Want a Better Career? Adopt These 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Work.
Break out of your creative rut, achieve a better work-life balance, and finally get that raise.
Happy New Year! It’s officially 2024, and over the past week, my inbox and social-media feeds have been flooded with resolutions, reflections, and “ins and outs” for the year ahead. Some of the posts I saw were deep, serious, and important; others were silly, which is important in its own way (I especially appreciated this approach).
As I toyed with new-year resolution ideas for my own life, I realized that I kept coming back to a specific area: work. I know—it’s not the sexiest topic. But the reality is that for many people, myself included, work takes up the majority of our waking hours. It’s worth being intentional about making those hours as fulfilling as possible.
So today, I’ve decided to share 10 resolutions that I think everyone should try this working year. Some are things I’ve been doing for a while to positive results; others are habits I plan to adopt. The list ranges from a PSA about emailing to a Japanese conception of empathy, but all of these resolutions aim to make your day-to-day life easier and help you find more satisfaction in your long-term career. And absolutely none of them will tell you to “eat healthier”—I promise.
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New Year’s Resolutions for Work
Reframe your relationship with your hobbies.
Over the holidays, on a whim, I tried out a new craft I’d seen pop up on Instagram a couple of times: decorating taper candles with acrylic paint. I loved it instantly—and then immediately started thinking, Should I try to sell these on Etsy? How can I make this a side business? How quickly would I need to paint each candle to make this profitable? Ugh. As much as I try to avoid hustle-culture thinking, its claws are deeply embedded in my brain, and it takes some conscious effort to avoid these kinds of spirals. In 2024, commit to letting your hobbies be just that. Not everything you do has to produce income, and you don’t even have to learn a new skill. If it’s fun, do it.
Stop playing email ping-pong.
In 2020, Anne Helen Petersen wrote an essay on how email became work, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. She writes:
Inbox Zero, and other email hygiene techniques, are means of highlighting our efficiency and productivity—but like so many productivity “hacks,” they’re also often ways of creating more work for others. The faster you respond to an email (and I am very guilty of this!) the less thorough you are in the response, which then means more emails. If you’re going through your Inbox at 9 pm on a Friday night, a task that could be very simply resolved with a phone call turns into an email response that spirals on forever.
In 2024, let’s all resolve to reply with care.
Go for the easy wins.
If you’re feeling motivated by the start of a new year, use that momentum to knock out the easy tasks you’ve been meaning to tackle. Take 20 minutes to make sure your LinkedIn is up to date and send requests to coworkers you haven’t connected with yet. Schedule that headshot appointment you keep forgetting to make. Put on your favorite album and commit to cleaning out your inbox and digital folders until the last song. January is the perfect time to work through your long-procrastinated to-do list and get a fresh start.
Make your work wardrobe work for you.
What you wear to work is far from the most important aspect of your career. But having a work wardrobe that helps you look and feel your best will make your life easier. First things first: If you own work clothes that are uncomfortable—whether because they don’t fit well, they ride up and make you fidget, or you find the material itchy—get rid of them, preferably by way of resale. From there, think back to the past year and consider what you did and didn’t enjoy wearing. Did you feel your most confident when you wore a certain blazer? It may be time to get it in a second color. Did you find yourself gravitating toward A-line silhouettes over and over? Take note of that and keep it in mind when you shop.
Rethink your routine.
Routine can be a great thing, but without incorporating flexibility into your life, you may find yourself in a creative rut. If you’re hoping to find more inspiration this year, commit to trying one small tweak to your routine each day: drink tea instead of coffee; take a different route on your afternoon walk; listen to music on your commute instead of a podcast. These examples may sound trivial, but I’ve found that making even tiny changes to my routine helps me break out of my usual thought patterns and think more creatively.
Audit your notifications.
One not-so-desirable side effect of hybrid and remote work is that many employees have become accustomed to being constantly online—tuning into Slack and email notifications even after hours and on weekends. If you don’t have a job that requires you to be on call 24/7, have a conversation with your manager about the hours in which you’re expected to respond and silence your work notifications outside of those times.
Maybe you’re feeling stuck in a rut, and your New Year’s resolution is to figure out your next big move. It can be difficult to consider your career at large when you’re focused on getting through day-to-day tasks. Rather than committing to the daunting challenge of deciding what you want to do next, resolve to make a monthly habit of taking a step back to reflect on your goals for the future. You can do this in whatever format speaks to you: journaling, a vision board you add to each month, or even taking a long, contemplative walk. Once you’ve established an idea of where you’d like to end up, you can work backward and set goals that will help you to get there.
Ask for what you want.
You spent 2023 working hard, bringing great ideas to the table, and hitting your stretch goals. You even took a few online courses to improve your skills. All prime reasons to ask for a raise—and yet, it can be difficult to find the courage to initiate the conversation. This year, make it your mission to ask for what you want—respectfully, of course, but also confidently. Maybe you believe you’re ready for a promotion, or perhaps you’re hoping to tweak your hours to achieve a better work-life balance. Regardless, you’ll never know what your employer is willing to give until you ask.
Take (real) breaks.
I’m calling it: desk lunches are out in 2024—because rapidly eating a salad while you half look at Slack and half scroll through TikTok isn’t a real break. If you have the ability to do so, make it your resolution to take some true time away from each work day, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. That means stepping away from your computer, not checking your notifications, and thinking about something other than your job.
“Kizukai” is a Japanese word that roughly translates to “empathy in action.” It’s also one of M.M.LaFleur’s core company values. In practice, kizukai can look like a lot of things: noticing that a coworker looks stressed and inviting her on a walk for some fresh air; seeing that someone keeps being interrupted on a call and purposefully making space for them to speak; or even bringing your deskmate an extra coffee when you run out for your break. Practicing kizukai means creating a warm and welcoming environment for those around you without expecting anything in return. This year, try incorporating acts of kizukai into your work day, and your company culture will be better for it.