Many people see the new year as a reset. It's a time of renewal when you can get a fresh start and a chance to get back on track -- or, if you were never off track, you can get on an even better path.
Doing that, however, requires making willful changes. You need to make a decision to actively pursue a better you -- not just in your personal life, but also in your working one.
Wanting to improve your work self doesn't mean you weren't good the year before. Instead, it's acknowledging that everyone has room for improvement and that even the best worker and employee you know has room to grow.
Our Foolish investors offer some tips for the year ahead.
Invest in yourself
Maurie Backman: Perhaps you've mastered the skills needed to do your job but you feel as if there's no further room for growth. Or maybe there's a job out there you know you want but you don't have the skills to qualify for it.
As we enter a new year, one of the best things you can do for your career is invest in your professional growth. This might mean taking a class or getting certified in a particular skill, whether it's computer software or project management.
Another way to invest in yourself is to make sure you have the tools you need to succeed. If you're a freelance graphic designer who's been struggling with a slow computer for months, spend a little money on an updated model that'll help you be more productive.
Finally, don't forget that there is some truth behind the notion of dressing for success. If your work involves a lot of client meetings and your professional wardrobe is out of date, buy yourself a few new business suits so that you go into those sit-downs with more confidence. Whether you work for a company or are self-employed, you should always be striving to promote yourself, and investing in your own success is a good way to make that happen.
Selena Maranjian: There's a place in life for spontaneity and just going with the flow, but for best results in the workplace, it's often best to set specific goals each year (or more frequently) and then to work toward them.
Most people feel pretty busy at work, often with new demands being placed on them regularly, adding to what can already feel like an overwhelming load. If this sounds anything like your job, you're probably just trying to get as much done as you can, without focusing on much else.
You might find your work more satisfying, though, if you set some goals for yourself and worked toward them throughout the year. For example, take a little time to reflect on where you are in your career and where you want to be. If you'd like to be working at a higher level, what's holding you back?
Do you need a professional certification or an advanced degree? If so, set some goals about how you'll achieve them. Make those goals fit the "S.M.A.R.T." acronym, too -- specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound.
For example, maybe you'll sign up for the first necessary course within one month and complete it within the next six months. Maybe you need greater expertise in certain areas. You might set goals of reading up on those subjects and picking the brains of some colleagues who know a lot about them, too.
You might even confer with your boss about where you'd like to be in a few years and how you might get there. If you set some goals together, your boss may be able to help you or can at least be aware of your ambitions and initiative.
Admit your faults
Daniel B. Kline: Before I became a work-from-home freelancer, I held a series of traditional jobs. In many of those positions I fell into the same traps I had as a student. I let the work I didn't want to do go until the last minute and assumed I would figure out a way to get it done.
Sometimes I managed to get the work done on time, and sometimes I didn't. The results, however, weren't really the issue. Instead, the problem was that I had a clear fault in my work process that I let trip me up over and over.
When I left the traditional work world and became a freelancer, I made a list of things I needed to do to succeed. One clear item on that list was that I could no longer procrastinate or put off less pleasant work until the last minute.
To fix my problem, I put a very clear rule in place. Each day, toward the middle of my work day, I complete a job that I'm not eager to do. Sometimes that means writing a story that takes more work or research, while at other times it's a question of listening to a conference call or reading an annual report.
Instead of leaving all my less desirable tasks to the end of the week or month, I spread them out over each day. Doing that required some harsh introspection and acknowledging that there were faults in my process that needed to be corrected. Once you do that, the actual changes are relatively easy, as long as you're willing to commit to making them.
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