Follow this month-by-month guide to make 2019 the happiest, healthiest, and most productive year yet.
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Start a career journal. Use a blank notebook or an app like Day One (free for the basic version; iOS and Android) to track accomplishments, note feedback you received, and list short-term goals. Ideally try to update it every day or once a week. “The more you visually see your goals and areas of improvement, the more likely you are to address them,” says Lauren McGoodwin, founder of Career Contessa, a professional-development site for women. It also serves as a source of proof points when you’re asking for a raise or promotion or looking for a new job.
Invest in your network. Aim to send one email or social message every workday to someone on the edge of your network, meaning a former colleague or a friend of a friend, says Molly Beck, the author of Reach Out: The Simple Strategy You Need to Expand Your Network and Increase Your Influence ($15; amazon.com). You’ll kick off conversations with people who may eventually lead you to new opportunities—without having to endure a potentially awkward networking event.
Make your desk space healthier. Your work surface should be slightly below elbow height when seated or standing, and your monitor should be centered with the midline of your body, says Jonathan Puleio, a certified ergonomist and a vice president at Humanscale, a maker of ergonomic furniture. To reduce muscle fatigue, unlock your chair’s recline mechanism but keep the backrest tense enough to support your weight. Lastly, add artwork or a plant. “It will bring life into your space,” says Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out ($11; amazon.com).
Get your finances in order. If you received a healthy tax refund, put half toward urgent debt, like credit cards or unpaid bills, says Farnoosh Torabi, a personal-finance expert and the host of the podcast So Money. Put the other half into savings, college, or retirement funds. If you received a paycheck raise (or not), increase your 401(k) contribution to the point where you can earn the company match, says Torabi. No matching program? Aim to contribute at least 10 percent.
Do some team building. Is there anything you could be doing as a manager to improve morale and help your direct reports meet their goals? Take time to ask about things beyond project updates and see if they have any feedback for you, says McGoodwin. These honest conversations can clue you in to when a team-building picnic is in order stat.
Do a goal check. You’re halfway through the year, so now is the time to ask, “What have I done to get closer to where I want to be?” If the answer doesn’t line up with goals you’ve set, use this reflection time to create new, realistic goals. “Small goals get us to action easier and allow for more wiggle room to change them,” says Maxie McCoy, the author of You’re Not Lost ($11; amazon.com).
Plan a vacation. Have you taken half of your vacation days? Fifty-two percent of Americans leave unused vacation on the table, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Yes, you have a lot on your plate. But downtime can help you think about your priorities in a new way. “People should get promoted because they show value as an employee, not for perfect attendance,” says McGoodwin.
Do a passion project. The summer slowdown is a chance to volunteer or gain work experience in other departments. Set up lunches with people in different roles to get you thinking about new opportunities, says McGoodwin. One woman she knows used extra time to start a recycling program at her company, and because of this, her bosses saw new leadership potential.
Learn something new. Pinpoint skills you would like to work on (like public speaking) or an industry trend you’re curious about (like data visualization) and check out offerings at local institutions or sites like Skillshare. Or take a class to reinvigorate your creativity, says McGoodwin: “A pottery class, music lesson—anything that breaks up the monotony of work and feeds your brain.”
Assess your benefits. Think about your potential health care needs in the next year: Are significant expenses coming? If so, it may make sense to select a plan with a lower deductible and a lower out-of-pocket maximum, says Catherine Wragg, a senior vice president of human resources at TriNet, a benefits and payroll provider. But if you’re healthy, you might consider a higher-deductible plan to save on premiums.
Start mentoring. There’s something in it for you too. “Mentoring gives you a chance to gain insight into a younger perspective and to improve your intergenerational communication and leadership styles,” says Claire Diaz-Ortiz, a coauthor of One Minute Mentoring ($12; amazon.com). See if your company offers a program, or look to industry organizations or community groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Update your personal sales kit. Update your résumé, online portfolio, and LinkedIn profile. Note key accomplishments, links to any publishable work, and positive reviews. Ask for recommendations from key collaborators, too. “You don’t want to wait until you’re looking for something new and it becomes a huge project,” says career coach and résumé expert Jessica Warta.