Let’s start the New Year off right this time — with a handful of resolutions we might actually keep.
Sure the odds are daunting. According to 2002 research by John C. Norcross, a professor of psychology at the University of Scranton, about three in 10 people give up on their New Year’s resolutions in less than two weeks.
A whopping 88 percent abandon their goal within 12 months, reports Richard J. Wiseman, a professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK.
But not all of our New Year’s resolutions are destined to fail, especially if we focus on goals that actually make our lives simpler and easier. We’ve come up with six to consider, all of which are equally appropriate in your personal and professional lives.
1. Listen More Attentively
As Arke VP of Strategy Margaret Wise explained, “Be an active listener.”
Focus your attention on the speaker, and only on the speaker. Pay attention not only to the speaker’s words, but everything being communicated nonverbally through things like body language and tone. “Don’t let your mind race ahead to what you want to say back to someone before they’re finished talking,” Wise said.
2. Stop Trying to Multitask
Most of us — 97.5 percent, to be exact — don’t multitask very well. Only a tiny minority of us are actually good at multi-tasking and these “supertaskers are true outliers.”
According to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, multitasking actually us less efficient. This is especially true for complicated or unfamiliar tasks because it takes extra time to shift mental gears with every switch between the two tasks.
3. Embrace Collaboration
It’s almost impossible to discuss business in the digital age without peppering the conversations with allusions to teamwork and collaboration.
Today, we’re all team players. That means being mindful of how you’re working together — both with other members of your department and beyond.
Commit to breaking down as many silos as possible in the year ahead to encourage knowledge sharing and innovation. And check-in frequently to close the gaps between what you say you want to do and what you’re actually doing.
4. Rediscover Reading
A person cannot live on tweets and social media feeds alone. To keep your mind sharp, improve your vocabulary, increase your empathy, and promote relaxation, you need to take the time to regularly get lost in a good book.
It may even make you more resilient. In her doctoral thesis at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, Bettina Brockerhoff-Macdonald argues that both the act of reading for pleasure and the narrative being read support positive coping strategies.
Resilience is defined as the capacity to spring back, rebound, successfully adapt in the face of adversity, and develop social, academic, and vocational competence despite exposure to severe stress or simply to the stress inherent in today’s world.
5. Set Aside Time to Think
How often have you complained, “I don’t have time to think?” However, if you reflect honestly, you’ll likely realize that time and scheduling is just a system of prioritizing.
Before smartphones and constant connectivity, we all had multiple times of day to let our minds wander. Maybe it was standing in line at the grocery store. Maybe it was upon realizing we forgot to bring a book or magazine on a five-hour flight.
But now we almost always have entertainment at arm’s length — and we’re prioritizing email, texts, YouTube, and the like over simply opening our minds, exploring possibilities, and thinking broadly.
In 2018, give yourself time for distraction-free thinking.
6. Strive for Balance
Productivity has morphed from a reasonable goal to something zealously embraced by people who insist we squeeze more from every day.
But as blogger Jon Westenberg wrote recently, “Getting up at 5 a.m. and drinking warm water with lemon and doing an intermittent fast and reading a book a day and meditating for 45 minutes will not make you a successful person.”
Success, he continued, “doesn’t come from magic tricks and micro-dosing and long distance running and reading stoic philosophy and anything else they tell you is the secret. Those things might help some people, sure, but they aren’t the answer to all of life’s shitty shit. And they aren’t the key to success.
“There. Is. No. Key.”
Nope. There’s just luck, timing, hard work, perseverance, the support of friends and family. So stop fretting about constant work and live a balanced life.
It’s a New Year. Enjoy it.