As 2016 winds down, it is tempting to put personal and professional development on the backburner until New Year’s Resolution-time rolls around on January 1. However seizing the day and taking one or two small steps right now will pay dividends and allow you to enter 2017 rebooted and refreshed, and ahead of the pack trying to wrap their heads around the challenges lying ahead, an expert says.
“It’s certainly an unconventional approach,” says Wonga Ntshinga, Senior Head of Programme: Faculty of ICT at The Independent Institute of Education, the largest and most accredited private higher education institution in South Africa.
“We are so used to mostly tying up loose ends and letting the last 3 months of the year drift away while wishing it was already holiday time. But there is a big case to be made for not only maintaining momentum during this time, but even starting to construct the life we hope to pursue in the next year,” he says.
Ntshinga points out that New Year’s Resolutions are notorious for their high rate of failure, but that the desires which drive us to make them – to be happier, healthier and more successful – can in fact be successfully harnessed if it is not left until the starting gun has already sounded.
“If you wait until January 2 to get going on your goals, you are going to take at least a few weeks or months to implement them, never mind seeing the rewards. But if you start taking small actions right now, you will start the first week of the year excited, passionate, refreshed and already streets ahead in turning your dreams into reality,” he says.
Ntshinga says while different people have different goals, there are 5 things anyone can do over the next ten weeks to take their lives to the next level:
Declutter and Organise
Be ready to respond quickly and efficiently to any opportunities that might come your way in the new year. Getting all your paperwork in order – by ensuring your CV is up to date and you have certified copies of your ID, birth certificate, Matric certificate and qualifications, for instance – means that should you notice a job vacancy that interests you, you are more likely to jump at the opportunity rather than baulk at the effort required to apply.
Additionally, clear your personal and work environments of any clutter – all those papers you will never look at again, the dry pens, the dusty ornaments. Keep only those things that are functional and necessary, or “spark joy”, as the world’s leading organiser, Marie Kondo, advises.
Investigate better systems for getting things done. For instance, some higher education institutions have digital qualification verification systems, such as The IIEMarque, which will streamline your job application processes in future, and ensure that you never lose vital information about your education and track record.
Clearing the slate right now means you will start the New Year energized and empowered.
Do a personal Social Media Audit
These days, it is not unusual to have so many social media accounts that you sometimes forget that you registered on Google Plus 2 years ago. But while you were happily Snap Chatting away, and promptly lost interest after a few weeks, prospective employers, potential headhunters and bursary panels could be stumbling across some unfortunate pics or comments on a platform you have long since abandoned or forgotten about.
Don’t leave this until next year. By removing the digital debris right now, you are again clearing the decks in a way which will allow you to grasp and quickly respond to new opportunities, while continuously building your professional image going forward.
Get active & make better small choices
Everyone leaves the “I will lose 5kgs in the new year”-resolutions for the 1st, and then the first week back at work, and then the next Monday. Before you know it, October is with us once more and your physical health in the same or even worse state than it was when you promised yourself you will start exercising.
You can still make those same resolutions, but instead of waiting until next year, why not start making small improvements right now?
Take the stairs, walk to class, run around the block before you get behind the books, and have one sugar instead of 2 in your coffee. Once your healthier new choices become habit, build on them. After 10 weeks, you may find that you have a new goal for 2017 because you have in fact already reached the goal which would have been your New Year’s Resolution!
Ditch Motivation for Discipline
If you give yourself one gift this year, then wrap your head around the benefits of discipline vs the false promises of motivation.
It is human to want to wait for motivation to do what needs to be done – whether it is to study for a test, to go for a run, to update your CV. But motivation may or may not arrive. And in the case of unpleasant tasks, it is very likely not to.
So in order to do what we need to do to achieve our goals, we need to be disciplined even when we don’t feel like it. Being disciplined, when practised consistently, becomes a habit. And once this habit is cultivated, your days will become infinitely more manageable.
Set in motion a challenge that will excite you in 2017
Don’t let 2017 be a repeat of all the years before.
Have something to look forward to – a new thing that will take you in a new direction and expose you to new people and places.
Check out distance or short learning courses on offer and take your career to the next level. Sign up for music lessons, or register with your local athletics club.
Make 2017 the year that you get out of your comfort zone and grow both personally and professionally.
“Using the last 10 weeks of the year to structure and visualise what you want to do and where you want to go next year will help you achieve the goal of making 2017 your best year yet, and will eliminate unfulfilled New Year’s Resolution regrets,” says Ntshinga.