You’ve hopefully had a bit of a break over the holiday period and now it’s back to business as usual. What, another year of work ahead already? I agree, it is hard to believe that we’re 1/12 of the way through the year and it’s February today!

To be able to not only perform well during the year, but also enjoy yourself on the way through, here are some of my ideas for approaching the year ahead.

 

Ease into it

Your brain and body have hopefully had a (no doubt much needed) break. Stepping out of your usual routines and enjoying a bit of “R and R” is not only enjoyable, it’s also great for our brain and body. If performing well in your personal and professional life is important to you, rest and rejuvenation are as much of a requirement as focus, dedication and doing the hard yards.

I often refer to Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and this relates to Habit 7, which is “Sharpen the saw”. This habit involves ensuring we rest and recuperate in order to preserve our ability to maintain our ability to perform the other six habits. Another way of putting this is that the downtime is as important as the uptime. So many high performers struggle with this as a concept, but if we want to be effective over the longer haul, we need to learn how to take and maximise our breaks.

Given the benefits of proper rest, it’s wise to build back up to peak performance gradually rather than diving in and undoing all that you’ve gained.

 

Set a theme

Some people set resolutions (not me, I think they’re a waste of time – to find out why, check out this blog from this time last year). I prefer to approach this in a different way by setting some kind of theme or intention for the year. It could be a word or a mantra that sits over the top of everything for your year. Or, it could be a sentence or two. In response to a (too) busy year in 2018, I’ve decided that “calm” will be my theme for this year. As tempting as it is for me to return to my tried and true habit of being and feeling rushed, I am committing this year to take things a bit easier. I’ll be interested to see the impact this has on my performance and effectiveness. I think it can only be good!

 

Get organised

Use the times when you’re not as effective, such as when you’re returning to your desk for the year or a Friday afternoon slump to do some admin or get organised and structured. You could even devise some systems if you’re feeling super-organised. This could end up saving you heaps of time over the year, creating order, simplicity and consistency and will have spin off benefits of de-cluttering your brain (it’s all the rage after all). I can personally vouch for the massive strides my creativity has made now that I am more organised and have cleared more headspace for the “fun” stuff.

 

Create focus

Tempting as it is to make long lists and set many goals as you launch into the year, it can be more effective to narrow your focus. Deciding on what’s most important and working towards actually completing those things feels satisfying and motivating. Conversely spreading your attention, energy and efforts too thinly is likely to make it harder to achieve anything much, which is the antithesis of satisfaction and motivation. Trust me, I’ve been there many times…

 

Make it sustainable

Many people are starting to at the very least talk about making changes to the way they do things. We’re waking up to the fact that being overly busy is no longer cool or aspirational. In fact it’s making us tired, absent, grumpy, unhealthy, depressed and anxious. In tandem with this, there’s a trend towards simplifying our lives, to slow down a bit, be present, mindful and enjoy what we do have. Sounds great, but how do we go about achieving this given all the demands we (and others) place on ourselves? For me, it comes back to focusing on the most important things and ensuring that we balance the go go go with the stop stop stop by building in regular downtime. Others aren’t likely to manage this for us – your boss might still send that email at 10pm on a Saturday night – so it’s up to us to claim our time out and be disciplined about sticking to it. This could be a challenge if you suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) and are used to being “on call” and available to anyone who asks a favour of you. Give it a try, though, your mental health and wellbeing will certainly thank you for it.

 

Plan micro-breaks/holidays/things to look forward to

By earmarking things in your diary and making bookings and plans you’re more likely to actually do what you set out to do, give yourself things to look forward to and rewards for your efforts throughout the year. We know that all work and no play makes Jack and Jill dull, so take a leaf out of their book and build some fun into your year!