It’s that time of year again - time to reflect on the past year and plan for the next. If you’re anything like me, you might sit down for an hour or two and start listing all of the things you could possibly improve on in the New Year. It’s a great feeling to get all of the year’s unfinished business onto a piece of paper with the hope of fully realizing all of the listed goals, thoughts, and sentiments over the next 365 days.
While I fully intend to make this long list of goals this again this year, I also plan to be more strategic in how I define and pursue my professional development goals. From identifying the most impactful areas for growth to intentionally deciding how evenings get spent, here are five ways you can invest in your professional goals in 2016 and stay committed throughout the entire year.
1. Identify your most impactful areas for growth.
While you may begin with a large list of target areas you’d like to tackle, consider which areas have the greatest potential to ignite the change you want to see. Perhaps in the past year you’ve thought:
In order for me to take the next step in my career, I need to…
I would understand so much more about my job or interests if I had the background in…
It would save me so much time if I knew how to…
Focus your time first in these areas that will both improve your day-to-day as well as allow you to take advantage of bigger opportunities in the future. While you may have other areas you want to improve too, don’t overload your limited time with so many focus areas that you end up calling off the entire effort by mid-February.
2. Get involved in professional organizations.
Connecting with others with similar professional interests and goals can help keep you focused and on track. While networking and professional development events are typically some of the first activities that tend to be cut when things get hectic, I nearly always leave having learned something new about the field and inspired by the interesting work that my colleagues are doing. Not only do I feel energized to work on my own projects and priorities, but this network provides a support system of resources and experiences to tap into when I hit a roadblock. Try committing to attend one professional event per month.
If your professional interests don’t quite align with a specific organization, find the community that supports your goals and interests through Meetup or a similar network of local groups. At these types of gatherings, I’m often struck by the creative applications that groups are using for their particular focus, skill, or tool. Not only will this exposure and immersion help you refine your skillset, but you may also be inspired to use your skills in a new way.
3. Build your skillset through massive open online courses (MOOCs).
Sites such as Coursera and Udacity offer hundreds of free courses online. Whether your focus is data science, leadership, or something in between, there is a ton of content available with active communities surrounding each course. The key here (as with all resolutions) is commitment. Focus on one course at a time and make it a priority to follow through.
4. Audit your post 5pm activities.
I’m always looking to increase my 9-5 productivity, but I was particularly struck by Gary Vaynerchuk’s point in this article on Medium recommending taking a good look at how your evenings get spent. Establishing a work-life balance is an ongoing priority for many professionals, and the idea here is not to double your workday, but rather to be intentional about how your evening hours get spent. Whether you’re trying to get through a Coursera course, recharging with your family, or releasing your tension at the gym, actively choose how you spend this time and make the time between traditional work hours and when you go to bed count.
5. Continue to recommit to your priorities every day.
The New Year is a great time to get your thoughts organized for the next year, but the truth is, you’re going to have to recommit to your priorities every day. It’s more than easy to let go of your goals when you’re running late for work or trying to squeeze in a few extra chores before walking out the door.
Personally, I recently started spending a few minutes in the morning jotting down a quick journal entry to help focus my day and come back to it in the evening to get a sense of what worked well and what didn’t. Whether it’s journaling, meditation, exercise, or another intentional activity, take a few minutes to commit to your priorities every morning and check your progress in the evening. You may be surprised to see how much you accomplished!
New year, new goals. Take your organization to the next level in 2016 using the power of peer-to-peer connections. Download our e-book "The Participant Gears" for a deeper look at what motivates your supporters to participate in your fundraising program.