Making the most out of your new year at work

The new year is an opportunity to make positive changes. People pledge to lose weight or spend more time with family. In that same vein, many people look to make changes in their work life.

“With work-specific goals, ask yourself what makes you unhappy at work. Is it your boss? Your performance? It’s important to identify the things you can change and the things you can’t,” says Beth A. Thomas, executive vice president and managing director at Sequent Consulting.

Smart Business spoke with Thomas about setting work-life goals and strategies on sticking with your resolutions.

How should the goal-setting process begin?

The first step is to determine what you want to change about yourself. Evaluate all areas of your life at work and at home. Settle on realistic goals that are specific, measureable and actionable. Give yourself a timetable that sets the pace for realizing your goals and dedicate yourself to giving the energy and time necessary to achieve them. Keep in mind that it took many years to get to where you are today and you won’t be able to make a complete change in a month.

What are some work-related goals that people should consider?

It’s said that 80 percent of people don’t leave their job they leave their boss. Resolve to call a truce with your boss and figure out how you can both move forward toward a healthier relationship.

Know that you can’t change your boss, but you can change how you interact with him or her. To do that, find people who get along with him or her and steal behaviors from them. If you can’t improve that relationship — you’ve tried everything and you’re still miserable — then you need to leave.

Another area to consider improving is your relationship with your colleagues. It’s a good idea to work first on your direct reports and management. That goes a long way to making the work environment a better place to be, and may lead to work getting done faster because you can utilize your peers to get things done.

What are some tips on staying on track to achieve New Year’s workplace goals?

One way to stick to the changes you’d like to make is to set up a personal board of directors. They’ll be responsible for watching you work and evaluating how you are behaving in your job, and can help you through tough situations with real-time feedback on how to improve your behaviors.

Choose people for your board who will take an interest in your personal development. They should understand your goals and commit to helping you get there, or at least give you feedback.

Additionally, put your goals and the actions to achieve them on a calendar just like you would schedule your work appointments. That will help you prioritize your commitment to improvement and help you stay on track.

How can people overcome the challenges of self-improvement?

Unless someone wants to be helped they won’t make changes. It’s important that you recognize your flaws so that you’re more motivated to fix them. This can be done through a 360 review, which can help you understand how you’re being perceived. It can be a humbling experience to be criticized by your peers, but it can help you get to a place that allows you to accept feedback.

How can people overcome obstacles and stick with their positive changes?

There are a few things that commonly keep people from realizing positive change: Their goals are too steep or unrealistic, there’s no action timetable driving the pace of change, or they don’t hold themselves accountable or have an accountability partner to keep them on track.

Set smart and realistic goals. You need small wins along the way to larger goals because otherwise it’s hard to stay motivated. Have frequent talks with accountability partners on your personal board of directors to gauge your progress.

Don’t forget to add to your goals the positive things you’re already doing that should continue. Expect to have backslides, but stay focused and don’t quit.

Finally, think about what you start, stop and continue, and never forget to celebrate your wins along the way.

Insights HR Consulting is brought to you by Sequent