Create SMART resolutions to boost your productivity in the New Year

by
Crystal Jepsen
Published:
January 3, 2023

The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on past habits and set new goals for yourself and your business for maximum productivity.

A common resolution for the New Year is to become more productive at work. Tips for boosting productivity are helpful all year long, but the New Year is a great time to review your current structure to identify gaps and areas of improvement. Processes you put into place last year might no longer be optimal for your current situation, and can actually be hindering your ability to work efficiently. 

Creating SMART goals is a powerful way to re-focus your productivity habits. Below we’ve outlined the three steps you need to take to get started today. We also chatted with a few Virtual Gurus staff members to find out what productivity resolutions they’ve set for themselves and what actionable steps they’ve put in place to achieve them. These are real life examples to help you outline your own productivity resolutions.

Set specific, achievable goals

You may have heard the term, SMART goals, thrown around the office at some point. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. SMART goals have become a bit of a buzzword, but they’re an actual useful tool to help you reach your goal. Rather than tossing random resolutions into a notebook and hoping for the best, by creating SMART goals, your chance of achieving them and reaping the rewards are highly likely. 

woman writing down her goals on a notepad at her desk

Instead of a vague resolution to "be more productive," set specific goals that are measurable and achievable

For example, "I will complete all my daily tasks by 5 pm each day" or "I will spend 30 minutes each day on professional development". The first step is to flesh out your resolution with Specific, Achievable, and Relevant details. Outline the specific details of your goal, ensure it’s actually attainable and is also relevant to the bigger picture of what you want to accomplish.

Specific

A specific goal includes details and isn’t vague or broad in nature.  

Instead of this: I want less administrative work on my plate this year. 

Do this: I want less daily administrative work - managing my inbox, scheduling meetings, transcribing meetings, and following up on documents.

Achievable

An achievable goal is something you can realistically accomplish. It’s demotivating when you constantly fall short of a goal you’ve set to achieve, so it’s vital that you’ve made it attainable.

Instead of this: I want to eliminate ALL of my daily administrative work - managing my inbox, scheduling meetings, transcribing meetings, and following up on documents, connecting with staff members, creating SOPs, etc.

Do this: I want to reduce my daily administrative work - managing my inbox, scheduling meetings, transcribing meetings, and following up on documents.

Relevant

While the actual goal you are creating is specific and detailed, you still need to step back and look at the bigger picture of what you want to achieve. Why are you creating this goal to begin with? Are you looking to improve your business, improve yourself, or something else entirely? Keep your goal relevant to the bigger picture.

Instead of this: This year I want to get more important work done each day.

Do this:  I want to reduce my daily administrative work - managing my inbox, scheduling meetings, transcribing meetings, and following up on documents - so I can focus on revenue driving tasks which only I can complete.

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE BY MARGARET, COO, VIRTUAL GURUS

Initial goal: Expand my measurement knowledge to encompass OKRs and KPIs.

SMART resolution: My resolution is to build the first stage to our framework for success by February 1st. I will accomplish this goal through researching the several blogs that I've bookmarked and a couple of Audible books (Beginner's Guide to OKRs, Felipe Castro; Measure What Matters, John Doerr; and, Radical  Focus, Christine Wodtke and Marty Cagan). I will be thinking lots over the holidays about our ultimate goals for next year and our steps to achieve them. Accomplishing this goal will allow our team to realize their potential, feel invested and motivated to achieve their key results, and in turn, help Virtual Gurus grow.

Identify areas of productivity that need improvement

Now that you understand the fundamentals of setting SMART goals, you need to sit down and evaluate your past performance. Ask yourself the following questions.

  • Did you achieve the previous goals you set for yourself to increase productivity?
  • What barriers, if any, prevented you from achieving your goals?
  • What tasks do you regularly push off until another day because you haven’t been able to complete them?
woman sitting in front of her computer looking up and thinking

Make a list of your daily tasks and prioritize them

By listing out everything you need to do, you can see exactly what needs to be done and prioritize tasks based on importance and deadline. This can help you prioritize your time and avoid feeling overwhelmed or stressed. Additionally, crossing items off your list as you complete them can give you a sense of accomplishment and motivation to keep going. Make a list of your daily tasks and prioritize them to help you stay on track and make the most of your time.

Identify and eliminate distractions or time-wasting activities

Distractions can come in many forms, such as social media, emails, phone notifications, or even conversations with coworkers. Time-wasting activities can also take up valuable time and prevent you from completing important tasks. By identifying and eliminating these distractions and activities, you can improve your focus and productivity to make the most of your time. This may require setting boundaries, setting aside specific times for certain activities, or even blocking certain websites or apps. Take back control of your time! 

Download our free ebook, The 5 F’s of Productivity, to properly identify your areas of distraction and how you can eliminate them!

Consider using a productivity tool or app to track your progress

These tools can help you organize your tasks, schedule your time, and stay focused by providing reminders and alerts. They can also provide insights into your productivity and help you identify areas where you can improve. Whether you are working on a personal project or managing a team, a productivity tool or app can be a valuable resource for staying organized and making the most of your time. Consider using a productivity tool or app to help you track your progress and stay on track with your goals.

Read the Roundup of our best productivity tips and tools to get started.

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE BY DIANA, ONBOARDING TEAM LEAD, VIRTUAL GURUS

Initial goal: Grow as a leader.

SMART resolution: My resolution is to achieve a 95% satisfaction rating from my team by the end of Q2. I will accomplish this goal by exploring leadership training resources and implementing learned tools within my day-to-day team operations and leadership strategies. Accomplishing this goal will increase the trust my team has in my leadership and result in increased productivity and collaboration within my department. 

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE BY AMANDA, ONBOARDING SPECIALIST, VIRTUAL GURUS

Initial goal: Fostering client relationships - Next Level.

SMART resolution: My resolution is to increase my client satisfaction rating from 91% to 97% within four weeks. I will accomplish this goal by leveraging my team's knowledge, learning from the CHURN podcast and listening to my leaders' feedback. Accomplishing this goal will show clients that I acknowledge them as a person, help them understand what we did, why we did it, and how we came to our decision. This will arm them with knowledge and keep them in the loop. Every interaction needs to be modified to accommodate each of our clients—everyone communicates differently! 

Create a plan for achieving your goals

Now that you’ve created the foundation for your Specific, Attainable, and Relevant goal, it’s time to set guidelines to track your progress. An open-ended goal with no end is hard to track, so you need to attach a time frame in which you want to see results and identify the specific method upon which you want to measure progress.

man sitting at a desk and creating a plan for his goals

Break your goals down into smaller, actionable steps with deadlines and track your progress

A large and complex goal can be overwhelming and deter you from wanting to take the first step towards boosting your productivity. Each piece of your goal can be broken down into smaller, more manageable objectives which are less daunting and allow you to have small wins on the path towards your overarching productivity resolution. 

Have you ever heard the phrase “eat the frog”? It’s a productivity method where you complete the most complex and/or important task first because every other task afterwards is a piece of cake. You can also utilize this method to work through the most complex and important aspects of your goal first to take a large weight off your shoulder, and a huge dent in your productivity resolution. 

Measurable

How can you tell if you are on the right path to achieving your productivity resolution? Choose specific measurements such as key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure your progress and change direction if you are far off target.

Instead of this: I want to reduce my daily administrative work to focus on revenue driving tasks, so I will delegate some of my work.

Do this: I want to reduce my daily administrative work - managing my inbox, scheduling meetings, transcribing meetings, and following up on documents - so I can focus on revenue driving tasks which only I can complete. I will achieve this by delegating 50% of my administrative tasks that can be completed by someone else.

Time-bound

You’ve included specific details into your goal but how do you know when you’ve reached the end point? The results of your goal shouldn’t be the finish line. You need to set specific parameters around what you want to achieve, and when you want to achieve it. 

Instead of this:  I want to reduce my daily administrative work so I’ll hire a virtual assistant service and delegate some of my tasks.

Do this: I want to reduce my daily administrative work - managing my inbox, scheduling meetings, transcribing meetings, and following up on documents - so I can focus on revenue driving tasks which only I can complete. I will achieve this by hiring a virtual assistant service by January 31st and delegating 50% of my administrative tasks that can be completed by someone else.

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE BY MONA, VP OF MARKETING, VIRTUAL GURUS

Initial goal: Empower my team and support their growth while freeing up some of my own bandwidth for key initiatives.
SMART resolution: My resolution is to reduce my task load by removing 20% of my tasks that can be completed by my team, instead of me, by February 15th. I will accomplish this goal by empowering my team and supporting their growth. I will give each team member a set of SMART goals and clear guidance on how much autonomy they have to achieve them. I’ll address any skill or knowledge gaps with a combo of mentoring and access to professional development. Accomplishing this goal will empower my team and support their growth which will in turn free up some of my own bandwidth for key initiatives to support Virtual Gurus growth.

Consider enlisting the help of a mentor or accountability partner

Enlist the help of a coworker, friend, or mentor to keep you on track to reach your productivity goals. Enlisting the help of a mentor or accountability partner can be a valuable resource in helping you achieve your goals and reach your full potential. A mentor is someone who has more experience and knowledge in a particular field or area of interest, and can offer guidance and support as you navigate through your own journey. 

An accountability partner, on the other hand, is someone who helps keep you on track and accountable for meeting your commitments and achieving your goals. Both types of support can be incredibly beneficial, as they can provide motivation, encouragement, and a fresh perspective when you need it most. Consider enlisting the help of a mentor or accountability partner to help you stay focused and motivated as you work towards your goals. 

Accountability tools you can take advantage of when you’re not sure who to ask for help:

  • StickK - provides options for individuals and businesses with multiple large communities of support. Optional financial incentive which can be donated to a friend, foe, charity, or an anti-charity. Nothing will you keep on track more than wanting to prevent your $50 pledge going towards your foe. 
  • Beeminder - connect all your favorite apps like GitHub, Gmail, Fitbit, RescueTime, and many more to stay accountable with an optional feature to financially incentivize your progress. If you can quantify it, you can beemind it. 

Tips for maintaining productivity throughout the year

The hard part after creating your SMART productivity resolutions will be maintaining momentum throughout the year. The detailed plan you created will help you stay on track but taking care of yourself and being mindful of your needs will be the key driver in year-round increases in productivity. 

  • Set aside time each day for focused, distraction-free work
  • Take breaks to rest and recharge
  • Keep a clean and organized work environment
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it

Conclusion

Achieving the productivity resolutions you’ve created takes time and effort, but it’s completely possible with the right mindset and strategies in place. By setting specific goals and creating a plan to achieve them, you can improve your productivity and reach new heights in your career.

“I want less administrative work on my plate this year.”

The productivity resolution example at the beginning of our process lacked the depth necessary for success. We don’t know what actionable steps are required, when this goal should be achieved by, or how it can be measured. 

I want to reduce my daily administrative work - managing my inbox, scheduling meetings, transcribing meetings, and following up on documents - so I can focus on revenue-driving tasks which only I can complete. I will achieve this by hiring a virtual assistant service by January 31st and delegating 50% of my administrative tasks that can be completed by someone else.”

By implementing the three step process we’ve outlined - identify areas of improvement, set specific, achievable goals, and create a measurable, time-based plan - we’re now left with a clear path towards achieving our productivity resolutions.

Want to learn more about hiring a virtual assistant?

View our services page to see all the ways we can support your team.

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Crystal Jepsen

Crystal joined Virtual Gurus in 2019 where she worked as a virtual assistant providing digital marketing services. She moved into the management team as a Client Success Manager in late December 2020 and has now settled into her role as Content Manager of Virtual Gurus. She's passionate about writing, beautiful graphics, and putting it all together into a story worth reading.

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