2015 Happy New Year image

Workplace Resolutions that Increase Productivity and Improve Culture

Amber Johnson Culture, Leadership

2015 shutterstock_225435964Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our website in 2013. 

Here’s a little exercise to help you ease your way back to work this week: 

Grab a piece of scrap paper and write down every New Year’s resolution you’ve ever made. Circle any you kept for more than a month or two.

Any circled on your list? Almost half of us have made a New Year’s resolution this year, and yet only 10 percent will manage to keep it.

Chances are, the resolutions on your list match the most common resolutions:

  • Lose Weight and Get Fit
  • Quit Smoking
  • Learn Something New
  • Eat Healthier and Diet
  • Get Out of Debt and Save Money
  • Spend More Time with Family
  • Travel to New Places
  • Be Less Stressed
  • Volunteer
  • Drink Less
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that we spend more time at work than just about any where else, and yet virtually none of our most common resolutions have to do with the work place. Up your resolve this year by setting a workplace resolution or two. Here are a few for workplace leaders to consider:

To Increase Productivity

  • Stop multi-tasking. Research from Stanford University found that multi-tasking is less productive than concentrating on one task at a time. Instead of bouncing between projects, carve out designated time for each project. Then don’t check your email account during that scheduled work block.
  • Set a “Meeting-free Monday” rule: You can see a dramatic increase in productivity by reserving one day of the week for getting stuff done, rather than meeting about getting stuff done. Ask your staff to do the same. Set a goal of two meeting-free Monday’s per month, with a reduced schedule on the other Mondays. Block time on your calendar today.
  • Reduce the email in your life: Here’s a three step process to getting rid of the junk in your email inbox:
    1. Take 20 minutes today to unsubscribe from the email newsletters you never read.
    2. Use your email account’s “Rules” to automatically move other bulk email from your Inbox to a folder, which you can read when you have time. If you use Outlook, you can set up these rules at File > Manage Rules & Alerts > Email Rules.
    3. Ask your assistant to send an end-of-day update email with calendar changes and important notifications, rather than sending messages as changes occur.
    4. Think about what email you really do want, and communicate your wishes to your staff. Here’s an example:“Dear Management Team – I’m making an effort to reduce the email in my inbox so I can be more responsive to the messages that merit my time and attention. In the future, please try to only send me messages that require a response. If an ‘FYI’ message is necessary, let me know at the start of the email that a response isn’t required. You can further help me out by using specific subject lines (’3rd quarter sales dip expected, but big contract coming early in Q4′) rather than generic subject lines (‘update on sales expectations’). Thanks for understanding.”

To Improve Culture

  • Participate: It’s been said that leadership is lonely. Sometimes it is. And sometimes it’s only so because we make it that way. Make an effort to participate in the office Fantasy Football league (no gambling, of course). Post a photo of your kids on Christmas morning to the office bulletin board of social media site like Yammer. Eat lunch in the cafeteria. Pick one way to participate each month, and reserve time on your schedule today.
  • Live and breath your values statement: Positive values and culture has been shown to make a positive impact on a company’s bottom line. Learn how to let your values influence your leadership strategy and decision making in our free e-book, Making Values Meaningful: A Menu of Options for Senior Leaders.

What workplace resolutions do you have this year? Share your ideas in the comments section.


Amber Johnson is the Center for Values-Driven Leadership‘s Chief Communications Officer and a Senior Research Associate.
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