Not all New Year’s resolutions are created equal. For example, the negative variety (consume less sugar) is harder to achieve than the positive (eat more bacon). How can you set yourself up for success in the new work year? I’ve come up with four common resolutions that typically fail and four alternatives that hopefully won’t.
NO: Get a Raise
The research on salary as an effective motivator is contentious at best. For example, one study found similar levels of job satisfaction in low and high pay levels, finding a lack of correlation between salary and career happiness.
I’m not suggesting that you work for free or pretend that money doesn’t matter; rather you should reevaluate money as a metric for personal fulfillment. If salary is the only reason you show up for work, then you should focus on getting a new job, not getting more money.
YES: Get More Training
If you are genuinely invested in your career, ask your manager for more training. Seek out conferences or workshops in your field, accept all learning opportunities and share your newfound knowledge with your colleagues. Ask not what your company can do for you—ask what you can do for your company!
This approach will demonstrate your desire to learn, solidarity with your department and alignment with company goals. By focusing on the process of improvement, you will become a more skilled employee deserving of a raise anyway. If you don’t get a raise, your enhanced skillset will surely impress other employers.
NO: Focus More on Work
Maybe you want to be more productive or inspired in the coming year, and you think the solution is to spend more hours at the office. This is a poor choice for two reasons: working long hours has been linked to clinical depression in several studies and focusing more on work might not lead to new or better ideas (see: tunnel vision).
Working overtime will deprive you of sleep, exercise and social activity—three crucial factors in boosting energy and productivity. Plus, spending more time at work limits the opportunity for “out of the box” ideas to reveal themselves. Sometimes the best way to approach a project or problem is to step away from it . . . then step back.
YES: Get a New Hobby
Instead of narrowing your perspective by staring at the computer all day, spark your creativity at the office by picking up a new hobby. Pursuing interests outside of work will not only help you achieve a healthy life-work balance, it can also help you solve problems or start projects at work.
Jason Keath, social media expert and CEO of SocialFresh, frequently discusses how creativity results from the friction between expertise and life experience. For example, an expert butcher watches Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and BAM! You’ve got bacon cups.
NO: Eat Fewer Snacks
As I mentioned before, negative resolutions are far harder to stick to than positive ones—and food restriction is no exception. If you are constantly surrounded by unhealthy snacks at work, then telling yourself not to indulge will actually make you fixated to the point where the faintest scent of a toasted bagel turns your brain into carb-craving mush.
YES: Get a Standing Desk
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—a standing desk is the easiest and cheapest way to be healthier at work (sorry treadmill desk, you’re too expensive). The key to this New Year’s resolution is that it requires little to no thinking. You just stand there! And yet, this can be enough to reduce health risks like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
NO: Get to Work Earlier
This common work resolution is not a universal failure—some people really might get more done if they simply arrive at the office a few hours earlier. But this association of productivity with sunrises and rooster crows maybe has more to do with our farming forefathers than it does with today’s anywhere, anytime workforce. If you get to work at 6 AM and you’re drowsy for three hours, where’s the benefit?
Becoming an early bird isn’t a “one size fits all” solution, so before you resolve to be the first person to work, consider the type of work you’re doing and whether or not it will benefit from an ambitious new sleep cycle.
YES: Listen to Your Body and Mind
Instead of making an arbitrary goal to wake up at a certain hour, make self-assessment your mission for the new year. Keep a daily log to understand how long certain tasks take and which hours of the day you are most productive. If you have an idea notebook, record the times at which your brain is most creative. Use one of those nifty sleep tracker apps to analyze your natural sleep habits.
Once you’ve assessed your behavior patterns you can adjust your sleep or work schedule, knowing there’s some logic behind the decision. I’ve done this myself and discovered that the best ideas come to me in the elevator. I now work part-time as a lift operator (not really).