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I guess you may be wondering - why are you writing such an article at the end of January? Fair question. Statistics show that many people come up with the New Year’s resolutions and by the 3rd week of January, most of them are already forgotten. So I think this is a perfect time for this article.
By this time, I assume you’ve done some work. You thought about what you want to achieve this year. Thinking is good, but have you come up with a plan?
Let’s focus on goals, results and not on resolutions.
I believe that in order to lead a better, more fulfilling life and in order to become a better business professional, you need to find a balance between your personal and professional life. I know, easier said than done, I’ve been there too. But the older I become, the more I reflect on that and looking back at my past corporate life experience, I know that I would have changed few things if only I had a second chance.
But before I do so, I urge you to be specific and write things down. Yes, I mean it, write down what comes to your mind and filter that later on. You may think that you want this or that, but the moment you take the time to write down your ideas, it will actually make this faint idea a serious and specific goal. Your mind will treat it differently and, to be honest, you will have something tangible to come back to whenever you want to revise your goals. So take your pen and paper and articulate what you want to accomplish.
We’d all like to be more successful or more fulfilled, but that means different thing to different people. What does that mean to you? Let’s say you’d like to raise your professional visibility. There are a number of ways you can do it, for example participate in different trainings that can make you more valuable to your clients or your employers or become more involved in professional or community organisations. What does becoming successful and fulfilled mean to you?
Let’s dive into the goals. Personal and professional - you need to have both. A great career without friends and family to share your successes and support in difficult times, will most likely make you miserable. I know it would do that to me.
This year I decided to share my own ideas, thoughts, experience. I hope that you’ll take the advice I‘m sharing and learn from my experiences.
I’m not getting younger. I can feel that my body has different needs than 10 years ago. So I thought, in order to have better results at work, I need to pay a bit more attention to my physical and mental health.
In September I finally signed up for a gym. I am ashamed to even admit how many times I have signed up for a gym and with the first eligible excuse like a new project at work, or I got sick etc, I stopped attending. So why this time would it be any different? Knowing my shortcomings, I decided to be more visual. I printed my weekly calendar and I wrote down the days and times when I planned to go to the gym. And it worked this time! I realised that if I hadn’t written it down and looked at it few times a day - every day, I wouldn’t have gone. There is always something more urgent to do. But since I made a plan, I turned that into a routine and now I feel better than 10 years ago. That has taught me 2 lessons:
After 2-3 weeks I had so much power and I mean mental power, that I became more efficient at work. As you can imagine, I will continue my physical activities. What about you?
We only have 1 life. We have a certain number of family members and friends. The older we become, that number unfortunately decreases. People move places, change their priorities… or simply… they pass away. So I’ve decided to spend more time with my parents since I still have them. They leave almost 2 thousand km away from me, so I cannot just spontaneously drop by, but fortunately we have the technology to help us out here. Even my 70+-year-old parents managed to use Skype and WhatsApp. So whenever something positive happens to me or my kids, I share that with them. It makes them happier, which makes me happier.
What about you - who do you feel you should spend more time with in 2018?
That is something that most of the new financial professionals skip. This doesn’t seem to be the top priority. I get that, when I started my first employment, I was working 10-14 hours a day too. It was an unwritten rule within the big 4 companies. But it is extremely important to be able to recharge your batteries. If you don’t do that, you’re on a way to getting a burnout. Believe me - I’ve seen few of my colleagues go through that, that is not a good place to be.
Based on my last year’s running Practice Tests Academy, I’ve realised that my best ideas came when I’ve taken a step back, when I stopped working on whatever was on my agenda and just looked back at my priorities. That gave me a perspective I needed and at the end, calmed my head. And then, magically, my best ideas came to me. When you’re underwater, your mind doesn’t function properly. Give yourself some time, relax and reset. And when you restart your work, you’ll see new opportunities or ways to improve things and do them differently. The benefit so taking some time off will be much greater in the long-term, than the “lost” time int he short-term perspective. Don’t take my word for it, check it yourself.
Greater efficiency would definitively be welcomed by your employers and automation is the best way to achieve this desired efficiency. Depending on which level you in, either bush up on your Excel skills or have someone from your team do it. There are so many things we could improve, I’m sure you have already some ideas for your work. The issue is - we do not have time. Well, I can imagine you are a very busy business professional that does not have time to deal with second priority tasks… but think about it differently - how much time a month you could save in the next 1-2, even 5 years, if you were able to automate at least few processes in your company? Not only that will save you some time, require less reconciliation, but your peers will adore you for making their job easier and your bosses will appreciate your efforts.
So maybe it is time to brush up that excel functions you’ve once heard about? Or maybe talk to your IT team on how to better utilise your collaboration tools. Maybe develop that email answering templates that you postponed well… forever….
Just think what you could improve and write it down. Block that time on your calendar and stick to it.
Only those who develop themselves, progress. Continuous learning is important to yourself as much as it is a signal to others that you are growing and adapting.
Let’s take CIMA as an example. I assume you are a CIMA student, you had your own reasons for starting this certification. But, in case those reasons got blurred through the last few months (years?), let me reiterate them:
Unlike other finance qualifications, CIMA fully equips you with both the financial and the people skills you will need to thrive in your career. Far from the number crunching stereotype of the typical accountant, you will be liaising with others in your organisation, and forming wide-reaching strategies for business growth.
I read somewhere that you should add a new certification to your resume every year. Well, with CIMA that might be difficult as it is a pretty extensive and time-consuming certification. It would be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to complete it in one year… but nothing stops you from completing at least one level within a one-year timeframe. That’s definitively doable!
Start with the one that seems the most enjoyable for you, the easiest if you will. Then take the toughest one, and end up with the middle one. Afterwards you will end up with your Case Study (except for the foundation level, of course). That’s just my small tip. Concentrate on your goals, prepare a plan taking into consideration your workload (some months are tougher than the others - you should already know which is your busiest period. Don’t schedule your CIMA studies then, it will only demotivate you.
I am a strong believer in improving your life by taking small steps each time. That’s what I would encourage you to do this time as well. In the last 1-2 months, you should have had a year-end review with your boss. Were there any points that suggested you should improve a certain skill? Maybe you feel you need to become better at some technical knowledge? Maybe it is something “soft”.
People have a tendency to focus too much on learning to do their job better technically and they might miss out on some useful competencies, like people skills or leadership. Take the time to reflect on your last appraisal. If there was nothing directly suggested, then think what about what you felt you didn’t do that well last year. Be honest with yourself, no-one will judge you for it. If you feel you need to improve your communication skills, then do your research. How could you improve that? Ask your colleagues if they know any good quality course, ask your mentor, if you have one, for a recommendation. Then finally, talk to your boss. He/she will be impressed you took the initiative. Don’t rely only on them to develop you. You are the one responsible for your life, your career.
Just one more piece of advice - amending your behaviour is tough and it takes time. The key is the practice. When you take a course, do make your own notes. I mean it! I know that most of the things that are being said, are no news to you, but do yourself a favour and write down the main points. Then pick one at a time and try to implement it consciously.
Most likely you’ve done your homework and when you started reading this blog post, you had an idea at least of things you would like to do accomplish this year. I hope that after reading this article, you’ve got more insights, more ideas and that you will have a more tailored plan. Remember - write it down! even Sir Richard Branson in one of his interviews stressed the importance of writing things down, whether they are your goals or simple meeting notes. Otherwise you risk not delivering on your goals. I don’t think you want that…
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Start practising today!