Resolve to Succeed Professionally

January 06, 2016


Many of my clients spend some part of their December reviewing the year that is about to expire and setting goals for the year that quickly approaches. I'm a huge fan of this process. Yet I know that too often our annual goals don't change dramatically year after year. Everyone always wants to lose another five pounds, add an extra exercise session to their already busy schedules, and become a better all-around player in this game we call life.

This year, I'd like you to consider some different resolutions.

Way back in 2014, Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath, of The Energy Project, published a piece in The New York Times entitled, "Why You Hate Work?" (May 30, 2014). Schwartz and Porath had partnered with the Harvard Business Review to survey 12,000 mostly white-collar employees across a broad range of industries. No matter the profession of the respondent, their findings regarding productivity and satisfaction were remarkably similar. As long as four core needs were met, most people were happy and productive at work.

If you would like to find happiness and become more productive at work in 2016, then spend the next two weeks identifying specific activities you can undertake at work that will address the following core needs.


You must find ways to renew and recharge at work, something that I know isn't easy when an ever-increasing number of internal and external clients make demands upon your time. Yet Schwartz and Porath point out that people who take breaks every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or just one break per day. Their survey respondents who took regular breaks also experienced more creativity and higher levels of health and well-being.

In 2016, commit to scheduling several breaks throughout your day. At a minimum and at regular intervals, step away from your computer (and your other electronic gadgets) and stretch. Alternatively take a walk around your office or corporate campus. Better yet, head outside. Exposure to even a small amount of sunlight can increase your mental energy and sharpen your focus.


Everyone needs to feel valued for the contributions they make at work. If you don't hear "well done" often enough, make sure that you set aside some time every week to privately assess the positive differences that you make at work. Supplement this effort with a "Kudos file," a place where you retain copies of emails and handwritten notes that contain positive feedback. On days when you need a boost--and who doesn't need one now and then--go there first.

Make 2016 the year that you speak up on behalf of yourself. Commit to making positive contributions in meetings and on calls. If and when it's necessary, immediately, politely, and persistently correct anyone who takes credit for your ideas or hard work.

Want to share one thought with your organization's management committee? Try this one: if your organization needs to retain its best workers, then every supervisor must provide regular feedback that communicates, "You're valued here." According to Schwartz and Porath, "Feeling cared for by one's supervisor has a more significant impact on people's sense of trust and safety than any other behavior by a leader. Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67 percent more engaged."


Other than natural and human-initiated disasters, I doubt anything is more destructive to our mental peace of mind than the on-going barrage of disruptions many of us experience at work. On top of scheduled meetings, conference calls, and drop-by visits, our electronic gadgets disturb our ability to focus on any one project for even a few minutes of time.

Make 2016 the year that you absolutely commit to turning off the "automatic reminder of new email message" prompt on your computer. Commit to periodically turning off your smartphone to avoid interruptions from text messages or social media updates. End every day by identifying the most important project that you must tackle next, and the next day, set aside 90 uninterrupted minutes during which you give that task 100% of your attention.

If you haven't read it yet, spend one afternoon this holiday season reading Leslie Perlow's book, Sleeping with Your Smartphone, in which the Harvard Business School professor discusses how you and your work teams can disconnect and become more productive. If you don't have an entire afternoon, at a minimum view Perlow's TEDTalk. You might also be interested in Tony Schwartz's most recent contribution to The New York Times, "Addicted to Distraction," (November 29, 2015), in which The Energy Project's president, founder, and CEO details his quest to find a sustainable balance between time online and time off.


During the past several years, scads of attention have been focused on the concept of happiness. God bless lawyer-turned-writer Gretchen Rubin, author of the widely read The Happiness Project (2009) and various entities that are now dedicated to helping people "create greater happiness within themselves."

It turns out, however, that focusing on happiness may not actually make you happier. Instead, most of us feel most fulfilled when we engage in work that has meaning--that connects us to some higher purpose on a day-to-day basis.

Make 2016 the year that you repeatedly ask yourself, Why am I doing this? What's my purpose in life? These aren't easy questions. They are certainly not the sorts of questions that you answer while standing in line at your local barista or waiting at a tollbooth. But if you ask yourself these questions often enough, and if you really listen to the most honest answers that your brain and heart generate, this coming year may be the one in which you create your most meaningful and happy life ever.



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