Major New Year's resolutions rarely stick; it's more reasonable and sustainable to operate on the margin by improving from where you are. While it's unlikely you won't hit the gym seven days a week, you could resolve to exercise more often than you did last year. It's nearly impossible to never eat an unhealthy meal again, but you can make an effort to eat a little better and add more veggies to your plate.
The same philosophy applies to your workplace resolutions. Chances are, you won't become fluent in Mandarin within a year's time. You could, however, learn to make basic conversation in the language in a way that's helpful to your career.
Set resolutions that you can honestly and realistically keep. Go for mild improvement and take the long view when it comes to your career.
1. Focus on fixing one personal flaw.
You're not perfect. Nearly everyone has holes in their game -- things they need to work on. Maybe you're not very organized or perhaps you're always just on the edge of being late for meetings. Identify one area for improvement and really work on fixing it.
Doing this requires a plan. Decide what you want to fix and then break it down into achievable steps. You may also want to share your plans with your boss so you have added accountability. However you do it, make sure you stay focused and keep working toward your goal.
2. Learn one new skill that will strengthen the whole team.
This isn't just about self-improvement. Ideally, you will learn a skill that helps your team. If there's a person who struggles to take time off because he or she does something nobody else can do, learn how to do it to make the team stronger. This surely won't go unnoticed, especially by the person who can now enjoy a vacation or time at home with their family.
Look and see what's needed and identify where you could become most useful. Maybe having someone with strong Excel skills would be useful, or perhaps your group needs someone who can code a little. Find the need and fill it.
3. Try something new.
It's easy to fall into ruts. Even if you're good at your job, you can become complacent if you do the same thing for too long. That's why it makes sense to try new things.
Your novice adventure could be volunteering for a new project or taking part in your company's philanthropy efforts. Have lunch with a colleague you've never gotten to know. Be open to new experiences. You never know what doors could open for you if you enter a new space or make a new friend.
4. Make new connections.
Whether it's increasing your contacts within the company or meeting people who work elsewhere in your field, it's important to expand your network. Be bold. Reach out to people you want to meet and offer to buy them lunch or coffee.
The worst that can happen is someone will say no or ignore you. In most cases you'll make new contacts, and that could benefit either one of you down the line.
None of these resolutions are passive. They're not about avoiding something or stopping doing something else. Instead, they demand you take action and grab an active role in managing your own success.
There's nothing hard on this list (though meeting people can be a challenge for some). Everything is manageable and will deliver tangible long-term results. Remember, you're not building your career for a week, a month, or even years. You'll be working for decades, so it's important to improve your foundation each and every year.