4 "soft" New Year’s resolutions for higher education professionals

What do you want to achieve professionally? Harness the initiatory energy that comes naturally with the start of the new year to adopt better work habits and articulate your career aspirations.

Looking for ideas? A group of AACRAO leaders reflected on their own professional goal-setting and shared a few central themes around which successful resolutions might be built. Interestingly, these suggestions hinge on the more subtle “soft skills”-- the complex, nuanced and relational skills that mark personal and professional maturity. These include:

  1. Take care of yourself. “Eat well, exercise, and de-stress,” suggests AACRAO president Jim Bouse. “Make sure you are at your best to give others your best.” Seek out what you need to feel grounded and strong, whether it’s spending more time outside, getting to bed at a reasonable time, or drinking less. Resolve to take better care of your body and mind so you’ll have the resources you need to ride out work’s inevitable ups and downs.

  2. Do one thing at a time. “Trying to do multiple things at one time just means you aren't fully paying attention to any of the items you are working on,” says AACRAO President-Elect Tina Falkner. “Multi-tasking doesn't actually allow you to accomplish more.” Constant interruptions can affect your productivity, satisfaction, and mental health. Consider setting priorities at the beginning of each day or each week. Plan ahead so you aren’t just moving from crisis to crisis, and invest undistracted time (“deep work”) in what really matters.

  1. Get organized. “If you don’t have a system of organization that makes sense for you and how you work -- whether that is on paper or electronic or some combination -- you cannot work productively,” observes Lara Medley, AACRAO Vice President for Records and Academic Services. Deep focus, prioritization and time-management (as described above), are fundamental to being organized -- but there are other strategies too. For example, make lists, use calendars, and delegate as necessary to keep your workflow flowing.

  1. Follow through. Connecting with others via professional conferences and volunteering is a vital part of growing as a professional, says Tiffany Robinson, AACRAO Vice President for Access and Equity. Collegial relationships help you gauge and strengthen your professional skills and competencies, as well as increase your social and professional network. Be sure to follow-up on those initial conversations and commitments to maximize your professional potential. (Robinson credits writer and colleague Joelle Davis Carter with these important insights.)

Cultivate long term success. Keep in mind that the best resolutions are specific, measurable, and grounded in reality. And consider finding a partner or group with whom you can share your vision. Publicizing your goals can help hold you accountable and keep you on track.