I’m not really into resolutions…
I find them overwhelming. I prefer to set small goals quarterly. But I recently received an email from a reader, Meghan, who has a pretty unique approach to setting resolutions, which I think you’ll find refreshing!
I just read your recent post: What Happens When You Don’t Acknowledge Your Accomplishments. After reading it I took stock of my accomplishments for 2015. As I did, I realized that 2015 had been a great year, probably the best I’ve had in years!
Wondering what I did to have such a great 2015? My approach to setting resolutions at the end of 2014.
2014 had been a really rough year for me. I received a poor performance review, despite working ALL the time, and to top it all off, I barely had time to spend with my 2-year old daughter.
I didn’t want to repeat 2014 again, and neither did my partner Morgan. Morgan had picked up the slack at home in addition to having her own full-time job. Morgan suggested we sit down and brainstorm ways that I could stay sane, have more time to spend with our daughter, and feel accomplished at the end of the year.
Morgan had a pretty unique approach that I think your readers will find useful. Morgan pointed out that our problems and disagreements were coming from me doing so-called positive things like always being available at work. She recommended that instead of writing resolutions that are positive like: eat more veggies, I write down what I will NOT do in the new year.
Here is what I resolved to NOT do in 2015:
- React to requests. We diagnosed that the reason I had received a poor performance review was because I didn’t complete any of the projects I had agreed to do with my boss at the start of 2014. As the lead designer at a growing startup, people from various departments would hit me up daily for things like a new landing page, ad campaigns, designing t-shirts for conferences, and so on. Clearly I wasn’t slacking off, but I wasn’t getting what I needed to do done because I was reacting to every request. My boss called me out once, mentioning how I had been 3 weeks late to deliver high fidelity mockups for the next version of our product, which of course ended up on my performance review!
- Be heads down 100% of the time and wait for people to notice my accomplishments. When I took over as the lead designer at the start of 2014, I made a couple design improvements over a weekend, which lead to more product engagement. No one noticed them or attributed them to me, and I wasn’t comfortable tooting my own horn until I watched your recent video: How to Present Your Work Without Sounding Self-Promotional, thanks for that!
- Forgo vacation time and holidays. Because I said yes to all those requests, I spent every holiday working. I didn’t even bother putting a vacation on the calendar, which created a lot of distance in my relationship with Morgan and left me feeling like a terrible mother to my 2-year old daughter.
- Waste 1-1 time giving status reports. I’d tell my boss where I was at with projects he had assigned me and that was it. I didn’t think of it as an opportunity to showcase the additional work I was doing for the company, or even ask him about the criteria he was going to use to grade me during my performance review!
Morgan held me accountable throughout the year, which I needed!
For #1 I approached my boss and suggested that either I needed to carve out time to pressing projects other departments request and those be acknowledged on my review, or we needed to hire someone who could handle the one-off requests. We went with a hybrid model where I hired a junior designer to do some of the easier design projects that just needed to get done, like designing t-shirts. While I focused on the business critical projects like designing ad campaigns and landing pages.
For #2 and #4 I came up with this concept called small wins of the week, highlighting what I learned, and any improvements I made to the product. At first, I just did it during my 1-1s with my boss, and eventually gained the confidence to share them at our company’s all-hands meeting. People found them helpful and appreciated the work I was doing.
For #3 Morgan and I picked dates for two vacations, put them on the calendar, and I gave my boss and team plenty of notice. As each vacation got closer, I delegated as much as I could, provided clear documentation, and made it clear that I would be completely off the grid. And company holidays were devoted to spending time with my daughter!
By June 2015, I noticed that I had more free time, which was invigorating, and made me more productive when I was working.
Speaking up and setting boundaries led my teammates and boss to respect me more. It also made it easier for me to ship projects on time, and eventually, I received a positive performance review and a promotion!
I couldn’t have done it without Morgan. We all need someone to help us out: a partner, a friend, or a teammate. I hope by sharing my experience, you and your readers will benefit, and have a happy and productive 2016!
I know I learned a valuable lesson from Meghan and will be making my list of what I will NOT do in 2016. Now I want to know, what do you resolve to NOT do in 2016? Let me know in the comments below!