Workplace Resolutions: How to Make the Most Out of the New Year

With 2017 just being a few days away, we are assuming that, like us, you might be toying with the idea of making a New Year’s resolution to meet your work goals. What might be stopping you is the fact that you might have previously struggled with sticking to a resolution. The truth is, only 8% of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions; however, the good news is people are 45% more likely to achieve a goal when they set it as a New Year’s resolution. To keep up with the theme of the end of the year,  for our blog this week, here are some suggestions for small work resolutions you can make, as well as some tricks to make sure you are in that 8%.

Workplace Resolutions

  1. Resolve to do something that you do best everyday. Are you really good at one aspect of your job? Try to do it daily.  Doing something you know you are good at everyday helps build your confidence in other aspects of your job.  Studies also show people who do something they know they are good at everyday report higher levels of satisfaction and fulfillment with their work.
  2. Resolve to do something just for you every single day. Take the time to do one thing just for yourself every single day.  We aren’t telling you to refuse to do the work your boss asks of you because it isn’t all about you, we are simply recommending that you should add something that makes you happy to your to-do list.  Listen to your new favorite album while typing up the weekly report.  Go to that new restaurant you’ve been wanting to try for lunch. Doing something for yourself is a proven way to keep those stress levels at a manageable place.
  3. Resolve to step out of your professional comfort zone. Don’t get complacent with the status-quo.  Shake things up a bit.  Don’t be afraid to speak up about that great idea you have in the next office meeting.  A quick tip on how to do this: step out of your comfort zone in your personal life. Ride in a hot air balloon or something wacky but a little scary like that and when you make it to the ground safely, you will realize that a little change at work isn’t too dangerous either.
  4. Resolve to control your social media usage. We are all guilty of using a little too much social media. It’s hard not to.  You log on to post something to the company page and you end up on Suzy’s cousin’s, ex-boyfriend’s sister’s page. It’s preventable though! Give yourself a daily Facebook time limit or use
  5. Resolve to not be too hard on yourself. People can be mean enough without you being mean to yourself too. It may sound cliche, but we all make mistakes at work and the best thing we can do is learn form them and then move on with that knowledge.
  6. Resolve to appreciate people more. Showing gratitude is always a good thing to do. By doing this, you help other people feel good about themselves and you remind yourself regularly that you have a lot to be grateful for.  This is a great one for a professional setting or to just apply more to every part of your life.
  7. Resolve to eat healthier at work. Could we really call this a list of New Years resolutions without something health related?  We aren’t suggesting you go all out with a three hour paleo weekly meal prep on the weekends and cut out gluten.  If that’s what you want to do, great! But, maybe think about how that mid workday meal will make you feel for the rest of the day and choose something that will energize you rather than have you crashing by 3:00.

Tricks to Keeping Your Resolutions

  1.  Clearly define your goals. The more specific you can be when setting goals, the more likely you are to meet them. For instance, rather than saying “I’m going to eat healthier at work” try saying, “I will only eat fried foods on Friday.”
  2.  Schedule your goals. People are much more likely to meet their goals if they schedule them. This can be actually writing into your weekly planner, “do [insert that thing your really good at]” under each day, or just setting a monthly goal of drinking a smoothie for lunch three times.  Do what works for you.
  3.  Measure your progress. A good way to hold yourself accountable is to regularly check yourself.  If your goal was to speak up more at office meetings, then make a point to count how many times you actually spoke up at the end of the month. Either pat yourself on the back for a job well done or make a point to do better in the next meeting.
  4.  Find an accountability buddy. While it’s a good idea to check your own progress, it helps to have a buddy that checks on your progress as well.  Studies show that people are more likely to follow through with something if they’ve told other people. So don’t just tell people… but designate somebody to hold you to it.
  5.  Reward the small victories. Nothing is too small to be celebrated.  Did you make a point to thank a different co-worker for something at least once a day last week? Allow yourself to watch an extra episode of New Girl or The Walking Dead than you normally would before you go to bed tonight.
  6.  Lose the “all or nothing” attitude. So you didn’t eat healthy at work last week… you might as well just admit failure and forget that resolution. WRONG.  Give yourself a break and plan to do better next week.
  7.  Reassess your resolutions regularly. It’s not admitting defeat to say that maybe one of your resolutions needs a little tweaking.  You might not have the time to commit to hitting the gym every single day, and that’s okay.  Adjust your resolutions until they work for you.

Productivity: 7 Ways to Stay Productive Over the Holidays

With the holidays being just around the corner, it can be a little difficult to stay focused on the task at hand.  You may physically be in the office, but your mind probably  keeps sneaking off elsewhere. There are so many stresses and demands around the holiday season that it’s easy to become a little overwhelmed and worn out.   So how do you stay productive when you have to plan the office holiday party, have end of the year reviews to do, and budgets to prepare, all while needing to buy presents for your family and make travel plans?  Well, we decided to be festive and got you a present! We have compiled a list of proven productivity tips to help you out a little bit.


  1. Stay Healthy: We know, this one may seem a little obvious, as well as being a little out of your control. BUT.. it is still incredibly  important and we would feel a little guilty if we didn’t mention it. One small cold could do a lot of damage to your productivity this time of the year. Make sure to get good rest, eat healthy, drink water, and exercise.  You don’t want to be the person blamed for the office outbreak of the rhinovirus. Also, don’t forget your mental health either.  Your brain needs a little rest as well. Try meditating or utilizing other mindfulness tricks.
  2. Make a List: When you have a lot of stuff on your plate it can be difficult just finding a starting point.  A list can help to get everything in one spot so you can really prioritize and formulate a plan. When tackling your list, we suggest using the 1-3-5 method.  One big thing, three medium things, and five small things. Then start over. This should prevent you from getting burned out too quickly.
  3. Collaborate: Chances are, you are not the only person in your office feeling a little less productive than usual.  Join forces!! This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to work together on a project.  Maybe just find an accountability buddy.  You can  hold each other to your commitments, not your major deadlines (your boss does that) but they can make sure you finish three medium tasks by noon and you can do the same for them!
  4. Tell a Joke: Forbes says, “Tasteful humor is a key to success at work, but there’s a good chance your co-workers aren’t cracking jokes or packaging information with wit on a regular basis–and your office could probably stand to have a little more fun.” Humor is the number one stress reliever, this time of year is incredibly stressful and that can hurt your productivity.
  5. Track Your Time: Time your tasks.  We aren’t saying rush through everything you do, but knowing how long you take on each task can help you plan your days a little more efficiently. Also, it may show that you are taking much longer than you thought to do something, so you know you need to work a little more efficiently when completing that task. Studies also suggest that we work more efficiently when we pay attention to the amount of time we are taking.
  6. Don’t Over Email:  To prevent yourself from over-emailing, set certain times during the day that you check your email. Clicking the refresh button every half an hour may  not seem like it takes much time, but add up every time you do it throughout the week and it will.  Also, work on utilizing the “next” method.  Rather than opening every single email, next them.  If it isn’t a priority email, move on to the next email and then come back to that email at a less time-crunched part of the day.
  7. Adjust the Thermostat: If you have to bring a blanket or space heater to work with you, chances are you aren’t as productive as you could be.  A Cornell study revealed, “when temperatures were low (68 degrees, to be precise), employees committed 44% more errors and were less than half as productive as when temperatures were warm (a cozy 77 degrees).” Maybe try being that person and suggest they turn up the heat at work.  When everybody becomes a little more (or a lot more) productive, you can take the credit.


Just for fun, here are 25 Productivity Tips from History’s Greatest Thinkers

Happy Holidays from The Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing!
Thanks for reading!



Leading Change with the Brain in Mind

Recently we attended (and sponsored in partnership with the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center) a University of Virginia led Lunch and Learn.  UVA professor, Dr. Peter Ronayne used his 15+ years of experience in leadership and organizational development to share valuable insights on bringing brain science into change leadership. Here is what we learned!

Trying to lead any type of change can be incredibly difficult, whether it is a new policy at work or you just want to adjust your morning routine.  But why? Why is change so hard? The answer to that question is your brain. A lot of words can be used to describe the brain; incredible, powerful, efficient, stubborn, and lazy.  Yes, your brain is stubborn and lazy. Don’t worry, we’re not saying you are stubborn and lazy… we don’t know you.  we’re just saying that your brain is stubborn and lazy and that’s why implementing change can be so difficult. The brain doesn’t like to have to actively think about anything it doesn’t absolutely have to. It likes to settle into a routine and it will do its best to stay in that routine. It likes to turn on autopilot and just relax.  Breathing? Autopilot.  Blinking? Autopilot. Driving the same route home everyday? As close to autopilot as it will safely allow.  But this laziness and stubbornness is only one variable in the equation to having a difficult time with change.

The next variable is the constant internal struggle the brain goes through.  The number one priority of the brain is self preservation.  It likes to keep all risk to a minimum. Your brain tries so hard to protect you that it can perceive certain situations as a threat when they aren’t. Have you ever been called into your boss’s office and even though you know you haven’t broken any rules your adrenaline starts pumping, you start sweating, and maybe even shake a little? That’s your brain jumping in to protect you when it’s not necessary. You can blame your limbic system for that.  It perceives any type of stress or uncontrollable moment as a threat and will cause your body to respond to a stressful situation in a panicked way. The limbic system in your brain is the part that’s responsible for the fight or flight response.  Rather than taking the time to assess the situation and fully understanding what is going on (your pre-frontal cortex does this) your limbic system takes charge.

This can be even more tricky in a work environment.  Unpredictability will alert your limbic system. This will activate your stress response; even if the situation doesn’t really warrant it. This will decrease your problem solving and productivity (because your limbic system will overshadow your pre-frontal cortex). This will cause more stress. So, you will begin to crave predictability.  You will begin to create your own space of predictability and reject any time of change.  I.E. other co-workers suggestions.


So, what is the solution? How do we make change while dealing with our lazy, stubborn (yet still amazing) brains automatically jumping in to try to protect us from threats that aren’t even there?   Well it isn’t easy.

It takes a few different things to actively compete with our own brains:

  1. Self-awareness:  Self-awareness is fundamental to change.  We need to be able to notice our own reaction to a situation and really  think about why we are acting this way. Should Amanda saying she thinks another font on the flyer would be more appealing make your heart rate increase? Probably not. So think about it and try to determine why you reacted that way.  It’s probably your brain interpreting that as a threat. Try to understand when your limbic system is kicking in when it’s not necessary.
  2. Intentionality:  Take your brain off autopilot and be deliberate in your thoughts and actions.  We aren’t suggesting that you should actively control blinking and breathing, but rather suggesting that you actively control your response to different situations.  Don’t automatically say no because it’s not part of the routine. Utilize your pre-frontal cortex.  Take control of your responses.
  3. Twelve Minutes:  Give yourself time to relax. It’s easy to work and work without taking a little bit of time to give your brain a rest. Remember, your brain is lazy it really needs rest.  We suggest you take a quick walk.  Exercise and the outdoors are great for your brain.  Even staring out a window can be helpful.  Everybody can find twelve minutes during their day to unwind.