I have a friend on Facebook who, periodically throughout the year, writes a brief post with the date and the simple message, "How are your New Year's resolutions going?" The first few times I saw it, it gave me a bit of anxiety — how WERE my resolutions going?! Now, I kind of look forward to his check-in posts. They're a reminder that I'm a work in progress, always trying to learn and improve.
With that in mind — how's it going? Did you make any big resolutions a month ago? Did any of them have to do with your professional life? Did you eschew them entirely? (No judgment if you did.) If you didn't, but are still looking for manageable ways to track some improvement, it's not too late. Here's a few things you may want to (belatedly) resolve to work on, based on some popular professional skills-related resolutions I've heard in my day-to-day conversations.
1. Work/life balance: This came up again and again in conversations with colleagues, family, new acquaintances, you name it. So many people mentioned wanting to find a way to even out their relationship to their job and personal lives. It should come as no surprise that, more often than not, people were talking about finding a way to unplug from work and put more focus on family, friends, home, hobbies — you know, life.
While working hard is hardly new, many of us seem to be struggling when it comes to striking this balance. We rarely unplug, and thanks to our tech, people can contact us any time, anywhere. Combine that with pressing deadlines, or overwhelming task lists, or associates with boundary issues and one can start to feel that they NEVER leave the office. A 2017 Flex Jobs survey found that responders valued work/life balance more than — wait for it — salary and job flexibility. (You can find this and more in this article by Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan.) Work/life balance came in at 72%. (Salary? 70%. Flexibility? 65%.)
What can you do to work on it? Something I've been speaking about with a lot of people is giving yourself smartphone blackout times. I've been trying to do it myself. I actually turn my phone off as much as possible on this weekends, and avoid certain apps (yes, that often includes my work email)/sites when it's on. I'm not perfect at it, and I definitely plug in and deal if emergencies happen. But the headspace goes a long way.
Everyone has to find what works for them personally, but it's a worthwhile pursuit. If you burn out, you can't perform your job. Simple. If you haven't already, listen to our "Ask an Expert" webinar with Jones Loflin. He's an expert on this very subject, and has some great tips that can help.
2. Lazy speech: Every now and again, I like to go back to communication skills basics and brush-up a bit. We've had the pleasure of bringing on some new team members lately, and as a practice for myself I sat in on a bit of their training. A few things became clear to me:
- I need to keep working on streamlining my responses in meetings, presentations, etc, and
- Lazy speaking with verbal viruses (errrs, umms, etc.) creeps in if i'm not diligent about it.
What to do? In terms of my lazy speech habits (which I find become worse when I've got a lot on my mind...) I've enlisted my colleagues' help. On a recent call, when I made my first comment, I started by saying, "I'm umming too much. Please help keep me honest about that." Now, granted, we're a communication skills company, and this is something we do. You might not be comfortable doing this on a meeting, and that makes sense! But what you can do is find a group of colleagues that you can challenge to work on this with you, or ask a friend or spouse to do the same.
Those "verbal viruses" as we call them can erode your credibility, not to mention become distracting for your listeners. (No one wants to be known as the "ummm person".) It may seem like a small thing, but it can make a big difference.
3. Clarity of communication: As for my second revelation, I've found that often, in an effort to ensure that I'm absolutely covering all of my bases, I'm over-explaining or over-detailing responses. As we all know, more information doesn't always equal better information! I'm challenging myself to look for the top 2 or three most important points needed when I respond to things. Does that mean I neglect giving all of the information necessary for someone? Of course not! But it helps me streamline my thoughts and avoid the dreaded brain dump.
As our Director of Training Tom Frey often says, "Not everything is front page news all of the time." Work on finding the major headlines and separating them from less important points. You'll help sort the wheat from the chaff in many communication situations.
That's how it's going for me. How's it going for you? Let us know if there's something you've resolved to work on, or if there are professional skills questions you'd like answered. We'd love to hear from you!