5 New Year’s Resolutions for Federal Workers

Like many others at this time of the year, I’ve been thinking about New Year’s resolutions.  I wanted to create some concrete goals that would help me grow both professionally and personally.  Getting fit and eating healthy are certainly good things to strive for, but the resolutions I’m suggesting are geared more towards developing the whole person at work.  This is especially important to federal employees, given the continued frustrations they faced in 2013. I think these resolutions I'm making can help many of the federal workers and leaders we work with everyday. So here are my five New Year’s resolutions for federal workers:

1. Learn to Say No

This may actually be the most difficult to achieve, which is why it’s first on my list.  Like many others, I have a hard time saying no to people, especially when they’re asking for help.  Do you need that presentation by Monday?  Absolutely, I’ll work on it this weekend!  Your Boss is putting pressure on you for the report, no problem, I’ll skip dinner and review it tonight!   This isn’t meant to vilify people who ask for help (we should all do it more often).  Rather, it shows how easily we can get carried away with putting our plans aside when something work-related comes up.  We burn out much faster when we don’t give ourselves the proper time to recharge from work.  So while it’s good to help someone, be sure that you aren’t undermining yourself in the process.  Saying “no” prevents you from becoming the go-to person for every problem that comes up in the office, and protects your much-needed personal time.

2. Enjoy Vacation

Speaking of personal time, I’ve resolved that I will actually enjoy my vacations this year.  Achieving this goal is less about where I go, and is more related to how I go on vacation.  In the past, I’ve been very susceptible to checking my phone whenever I got an email.  I thought I could handle reading emails and then putting work back to the side.  Instead, I would get caught up in wondering how I was affected by whatever I just read, sometimes even responding when it wasn’t necessary.  Not only was I being rude to the people I was with, but it also meant I wasn’t really taking a break.  Vacations are a great way to take a long break from work and come back refreshed, so be sure that you’re truly out of the office when you leave.

3. Revisit My Development Plan

At some point in the past year, you probably sat down with a manager to discuss your performance at work.  Oftentimes, this discussion is documented in either a review or a development plan that the employee can reference later on.  At some point before the next performance review, take some time to revisit the plan you developed based on your last development discussion.  Set a calendar reminder to go through it yourself, and consider discussing it with someone you trust at work.  It doesn’t have to be with your manager, and being accountable to that individual may help you follow through on your development goals. Revisiting your development plan can also reinvigorate you at work, providing a sense of direction in case you’re stuck in a rut.

4. Become More Comfortable with Feedback

Part of your performance evaluation probably involved getting feedback from your manager about changes you can make to become more successful.  If you’re like me and aren’t always comfortable with feedback, you may either take these suggestions somewhat personally or ignore them to protect your feelings.  Neither approach is helpful, though.  Such approaches stem from a misunderstanding of what feedback is intended to do— Good feedback aims to increase your awareness and contribute to professional development.  It isn’t personal and shouldn’t be treated as such.  So like many other bad habits, overcoming this tendency requires acknowledging its existence and facing it head on.  That’s why I’m going to make a point to practice giving helpful feedback, and to ask for more feedback in return.  By getting more comfortable with feedback, we can promote professional development without harming our personal well-being.

5. Give Back

I’m a firm believer in the idea that when you help others, you also help yourself in the process.  Making time to give back may seem like a bit of a chore at first, but it’s amazing how rewarding it can be when you see the impact that you can have in your community.  Find an organization that focuses on an issue that speaks to you personally.  The greater your interest, the easier it will be to motivate yourself and others to contribute.  You may even be able to organize an office-wide charity event or donation drive!  Personally, I’m aiming to conduct two charity events this year:  a day of community service this spring, and a donation drive in the winter.  Don’t feel like you have to wait until the holidays to start – There are plenty of year-round activities that can benefit your community immensely.

These are the five resolutions I’ll be working on this year.  What goals are you setting for 2014?