It’s mid-January, and if you’re already struggling to keep a New Year resolution, know that you’re not alone. A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that it takes two months, on average, to establish a new habit or get rid of an old one. So go easy on yourself – these things take time.
I personally am not the New Year resolution type, but I have been thinking about some business resolutions that might improve my personal productivity.
- Answer Fewer Phone Calls, But Schedule More. This goal is not about snubbing people, but about increasing personal productivity and improving the quality of interactions. Every time we answer an unplanned phone call we lose focus on the task at hand, which can lead to mistakes. At the same time, if someone important calls when we’re working on an urgent matter, we may not give them the time and attention they deserve. By being more intentional about phone time, we can work to improve both our personal performance and our relationships.
- Document Successes. If something is going wrong at work or at home, there may be a weak link in the process. If something is going well, we want to make the process repeatable. Dedicating some time to continuous improvement can help us minimize errors and accelerate improvements. There are dozens of books on how to improve processes, but the basic idea is to analyze the tasks, resources and people required to complete a process or project, which allows us to pinpoint where efficiencies can be gained and mistakes prevented. Documenting our processes is important, but it’s just the first step. We have to commit to making the changes we’ve identified.
- Never Eat Alone. We’ve all heard this one before, but it’s an important reminder. Mealtimes offer an opportunity to spend some quality time with someone, improve a relationship and learn something, even if you only have time for a quick break. Rather than grabbing coffee or fast food alone, we can create the habit of asking someone to join us whenever possible. It doesn’t have to be someone specific – I’m often surprised at the things I learn when I get to know people who I don’t normally work with or talk to.
- Save Time to Reflect. When things are going well, we can forget to reflect on how we got there – we’re too busy enjoying the ride. When we’re under pressure, our instinct may be to double down and work harder. But research has shown that taking time to reflect improves emotional intelligence, confidence and the ability to stay true to our values. It also makes us smarter – allowing our brains to make connections between the new information we’ve taken in and how we can apply it to solve problems.
- Use Down-Time for Mental and Physical Exercise. Even if our schedules are full, we can find some time to learn and improve our mental sharpness. Non-fiction audio books and podcasts are a great way to learn something on the go. And according to studies done at Harvard, regular physical exercise improves memory and decision-making while reducing stress. By fitting some exercise into each week, we can do more than keep fit, we can become smarter as well.
Good luck in the new year!