Welcome to How to Thrive at Work, a series by Creator and Thrive Global about how to enhance your productivity, well-being, and happiness in the workplace.
The clean-slate feeling of a new year never gets old. It’s an opportunity to review last year’s wins and failures, and start out strong with goals that will keep you engaged and satisfied in the months ahead.
We tapped industry leaders and entrepreneurs for their top work goals for 2019, pairing them with Thrive Global’s Microsteps: too-small-to-fail, actionable behaviors that build up to long-lasting change. It’s an idea backed by research and behavioral experts like James Clear, author of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones. “Small changes seem insignificant in the moment but can really accumulate over time,” Clear tells Thrive and WeWork. “When you turn around five or 10 years later, you realize how much those daily choices mattered.”
Still drafting your 2019 work goals? Use this list to get inspired.
The goal: Incorporate more kindness into professional interactions. “A sense of urgency is important, but shouldn’t trump everything else,” says Daisy Zeijlon, account director at video production, marketing, and communications company Wicked Good Media and a member at WeWork 120 E 23rd St in New York City. Next time someone asks Zeijlon to resend information via email, she’ll resist the urge to reply testily, “per below, here it is again.” “It’s kinder to simply say, ‘here you go,’” she says.
The Microstep: Make mindful communication a habit by pausing to reflect before giving feedback. If you’re stressed or rushed, you’re more likely to deliver feedback without compassion or empathy, even unintentionally.
The goal: Make more money. Be specific, says WeWork member Lauren Berger, founder and CEO of Intern Queen and the author of Get it Together: Ditch the Chaos, Do the Work, and Design Your Success. “Find that happy point between a stretch and a struggle,” she suggests. When you determine that sweet-spot figure, divide it into a biweekly amount, she says, “then work backward to break it down into attainable steps.” Setting an intention to make three sales calls a day will get you further than declaring, “I’m going to pull in $1 million this year.’”
The Microstep: Help boost the bottom line by turning a digital exchange into an in-person conversation. When you get to know professional contacts as people instead of as just names in your inbox, you’ll build trust and camaraderie, developing relationships that can lead to business now and down the road.
The goal: Regain control of your schedule. With emails coming in 24/7, coworkers sticking two-hour meetings on your calendar, and the incessant lure of social media, it can feel like your time is not your own. Even James Clear feels this pain. His 2019 goal: “I’m working on saying ‘no’ and trying to regain control of my calendar,” he says.
The Microstep: Try taking a daily “tech timeout” to improve your focus and reduce stress. Step away from social media and email so you can truly connect with yourself and your loved ones. Clear has admitted to keeping his phone in another room while writing and swearing off social media during the workweek by asking his assistant to change his passwords every Monday—and hold the new ones until Friday.
The goal: Make more free time. “In 2019 I’d like to work smarter,” says Erin Cole, designer and founder of an eponymous couture bridal line. “I tend to tackle it all on my own, even when the people I’ve hired can do those things very well.” Delegating will give Cole more time for meaningful activities.
The Microstep: Type-A habits are hard to break, so ease into it. Identify one low-priority activity—and stop doing it. Sure, the jumble of mugs in the office kitchen is unsightly, but is organizing it daily the best use of your time? You’ll find time you didn’t know you had, which will allow you to do one small thing each morning that brings you joy. It might be meditating, walking, or making breakfast. From this foundation, you’ll be more focused and productive once you get to work.
The goal: Be more intentional about your career trajectory. Job-search strategist Jenny Foss sees too many clients who “ended up” in a career they never wanted. Dodge that outcome by intentionally curating your career. “Changing that mind-set of ‘let’s see where life takes me’ can prevent that feeling of ‘how did I get here?’ in 10 years,” she says. Contemplating a career pivot? Consider what will get you there. “Take an online learning class, seek mentorship, or do some self-teaching,” says Foss.
The Microstep: Give yourself the headspace to plot your path. Set aside a few minutes each night to write in a journal. Writing by hand is a great way to collect your thoughts without digital distractions. Your writing can be both emotional and practical. Write about the goals you feel most passionately about, and jot down the steps you are taking to get there. “Define what will work for you, then explore how to achieve it,” says Foss.
The goal: Filter advice from others. Most advice is delivered with good intentions—but it’s not always useful. Susan Swimmer, founder and creative director of jewelry line Evie Marques, vows to learn the difference in 2019. “Everyone has something to say about what I should be doing,” she says. “I have to learn to filter what comes at me based on what my gut tells me will work for my business.”
The Microstep: Once a day, have a conversation where you mostly listen. Instead of giving your opinion or changing the subject, invite the other person to go deeper. Don’t underestimate the power of silence. Whether or not you agree with what they say, let it sink in before responding. Swimmer’s plan: “I’ll take notes on my phone and read them later,” rather than react in the moment. “I can always ask the advice-giver to elaborate if needed,” she says.
The goal: Approach the business with fresh eyes. Last year, fashion designer Cole upended her company’s operations process. “Normally my gown and accessory departments work separately,” the designer explains. “Instead, I had everyone work together, pairing each dress with accessories made for it.” Here’s why it worked: “Every big goal is made up of smaller goals—and each should be realistic and measurable,” Dan Schwabel, author of Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation, tells Thrive and WeWork. Cole’s smaller goals were to align two departments, have them collaborate, and produce designs that clients love—an outcome measurable in sales.
The Microstep: Start each of your meetings by telling everyone what the goal is. If your goal is to look critically at a particular operations process and spur ideas for how to rethink or improve it, clearly state the meeting’s purpose—it brings people together around a shared goal. You could also spur creativity by making at least one meeting each day device-free. With fewer distractions, you’ll all be more focused, engaged, and productive.