New Year's resolutions for a happier work experience

It's resolutions time. Instead of the usual self-improvement lists – and who can stick to those anyway – how about taking a look at your career and figuring out how to make your job work for you?

The down time over the holidays is a great time to assess whether your work is truly fulfilling, if you're in a temporary slump, or if you need a new job altogether.

First, the hard part. Ask yourself the tough question: "Am I happy with my job and your career?" Career consultant Wendy Enelow said in Fortune magazine, "I'm not saying 'Are you making money?' But are you happy? Do you enjoy going to work on Monday mornings?"

If the answer is no, it's time to ask more questions, mainly, "What do I really want to do?" If you conclude that a new job is on your to-do list, Enelow suggests contacting your professional network, perhaps by sending an informal note that asks for industry contacts because you've confidentially decided to explore other opportunities.

If the answer is yes, it's still a good time to think about where you want to be in the next five years and come up with a plan to get there. Also, be at least a "passive job seeker" by keeping your resume updated as well as your knowledge of the industry, just in case the unexpected happens.

The New Year is also a great time to seek straightforward feedback on your strengths and weaknesses from your supervisor, and even your peers and subordinates.

"It's called '360 feedback,' and that's where the true results really come," Stephen Harap, a management and leadership coach at Deloitte and Touche, told Fortune. Working on areas where you need to improve is a good way to ready yourself for the next step on the ladder. You could also involve your supervisor in your career goals, perhaps by asking, "Am I on the right track?"

Here's some advice from Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Set one New Year's resolution. Ask yourself, 'What one thing could I change that would significantly increase my happiness?' He also suggests making your resolution realistic and do-able, then building on your success.

Is this big-picture talk too overwhelming? Consider these New Year's resolutions. PEP Productivity Solutions asked its clients, "What's on your Top 10 list of things you would like to improve, learn, or change in your work habits for 2008?" The answers:

  1. No scroll bar in my e-mail in-box at the end of the day.
  2. Turn off or quiet my cell phone or Blackberry when in meetings.
  3. Set and keep appointments on my calendar to do my own work.
  4. Get organized so I stop wasting time looking for things I can't find.
  5. Schedule the priorities, instead of prioritizing the schedule.
  6. Don't over distribute e-mails.
  7. Decide when I will end my work day and stick to it.
  8. Make continuous improvement part of my routine.
  9. Do the worst things first to get more done in my work day.
  10. Treat my calendar like a road and check more what is coming up ahead.

Happy New Year!

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