productivityHappy New Year! It’s the second week of January and we are;
on our detox diets, #wholefoodchallenge, cringing when we look at our credit card statement, waiting for a treadmill at the gym (give it a few weeks) etc. We are also being bombarded by a plethora of adverts about the latest books, articles, podcasts etc. teaching us how we can lose weight, get a better job, find love etc. in 2017!
In the spirit of our tradition in the Hub of starting every year on a reflective note, I started thinking about how I would like 1 January 2018 to look like. Then I worked back to what I would need to get done in 2017 to ensure I hit my target(s). This ‘Beginning with the end in mind’ exercise was a great reminder that to have different outcomes in 2017, I would need to do things differently. In the words of Maya Angelou, ‘Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.‘ In this article, I’ll share four things I am determined to do differently in 2017.
1-computernotepad‘Not resolutions but determinations!‘ – I have no problems with making resolutions at the beginning of the New Year because it indicates at least an exercise in reflection! I didn’t make any resolutions this year because sometimes my list of resolutions ends up looking like a wish list. I decided to change my verb from ‘resolve’ to ‘determine.’ If you have a list of resolutions, try adding ‘I am determined to…’ in front of every action. Making it personal is a reminder that we have an important responsibility in ensuring we get the outcomes we want.
How many people start each year with a resolution to find another job? If January 3 was a tough day for you because it took everything to drag yourself out of bed to a job you hate, why not make 2017 the ‘I am determined to get a new job’ year. There is a way using the word ‘determined’ forces one to set realistic goals. Make a list of 3 things you are determined to do this year and set at least two Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound goals underneath them.
For example, for someone determined to start a new job in 2017, some goals could be,
a. Update CV and LinkedIn profile by January 31 2017.
b. Upskill by attending x number of training workshops.
c. Send x number of job applications off each month.

Start eating the ‘frog’ – No, I’m not suggesting des cuisses de grenouille! I am referring to Mark Twain’s famous quote ‘Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day.’ The principle here is to start each day tackling your most important or challenging task. If you have a tendency to procrastinate like I do, this one lesson will have a profound impact on your productivity. I love my to-do lists, oh the satisfaction of crossing items off! However, sometimes I know that I’ve just ticked off 10 unimportant, non-urgent items and pushed my frog to tomorrow’s list of tasks. Instead of a linear list, create an ‘Eisenhower box’ (see APH Productivity Planner) so you always know which delicacy is being served up. In 2017, determine not to be in firefighting mode every single day. Why not finish that presentation three days before you climb the stage as opposed to three minutes! Replace the word busy with productive in your vocabulary.  Anyone can be busy but since I started saying ‘I’ve had a productive day instead of I’ve had a busy day’ I have had to reflect if the statement is true or not.
6-readingLearn something new – What do you need to know, be able to do, or be able to do better to have a more successful year? Do you need to attend a writing  workshop? Get an MBA? Participate in an APH skills training workshop (hint, hint)? If you aspire to a management role this year, how developed are your leadership skills? If you’re incubating a start-up idea, do you know how to write a business plan? Maybe a new language or simply the new version of a software that seems remarkably different from the one you are familiar with.
While technology has opened up learning opportunities in ways we could only dream of, it has also exposed us to a lot of distractions.
 I know how many times I have spent time watching the latest cat YouTube sensation when I could have been learning something that could actually help me. Of course, there should be room in our lives for entertainment but what is the balance between Education vs. Entertainment with respect to your time?  Make room to read books and expand your horizons. In a post-truth world, education is power.
Deliver excellence – When I’m invited to speak at a professional development event, I always ask a version of the following question. On your team, when there is a task that needs to be executed to perfection, whose name springs to mind? Yours or someone else’s? Who can be relied on to bring in the goods? To stay late? To clear up? To deliver beyond expectations. This is especially important to anyone starting a business. In a competitive world, the ability not only to deliver but deliver excellence will help us stand out from the crowd. Think about your most pleasant shopping experience, I could hazard a guess that your expectations were not only met but surpassed.
Commit to engaging every activity you participate in with excellence in mind, no matter how small. Spell check your work emails, answer the telephone as if the Prime Minister or President is on the other end of the line. You just never know! Remember that success is a marathon not a sprint. It takes a lot of effort to become a ‘one-hit’ wonder but delivering excellence ensures you can stay at the top of your game for a lifetime.
What are you doing to make this year a better year? Please share by leaving a comment below!
aa-headshotAbout our writer – After completing a PhD in Microbiology, Amara is building her career in academia, teaching and supporting a new generation of scientists as well as undertaking research. Amara believes in the combined power of education and developing productive relationships as essential tools for building successful careers. She shares her thoughts @amaratweets.
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