On Your Mark…Go!
Your Jewish Fairy Godmother’s 10 Commandments for Starting the Year Off Right
The holidays were last month. A few actual weeks of M-F, 9-5 and reality is sinking in: the fun is over and they actually expect you to work for your paycheck. No more parties, less schmoozing, no juicy bonus fantasies to keep you smiling. It’s back to the grind. Work, work, work. Accountability. Yikes.
And if that weren’t enough, those pesky, familiar, resolutions that sounded so promising a few weeks ago are like one more should sitting heavy in your gut. So how can you use January to turn them into reality? How can you make 2006 a happy and successful time? Start here:
Commandment # 1. Clean your desk.
It may sound simple but it will force you to get a handle on where you’ve been. Fruitcake stupor or too much shopping, December takes its toll. Rather than feeling like you’ve been dumped onto concrete, take some control of your re-entry. Buried under the seasons greetings and the cookie crumbs are important things you need to remember, things you once thought you wanted to do, things that other people, the people who pay your paycheck, expect you to do. Get yourself off to a rolling start. Clean through email, assemble files, make stacks, make lists, remember what’s due this month. Get out your calendar and set priorities for the next few weeks. Once you’re back in the saddle, you’ll start to feel better.
Commandment # 2. Catch up on your work.
Let’s face it, no matter how diligent you planned to be, it’s impossible not slack off at least a little during the holidays. You’re in luck, as most other folks have done the same. But the smart ones are going to act as though they’ve been pulling team weight all along, and deserve everyone’s thanks for doing so. Figure out what’s due and when, what you need to have from yourself and others to make it so. Then roll up your sleeves and get busy. Accomplish even some small steps for the deadlines you need to meet; they’ll inspire more action soon. Send emails to the right people to show you’re on top of the new year. Do what needs to be done, even if it means some aerobic sprints to catch up.
Commandment # 3. Update your resume.
Think about how other people see you: your resume is the two-dimensional window they look through. Even if you’re not looking to change jobs, it’s a good exercise to do every year. It’s a reminder of what you’ve done in your current job, what you’re good at that you, your employer, and any prospective new employer should value, and what you’d have to sell on the job market if something pink appears with your paycheck. Update your accomplishments, list new skills and current references who’ll sing your praises. Your updated resume will boost your confidence for the here and now as well as for the future possible. It’ll help you be ready to apply for internal promotions as well as identify areas in which you should seek additional experience or training.
Commandment # 4. Do a reality check of your career.
Take a survey of your work life. Be honest and realistic when you do so. First, see what’s fulfilling and what’s lacking. Make two lists: on the left side of the page write everything you like about your current situation; on the right side identify what you want different by December. Step two: see where your commitment and motivation intersect. On the right list, highlight the words that are most important to accomplish. (At a minimum identify the most important sectors where you want to make changes.) On the left list, circle what you’d be willing to sacrifice some of in order to make those changes happen. You don’t need to start on all of them tomorrow. But getting your brain wrapped around the trade-offs will help make them real. Open your mind first; your body will follow.
Commandment # 5. Set some specific goals.
Your goals may be around those pesky 20 pounds, a promotion, raise, new office, or even a new job. Whatever the specifics, name them and plant them in the center of your psychic bulls-eye. Believing you’re worth the upgrade is the first step to achieving it. Visualize yourself in the new situation. Imagine yourself vibrant and strong. Then start every day on the way to work with a mantra. Repeat several times to yourself: I deserve to [your personal goal here]. [Note: it helps do to this quietly so people don’t think you’re a muttering loon, but it really does help to say them out loud. It’s been documented that speaking the words has an actual impact on the value you give them and the motivation they give you.] Action follows intention. Decide where you want to go and you’ll start taking steps to get there.
Commandment #6. Do for others.
Not much in life beats feeling like you’ve helped. Acts of kindness and usefulness enhance any day. They’ll make you feel good as well as productive. If you have a chance to help a co-worker (especially one that you like or want to have like you), take it. That can mean anything from making copies or getting coffee to using your brain. Don’t worry about getting credit for what you do, or the time it takes from your own projects. You’ll be more efficient with those commitments later. The same goes for assisting people on whose team you’d like to earn a place. Volunteer to be the extra pair of hands on a rush job. Participate in brainstorming sessions for new projects. Become someone people want to have around in a crunch. It’ll help your reputation and how you’re valued.
Commandment #7. Let others do for you.
You don’t always have to be the hero. When you’re offered helping hands, take them, assuming they’re competent and caring about your welfare. As good as helping makes you feel, it feels as good to others. There are times when you simply cannot get everything done that you need to if you try to do it on your own. If it’s a choice of being late or doing a bad job on a deadline, don’t waste more than a few minutes wondering if it’s okay to ask for help. There’s no shame in cashing in some reciprocal buddy chits and in building a team of reliable folks for mutual crisis support. Ask for help when you need it, and take it when it’s offered. Say thank you graciously, and maybe even with chocolate.
Commandment # 8. Balance work and life.
Work effectively when you’re at your job. But also think about what makes you happy, what you want from life, what you like about how you’ve done it so far and what you want to change. This doesn’t have to be a heavy exercise in deep psychology. But it’s healthy to balance out stress and the daily grind with some intentionally non-productive time. Give your energy sincerely and with focus wherever you are. If you’re at work, then work. If you’re off-duty, then allow yourself the freedom of mind to be with the ones you’re with. Without people who care about you, money and success can feel emptier than you expect. Nourish your heart as well as your wallet.
Commandment # 9. Make time for taking care of you.
You give at work, give to family, give to friends. Give yourself the best gift of all, the gift of time. For at least 30 minutes a day, let yourself do whatever you most want in that moment, without guilt. Pick up your book or pet the cat. Let your blood pressure drop and remember how to relax. Make time to walk, to breath fresh air, to look at the moon, to watch grass grow. Use your body as more than transport from Point A to Point B. Taking good care of your physical self will boost your resilience, your immune system, and give you a greater sense of happiness. The glow will show and people will be more drawn to you. People, btw, includes bosses and interviewers, as well as friends and family.
Commandment # 10. Choose happiness.
Remember that the more often you choose to be happy, the more likely you will be. Make yourself a priority this year by lightening up. Play more often. Sing in the shower or the car. Let yourself indulge in people and experiences. Play can mean time with yourself or any significant other, one on one, or with groups from your sports team to your choir. It can mean learning something new or practicing something old. It can even mean shopping. Whatever makes you feel like you’re having fun, give yourself a little more of it each week. You’ve earned it.
A brilliant holiday card said simply: Hope. Magic. Inspiration. Use those thoughts to start your year off right. If you practice these commandments, and inspire yourself with hope, you’ll be into a happier new rhythm by spring.