Many of us plan to ring in the New Year with a resolve to get fitter, make more time for ourselves or stress less about minor annoyances. And while we have good intentions to become physically and mentally healthier, it can be hard to stick to resolutions - and most get abandoned after a week or so.
Creating new habits takes time and energy, particularly if we’re trying to change long-standing behaviours. If you’re used to answering work emails late at night or losing your head over deadlines, becoming a master of work-life balance or a picture of calm doesn’t happen overnight.
Making small steps to positive change is key to creating long-lasting change. So what New Year resolutions should you set when it comes to work - and how can you stick to them?
“Many of us go into the New Year with high expectations for ourselves and a list of goals we want to complete,” says Rob Baker, positive business psychologist and founder of Tailored Thinking, a positive psychology, wellbeing and HR consultancy. “Often unfortunately for many of us these goals become quickly forgotten and abandoned, perhaps having to wait a year again before they are dusted down again.”
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In 2018, 25% of Britons made resolutions, however, only a quarter (24%) of those who made resolutions kept all of them a year on, according to a YouGov survey. So why do we struggle to stick to these goals?
“Firstly the goals we set are unrealistic and too ambitious,” Baker says. “Secondly, once we break or infringe a goal or resolution we tend to abandon it altogether rather than tweaking the rule.” Thirdly, we often break resolutions because we frame them from a negative rather than a positive perspective. As a result, these goals often become a form of self-punishment rather than an investment.
“Setting a goal from a positive perspective - researchers call this an approach goal - rather than a negative perspective - called an avoidance goal - means that we are more likely to engage with and commit to the goal,” explains Baker.
When it comes to work resolutions, he recommends setting “experiments” instead. “Bringing an experimental mindset means you are more likely to approach the goal in a playful way, and with curiosity, rather than dread and drudgery,” he says.
Make remote working a positive experience
“Something I think that many of us can explore, if they are working remotely – myself included – is how to make this more successful and positive experience,” says Baker. “Many people I speak to and support are struggling to switch off, having screen fatigue and overall low energy levels.”
A positive New Year’s resolution for home workers could be to make the most of working remotely - and create a more enjoyable experience.
“This includes finding ways to switch off at the end of the day by experimenting with a walking commute around the block, having a routine that signals finishing work such as putting your laptop away and out of sight, and maybe experimenting with taking emails off your phone, or hiding your work phone out of core office working hours.”
Find alternatives to Zoom
Video calls clearly aren’t going anywhere for a long time - and they are unavoidable for most office workers. However, Baker suggests exploring alternatives such as having virtual walking meetings. “You and a colleague can take your mobile phones and a headset and go for a walk outside,” he says.
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Invest time with positive colleagues
It’s tempting to spend more time worrying about co-workers you don’t get along with, instead of focusing on the ones you like. Sometimes, accepting that you’re not going to be friends with everyone is the healthiest way.
“Invest time in colleagues who boost your wellbeing and limit time with colleagues who don’t,” Baker says.
Write down your accomplishments
Most of us fret about what we haven’t managed to get done during the day, but it’s healthier to focus on what we have accomplishments. Baker recommends writing down three things you have achieved at the end of each working day, which will boost your mood, create a positive mindset and may help you be more productive too.