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The start of a new year is just that — a new start! It’s a chance to try something new, re-tailor and rework all your previous goals, plans, and activities. I hope your celebrations were filled with family, festivities, and food but now it’s time to get back to work.

Think about how your last year went and what you want to change this year. If last year didn’t quite turn out the way you had hoped, take a moment and make a plan for change; otherwise, this year will be the same.

Your plan doesn’t have to be filled with far-reaching New Year’s resolutions or outrageous changes. Unrealistic changes and lofty goals are rarely kept, which is why I’m such a fan of taking small actions to make this year better. Below are eight small actions to make 2020 a better year – professionally and personally!


1. Practice networking within your company once a month

At least once a month, schedule a lunch or a 20-minute meeting with someone outside your immediate work circle. Most people are agreeable to meet over lunch or spend 20 minutes with you. These meetings don’t necessarily have to be in-person, as video conferencing makes it really easy to have an engaged conversation.

If your organization has a cafeteria or a common eating area, take advantage of informally talking with someone you’ve seen walking throughout the halls. When I get out of my comfort zone and reach out to learn more about a colleague, it builds better teamwork and a better work environment.


2. Network more with professionals outside your company

While you’re practicing your networking skills inside your company, make a conscious decision to also block off time to attend a professional meetup outside your company at least once a quarter. When you work 8-10 hours a day behind a desk, it may not seem like there’s time or interest in interacting with peers outside of work; however, we can quickly become apathetic or accept the status quo unless we expose ourselves to new ideas and different ways of working.

A few ideas include:

  • Search Meetup.com for a professional meeting (and even a few fun ones)
  • Host your own meetup on Scrum, Agile, or your favorite project collaboration tool
  • Respond to all those LinkedIn messages and actually setup a call to learn more about the people in your professional network.

I have maintained calls with a few key resources for several years and we’ve never met in person but kept in touch via phone and WebEx. All these connections open up new ideas and occasionally new career opportunities!


3. Archive your inbox now and start fresh

In the corporate world, there are a few small luxuries such as an empty inbox. Go ahead and archive your Inbox and start the new year at Inbox Zero. Eliminate all that clutter,seemingly endless threads of replies, and unread forwarded emails. Starting with a clean inbox helps start the new year right (even if it’s just for a few minutes before the next 10 emails arrive.)

If you want some help on achieving Inbox Zero, check out these 7 Steps to Inbox Zero.


4. Improve your productivity

Now is the perfect time to start blocking out your calendar to help improve your productivity. Time blocking, batching work, and scheduling shorter meetings are a few useful techniques. Consider scheduling a four hour meeting on Fridays called, “No Meetings,” and use that time to catch-up, wind down, or wrap up early for the weekend.

Try the Pomodoro technique to chunk your working time and break time. You can use one of these 7 best Pomodoro chrome extensions to manage your day. (I used the Time 25 to complete this article.)

Instead of scheduling a 30-minute or 60-minute meeting with your team, try 25 minutes or even 50 minutes as the standard meeting time. If you use Google Calendar, you can use the Speedy Meeting setting to improve your productivity.


5. Commit to your health and wellbeing

Work is important, but so is your health. When you’re in your 20s, staying healthy, eating right and getting to the gym regularly might sound like unsolicited parental advice. But as you get older, managing your health becomes equally — if not more — important than your 401K.

Start scheduling exercise into your daily routine as a mandatory meeting. I know you’ve got a list of excuses about why you can’t get to the gym or walk around the block, but if you schedule it into your day, you’ll start seeing the benefits of making a healthier change.


6. Devote time to team building 

Your team works hard — hey need to be rewarded. Schedule a lunch or an after work happy hour. I work with several team members who don’t drink alcohol, but the promise of appetizers is equally alluring. Trust me. I’ve solved a lot of problems (i.e. people problems) meeting up for dinner or a beer after work and simply breaking down barriers. Try one event this quarter and see what happens!


7. Recommit to learning

With all your improved productivity, you’ll have more time to learn a new skill. Managing training and projects simultaneously is a challenge — so plan for training now and adjust your workflow accordingly, or it will continue to be deferred.

Fortunately, training opportunities aren’t restricted to classroom training or flight-required travel. If you have a long drive, sign-up for Audible or pick a podcast in your industry.

Try professional online training from Pluralsight, Udemy or LinkedIn Learning. There’s also a trend in technology training where vendors like Pega and Salesforce offer their training programs for free!

Regardless of the training method, take the time to sharpen the saw and retool!


8. Embrace the change (because it’s going to change)

Be ready to embrace change this year because work and life is undoubtedly going to change! It’s easier to write these words, rather than actually accepting all the changes that will occur this year, but keep an open mind, breathe, and embrace the new challenges and changes ahead.

Try a couple of these actions and I’m sure your year will be a rewarding one!

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