How to rescue your 2019 resolutions by working smarter
Fun fact: according to the National Center for Biotechnology Research, 25% of us abandon our resolutions by January 7th.
Just seven measly days into the year?! Uff-da. If you’re still holding onto your resolutions, then good on ya. (I resolved to cut out late-night snacking and swear less, both of which are going pretty damn well. Ok: one of which is going well.) Our grip on new and better behaviors is tenuous at first. Without a toolkit of strategies, we’re one stressful situation away from falling back into old habits.
Even if your resolutions have nothing to do with work, working smarter can help you keep them. Fortunately, the Team Playbook — Atlassian’s free, no-BS guide to working more effectively (and which I help produce/maintain) — is here to help.
Let’s take a look at seven popular New Year’s resolutions and how you can re-tool your workday to save yourself from 11½ months of shame and self-loathing.
“Reclaim my work-life balance”
A sustainable work-life balance is the Holy Grail of office denizens everywhere. 39% of workers blame their work-life imbalance on too much going on at work. And that’s not surprising. Ruthless prioritization is hard if you don’t have a North Star to guide you.
Pioneered at Google, companies worldwide now use the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) framework to stay laser-focused on the work that matters. The idea is to set 2–3 objectives for the quarter and define the results you want to see (and measure). With OKRs in place, it’s clear when to say “not now” to an idea so your workload is both manageable and “nutrient-dense”.
✅ Find step-by-step instructions and a free template here.
Mindfulness means making purposeful, intentional choices in our lives. But we tend to flail about unless we set ourselves some guardrails. That’s where the Trade-off Sliders technique comes in.
Think of all the things you could optimize for: health, wealth, time with friends and family, etc. Then for each one, use a sliding scale to show how flexible you’re willing to be. You’ll quickly see where the trade-offs are. For example, if optimizing for health means more time at the gym, that might need to come at the expense of time spent with friends. By setting guardrails with a thoughtful but dispassionate mindset, it’s easier to make purpose-driven choices in the moment.
✅ Find step-by-step instructions and a 1-minute video here.
“Listen more and talk less”
Active listening makes a huge difference in your relationships at work and at home. At the office, meetings provide a great place to practice it. There is a growing body of research showing that women, people of color, introverts, and remote workers struggle to be heard. They are talked over and have their ideas appropriated by colleagues more often than other groups.
In the Team Playbook, we’ve laid out a set of principles and practices for making meetings more inclusive. Whether you set a zero-tolerance policy for interruptions or reach out for additional thoughts after the meeting, you’ll be building your listening muscles.
✅ Find ways to listen better before, during, and after the meeting here.
“Get comfortable taking risks”
At some point this year you’ll have the opportunity to do something at work that is wildly different from what you’ve done before. Maybe it’ll be adopting a new technology. Or an innovative-but-unproven way to solve an old problem. Embrace it! If you never step beyond your comfort zone, you’ll never grow. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be smart about it, though.
Before the project ships, run the Premortem play to identify risks while you still have time to mitigate them. Of course, one risk is that you’re missing an opportunity or not aiming high enough. Using this play, you can also visualize best-case scenarios and make a plan to make those dreams come true.
✅ Find step-by-step instructions here.
“Focus on my health”
You probably had your physical health in mind when making this resolution, but your mental well-being is just as important. Our R&D group at Atlassian developed a self-assessment tool called the Health Monitor that teams use to track and improve the health of their projects. (I know it sounds like I’m reaching here, but stay with me.)
How you feel about your work — sense of purpose, confidence you’re doing the right things, appetite for collaboration — is a significant driver of your emotional well-being. During a Health Monitor exercise, your team will gut-check eight aspects of your work and discuss how to shore up the weak spots. The very act of articulating your frustrations and hopes can be powerfully cathartic. And as you work together to make improvements, that sense of positive momentum tends to stay with you, even when you’re not in the office.
✅ Find instructions, templates, and a 1-minute video here.
“Be a better communicator”
Communication is so fundamental to getting along in the world, it almost seems unfair that we aren’t inately expert at it. Here again, the office is a great place to practice. For starters, run the Stand-ups play: a 5-minute team ritual where you circle up and share the progress you’ve made since last time, your plan for today, and any blockers you’re facing.
When you’re ready for some next-level communicating, try Sparring — a technique that comes out of design thinking. You share a work in progress your team and allow them to offer critiques that’ll improve it. It’s an opportunity to practice giving (and receiving!) constructive, empathetic feedback.
Our personal lives are a constant flurry of tasks, deadlines, appointments, and goals to keep track of. Our work lives aren’t much different. When I’m embarking on a sizable and/or complex project, the Project Poster technique helps me keep it all straight and generally saves my bacon.
The “poster” is a living document that prompts you to think through the strategic value of your project, your research, assumptions, goals, success measures, dependencies, and timeline. Some people even add mock-ups or user journeys. The real value, however, is in sharing it with teammates and stakeholders. All the important info is clearly laid out and everyone is (literally) on the same page. And when something with your project changes, just update the poster and everyone will get the message — no status emails required.
✅ Find instructions, a template, and a 1-minute video here.
How will you know if you’re successful?
You guessed it: we’ve got a play for that, too. It’s called Goals, Signals, and Measures, and it’s one of my favorites. Whatever your resolution, this play guides you through identifying signs that you’re moving in the right direction and measurable results that tell you you’ve succeeded. It’s a surprisingly challenging thought exercise, but rewarding (and even kind of fun).
Whatever your resolution, I wish you well on behalf of the entire Team Playbook team. Work happy, be awesome, and make a difference.
Originally published at Atlassian Blog.