Blog by Jim Hawke

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New Year's Resolutions You Should Actually Keep

It is definitely very easy – and common – to have mixed feelings about New Year’s resolutions.


It seems like a natural time to make important life changes. It’s like a universal pressing of the “reset” button. However, only a third of Canadians still make resolutions. A reason for this may be the lack of success, as only 8% of people are successful in achieving their New Year’s goals.


We suspect it may have something to do with the nature of the resolutions themselves. According to a study by the University of Scranton's Journal of Clinical Psychology, the top 10 resolutions of 2015 included things like losing weight and falling in love. Yes, those goals are great – there’s no better feeling than being healthy and happy – but these goals put a lot of pressure on people and if not met quickly, many can become discouraged. We recommend picking resolutions that can help you become a better person on a day-to-day basis.

 

This year, we challenge you to come up with and stick to more everyday New Year's resolutions -- things that will make you more creative, productive, and generally more content. Here are 8 ideas to help you get started, along with resources to help you actually accomplish them.

 

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Designate an Electronics-Free Zone


Why?

Our bodies are smarter than you might think. They're trained to respond to light and dark, which send us important signals, like the time of day. Those signals also aid our bodies in adjusting our circadian rhythms -- that's the handy 24-hour physiological cycle that helps us fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning.

This is all pretty great, until screens are added to the equation. Our brains recognize the brightness from phones, computer monitors, and even TVs as external light, which sends the signal that we should be awake. That's why it's harder for so many of us to fall asleep when we're exposed to too much screen time at night. The verdict? Put the devices down before bed.


How?

At INBOUND 2013, Arianna Huffington -- who later went on to pen The Sleep Revolution -- gave some great advice regarding the sleep/screen conundrum: Ban electronics from your bedroom for good.

"I never take devices to bed," she said. "iPads, iPhones, Blackberries -- I don't charge them near my bed, because I feel it's imperative to be able to have uninterrupted renewal time."

This habit is a tough one to break. Many people can relate to liking to watch movies or shows on your computer before bed, for example -- these are the mindless things that help us unwind at the end of the day. Luckily, there are solutions to help you resolve the problem for good, some of which might still allow you to indulge in your evening TV viewing.


Helpful Resources

We'd encourage you to ditch the electronics completely before bed. Instead, try reading, journaling, or maybe even a few minutes of yoga. And if you absolutely cannot part with your electronics:

  • Try downloading a desktop app that reduces your screen's blue light as the day progresses -- that's the kind emitted from most electronics and is often cited as the culprit for sleep loss. We recommend f.lux, which adjusts your screen's blue light depending on the time of day, or the similar filter from PC Sun Screen.
  • Plus, the latest iPhone OS now comes with a "night shift" mode, which accomplishes the same thing after sunset.

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Write Something Every Day


Why?

Sadly, the decreasing quality of writing in North America has been making headlines for a while now. And people want to become better writers -- they just have trouble investing the necessary time.

But writing is definitely an important skill, and if you want to become a better writer, then you need to write a lot. The way to improve that skill is the same way you'd approach any other -- with practice.

It's the same advice we give to people who want to blog more consistently (another worthy New Year's resolution) which is to treat it like working out. You've got to do it consistently to see great results. After all, you can't just publish a blog once every few months and expect to rack up views, leads, and customers. The same goes for your overall writing skills.


How?

To start, get into the habit of writing on a daily basis. Neil Patel suggests writing for at least 30 minutes every workday, skipping the weekends. Remember the advice we just gave to journal before bed, instead of looking at a screen? Here's a great way to put that time to use.

And even if you don't identify as a writer, pick a question -- something from a customer, a friend, or a topic that's always piqued your curiosity -- and write something about it. There are many journals being published that include writing prompts to help you get your creative juices flowing. Or, just write nonsense. It's the habit of writing regularly that's important, especially in the beginning.


Helpful Resources

One of the most common objections when the suggestion to write more is brought up is, "I have nothing to say." Here are some tools that might help to generate some ideas:

  • Daily Page: Emails you a writing prompt every morning, and you have the rest of the day to write your response. Once you've written your response to the prompt, you can either share it or keep it private.
  • 750 Words: Encourages you to write 750 words per day about anything you want. It gamifies writing by giving you points for writing at all, for writing 750 words or more, and for writing on a consistent basis.
  • Twords: Calls itself "the app that nudges you to write." It notifies you when you haven't written in a while so you can keep yourself accountable -- and even gives you the option to connect with others who will help you stay on track.

Need more help? Check out these posts:


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Improve Your Concentration and Mental Skills


Why?

We don’t just lose muscle over time — our brains can wither, too. More specifically, your brain's cognitive reserve — its ability to withstand damage due to aging and other factors without showing visible signs of slowing or memory loss — diminishes through the years. That can make it more difficult to perform mental tasks. But just as weight workouts add lean muscle to your body and help you retain more muscle in your later years, researchers now believe that following a brain-healthy lifestyle and performing regular, targeted brain exercises can also increase your brain's cognitive reserve.

Improving your concentration and mental skills can not only help you improve and advance in your career, but can open yourself up to smaller successes in daily life such as establishing new relationships and learning new things.


How?

People have been trying to find ways to improve their focus and cognitive capacities for thousands of years, and most ancient civilizations had some combination of mental exercise and herbal medicine to help them reach this goal.

Today we can use anything from apps to exercise to ancient meditation techniques to boost concentration and hone our mental skills. If you don’t have a ton of time to dedicate to improving these skills, consider downloading an app or finding a program online that offers quick, mind-boosting games. If you go through with any of these, you will be able to control your mood, learn faster and have an easier time solving problems.


Helpful Resources


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Take Br
eaks


Why?

Despite 90% of employers encouraging breaks, it seems that only 45% of us are okay with taking them.

So what's with the other 55%? It turns out that we're too guilty to leave our desks for prolonged breaks -- we're afraid that it'll make us look less productive, or take away time that could be used to get work done.

But it turns out that the opposite is true. In fact, the top 10% most productive employees take 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work they put in. There's tremendous value in breaks, and we could all stand to benefit from them.


How?

When we're "in the zone," so to speak, it's easy to forget to come up for air. But putting a reminding on your phone or computer so take a small break every once in a while can prove very beneficial.

During those few minutes, completely step away from work -- no email, no work-related calls, and whenever possible, no sneak peeks at your phone. And during that time of work? That's your time for hyper focus. Close those tabs that you have open to check social media -- unless you're using it for work, that is -- and remind yourself that there's a break coming.


Helpful Resources


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Listen to One Podcast Per Week


Why?

Podcasting is a thriving mini-industry. It's no wonder -- listening to podcasts is a great way to learn something new without it being a direct skill you are mastering.

That's true from an early age, which is why many teachers are also incorporating podcasts into their lesson plans. In fact, one English teacher found that assigning the Serial podcast to his students helped them pay more attention to the written word. While listening to any given episode, he reported that their eyes became affixed to its written transcript. In other words, it seemed the auditory version of a story aided their ability to process accompanying written content.

And maybe that's why the popularity of podcast-based lesson plans increased by a whopping 650% in 2015 -- the year after Serial first launched. It's not just that podcasts themselves are tremendously informative (which they are). As it turns out, they might even enhance your skills in other areas, too.


How?

A simple app download can go a long way when you're aiming to discover more valuable podcasts. We particularly like Stitcher, which catalogues over 65,000 podcasts and allows you to curate your own listening collection, depending on your subject interests. Whether you're looking to become a better marketer or a better cook, chances are, there's a podcast out there that can help.


Helpful Resources


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Volunteer


Why?

We tend to think our own bliss relies on bettering ourselves, but our happiness also increases when we help others. And guess what? Happiness is good for your health. A 2010 study found that people with positive emotions were about 20% less likely than their gloomier peers to have a heart attack or develop heart disease. Other research suggests that positive emotions can make people more resilient and resourceful.


How?

There are so many ways to get yourself involved in your community! Ask yourself why you want to volunteer, and then find an organization that is meaningful to you or shares similar values. If you are reluctant to throw yourself into a new community of people alone, ask a friend to volunteer with you. Not only will this provide comfort towards your new experience, but it can add new dimensions to your relationship and bring you closer to your friend. Most volunteer opportunities only require a few hours a week, making it easy to fit into your schedule. Still feel like you have no time? Consider at-home or online alternatives that include anything from sending cards to Sick Kids Hospital to becoming a virtual mentor. Feeling adventurous? There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer abroad, where you can meet new people, learn new cultures and make an impact internationally.


Helpful Resources


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Read More


Why?

The most successful people never stop learning. There's a reason why 70% of adults in professional or managerial roles continue their education -- it's one of the best ways to keep up with industry trends, learn from experts, and get the creative juices flowing.

One of the best ways to do that outside of a classroom is to read what others are writing about. Reading more might even help you become a better writer, and exploring external content helps you to gain different perspectives of vital issues, whether they're of personal or professional interest.


How?

The tough thing is, since there's so much content out there, you have to be discerning to find the really good stuff. To start, three places where content quality stays high are Harvard Business Review, the New York Times, and Slate. You'll want to spend time reading more niche or industry-specific content, too. To make it easier to read them all, look for applications that let you read all your favorites all in one place, like Feedly.


Helpful Resources


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Move to the Next Level of Your Career


Why?

"Next" can mean different things for different people -- changing your title, getting more responsibilities, gaining more authority in your industry, or starting your own business. Whatever it is, start now -- it could take longer than the next year to fully accomplish it.

Don't let that scare you out of it, though. If you don't start moving forward now, it's easy to keep putting it off. Even if you're happy in your current professional situation, we've outlined many reasons in this post to continue learning, or at least add to your success with new goals and accomplishments.


How?

When it comes to big, life-changing moves, planning is fundamental. If your goal is really monstrous, try breaking it into a year-over-year plan, and using the first year's plan as the basis for your resolutions.

But if you're simply looking to grow and accomplish more, there are smaller steps that you can take this year. Jumping on opportunities to share your skills with others, for example, can enhance your career, especially if you do so through public speaking engagements. These aren't just beneficial for your audience -- they provide a great way to present yourself as an expert, increase your visibility both online and offline, and build your personal brand. Plus, getting your name out there in the context of your job is beneficial for your company, too.

Talk with your manager about opportunities your company can introduce, like local meet-ups or conferences. You could also get in touch with a university and offer a guest lecture -- after all, there's something very rewarding about inspiring future talent.


Helpful Resources




There you have it. New Year's resolutions don't have to be quite so flighty, or involve gyms and special diets. They can help you become a better more organized, to continue learning and improving, and to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.

That being said, do what works for you. Don’t expect to try to tackle all 8 of these resolutions. Depending on where you are in life, some might be more feasible and practical than others. Think about your priorities, and choose from there.

 

From our team to yours, Happy New Year. We can't wait to hear about how you put these resolutions to work.