How do you put your New Year’s resolutions into practice? The best way is to make habits out of your intentions: Incorporate them as routines in your day-to-day work. These nine tips can help you transform good intentions into practical routines:
According to official definitions, an action becomes a routine when it has been repeated identically about 200 times. It takes a long time for people to make a habit out of new workflows, tasks or abilities. The tips outlined below will help you establish new routines in your working day, and that will help you put your New Year’s resolutions into practice.
1. Take small steps
In today’s performance-oriented world, we are used to thinking in large dimensions and setting ourselves big goals. But if we are learning something new or, in this case, incorporating a new routine in our working life, it makes sense to begin with small steps, define modest goals and constantly develop and improve.
Here is an example: Suppose you have set yourself the goal of being more assertive in the resolution of conflicts. In this case, it makes sense not to start with a dispute that may have been bubbling up for a long time. Instead, a relaxed discussion with a colleague (tea or coffee?) might be a good way to approach your goal in small steps. The more experience you gather in leading discussions about smaller issues, the more confident you will become in rising to ever greater challenges.
2. Plan fixed routines
To turn resolutions into habits and develop a routine, you have to stake out a fixed time frame. This should be as specific as possible and be slotted into your regular working day. The Outlook calendar, for example, lets you specify fixed time blocks, recurring appointments and regular reminders.
3. Define SMART goals
The lean management philosophy advocates a SMART goal approach based on five factors that give you an excellent way to translate goals, intentions and resolutions into routines, and thus to genuinely put them into practice.
4. Develop team routines
Involving others as you establish new routines can be a good way to get used to something which is new to you. In this way, people who share the same routine objectives can get together and help each other. What could be better?
5. Cultivate the right motivation
One of the reasons why new resolutions are often no longer actively pursued – or are even abandoned – in the course of the year is a lack of motivation. To combat this threat, it is important to know what kind of a motivation mindset you have. A distinction is drawn between extrinsic motivation (through external stimuli) and intrinsic or self-motivation. Exactly how an individual can be motivated varies very considerably, however.
Here are a few examples of how motivation can be applied in the context of routine work:
- Display a ranking list with sales figures, applications received, new customers or similar data in a prominent place in the office so that you can measure your performance against that of other team members.
- Plan small rewards (“If I get … done today, I will treat myself to …”).
- Define a personal challenge to push your own limits.
6. The simpler, the better
You don’t always have to go the hard way. Especially when you are establishing routines, it is actually better to make things as easy for yourself as possible. Conversely, it is a good idea to make bad habits as hard for yourself as possible. Let us assume that someone wants to overcome their fear of phone conversations. Instead of plunging in at the deep end and calling the boss about important issues, maybe that person could start by arranging a telephone appointment with a given colleague on certain days. As we have seen, the most effective approach is to visibly ramp up these small, simple routines. Then, after a few weeks or months, a phone call to the boss will no longer feel like a mountain to climb.
7. Celebrate large and small successes
Becoming accustomed to a routine is a learning process. And since rewards are known to support successful learning outcomes, it again makes sense to work with a system of rewards. It can be very helpful to consciously note successes great and small and to take the time to celebrate them.
Here are a couple of ideas:
- Keep a “success diary”.
- Before the weekend, write yourself a mail listing all the successes and highlights of the past week and read it to yourself on Monday.
- Share your successes in a team meeting.
- Treat yourself (to a tangible or intangible reward).
8. Allow yourself a cheat day
As a general rule, it is important to think about a new strategy if, on a given day or even repeatedly, you find yourself unable to put your resolution into practice. In this context, though, it is essential to adopt a positive mindset and be considerate to yourself. One tip Brunel’s coaches give is to allow yourself a cheat day once a week. Like with a diet, this is a day when you can ignore any of the rules you have imposed on yourself. While this can serve as a valve to release any pressure that has built up in you, it also strengthens your resolve not to deviate from your plan on the other days.
9. Create visual reminders
Our last tip on successfully anchoring a new habit is to create visual reminders for yourself. Visual triggers can help you remember the routines you are keen to incorporate in your everyday work. There are all kinds of ways to do this, from the classic sticky yellow labels to colour-coded categories or tasks in the Outlook calendar to digital reminders in the form of on-screen pop-ups. Your imagination is the limit!