Here's my 2011 gift to you: I'm not going to write a list of new year's career resolutions. I'm not going to come down in favor -- or not -- of setting goals for yourself this year. (If you'd like to read such a post, there are about 62 million out there floating around on the blogosphere. Take your pick.)
Instead, I'm going to offer you a simple way to know if you're doing what you should be doing this year for your career. One little word is all you need.
I think "so" is a pretty powerful word. Say you propose a new idea in a meeting, but there are others ready to shoot it down. "So?" they say, when you voice your proposal.
But you've already asked yourself this question and are ready with, "So, if we implement this new practice, we'll save money and improve productivity. I have a spreadsheet that shows how it can happen."
Or let's say you're busy and a co-worker continually interrupts you. You let it continue to happen, because you don't want any bad feelings. Now it's time to ask yourself: "So?"
So....you may discover that if the interruptions continue, you're not going to meet your deadlines, your boss will be angry and you could risk your job. So....it's clear you need to speak to your co-worker and make it clear you would be happy to chat during lunch, but you need to focus on your work.
Maybe this is the year you'd like more flextime, working at home a couple of days a week. So....what does this mean for your boss and co-workers? It means you need to set up a schedule that shows work won't be disrupted, outline how you will communicate, etc. Before you even present your idea to the boss, before he or she has a chance to ask you "so... how do you plan to make this work?" you've already come up with a list of solutions.
Next time you're trying to figure out what to do at work, how to get ahead in your career or what bad habits you need to drop, just ask yourself "so...."
Keeping your focus on what really matters will help you be more successful in your job and aimed toward accomplishing career goals.
And then you can say I told you so.