (Krauss is a former Vanderbilt University assistant professor who taught cultural history, humor theory and Latin.)

3. Find time for you.

The last few years have been stressful for everyone, even if you have had a good job or a successful business. Admit it: Didn’t you sometimes have nightmares that the whole thing fell apart and you couldn’t earn a nickel? (Or maybe the dream was that you were standing in the unemployment line. In your underwear. Whatever…it’s your dream.) The point is that no one can keep up that pace without cracking at the seams. As Seiden notes: “Starting a business is stressful, but stress never solved anything. I work better when I’m relaxed. So I’m committed to my workouts and family time – no more calendar creep!”

Schawbel says that he believes getting away from his computer and meeting new people “is going to have a great impact on my life, both personally and professionally. I feel like it will inspire me, give me more points of references for my articles, and more experiences that will make life enjoyable.”

4. Get the right things done.

Are you driving across town just to use a 25-cent coupon? Do you have items in your laundry basket that say “hand wash only?” Now consider whether these activities are the best use of your valuable time. If not, ditch them. Shane says she plans to be ruthless in unsubscribing from those who put her on email lists without her permission. If you have difficulty eliminating time wasters from your schedule, consider using time-tracking tools such as Toggl.

Remember, even if you don’t succeed in meeting all your new year’s resolutions, don’t forget there’s no rule that says you can’t make them throughout the year. It’s never too late to spur yourself into greater career and business success.

Anita Bruzzese

Anita Bruzzese is a syndicated columnist for Gannett/USA Today on workplace issues and the author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy.” She has been on the Today show, and quoted in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, Self.com and BusinessWeek.com. Her website, 45things.com, is listed on the Forbes top 100 websites for women.

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