In January, all the New Year’s talk of goal setting and self-examination provides the opportune moment to see what changes we can implement to make our lives better. Are you happy with the state of your finances? Your job? Your chosen career path as a whole? If you discover that you are indeed unhappy — then there’s no better time than the present to click the reset button on your work life. Here are four steps to help you achieve your career goals in 2017.
Step 1: Think ahead
What do you want your life to look like for the foreseeable future? Do you see future you writing from a cozy cafe in Paris? Does future you achieve your dream of becoming a pilot and flying private jets across the world for a living? Are there certain activities — perhaps writing, painting, traveling, etc. — that consistently bring joy to your life, and you wish you could do more of? Start there, and work backward to the present day. What jobs can you think of that include these activities? Whether it’s a full-time job or side hustle you hope to turn into a career, brainstorm different ways that you can go from your current place of employment to the future you imagine.
Step 2: Make a plan
Once you figure out where you want to be, now it’s time to make a list of small steps to take you there. For example, if your dream is to one day open your own graphic design firm, then the first step you can take today is to write down all of the skills that are typical of that career, the industry-specific computer programs that utilize them, any free online classes to help you improve your skills, any fellow graphic design entrepreneurs in the industry you should meet for coffee to discuss plans, and so on.
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Step 3: Organize your calendar
At work, there are a lot of responsibilities that fill up your day. To avoid taking work home with you, make those hours really count. I organize myself by taking stock of my responsibilities, dividing them into distinct categories (in my case, by publication), and assigning specific days of the week to each category. Monday is the day I catch up on administrative tasks. Tuesday and Wednesday, I work on publications. Thursday, I have meetings with clients, and finally Friday, which I reserve for more fun tasks like brainstorming how to reach potential clients. Next, I break up each day into 30-minute blocks of time to dedicate to the individual details. For instance, Monday’s administrative tasks are divided into filing contracts, responding to emails, and, scheduling future meetings. An organized calendar is the backbone of any day.
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Once it’s set up to support success, there are a few other things you can do to stay organized. Avoid a cluttered desk by setting up a filing system to make sure that every paper is put in its proper place. If it doesn’t fit a specific category — “Important Documents,” “Client Contracts,” “Upcoming Projects” — it usually gets tossed.
Step 4: Execute your plan
It’s time to put your plan into action! Expect it to be tough at first – it takes on average 66 days for a new habit to start to feel automatic – and there’s bound to be moments of procrastination. The important thing to remember is that the path to success isn’t always linear, and you’ll encounter all kinds of ups and downs on the road to career nirvana. Stay focused by sharing your career goals with family and friends for both emotional support and accountability. Set up weekly check-ins with yourself to see how you’re progressing on new skills you’re learning. And don’t be afraid to invest a bit of money in online or in-person classes. I’m much more likely to attend a class I paid $20 for as opposed to a free one that’s easy to forget. Remind yourself of what you’re working toward with a vision board in your cubicle, a monthly coffee date with a mentor, or volunteering to share your new skills with organizations that can’t afford professional help. The best part? If you follow these steps, you may never need another work reset again, because you’re already well on your way to achieving your dream.