resolutionWhen we think of New Year’s celebration, we think of parties, fresh starts and resolutions. The last is one can be one of the hardest: born from guilt, disappointment and too much Chex Mix. As Americans, we like to do things BIG. Big Resolution = Big Change.

We swing for the fences, and make large sweeping vows to, for instance, lose twenty pounds, stop smoking, start exercising, spend less, visit the in-laws more.

On average, the New Year’s Resolution sputters out around mid-March. Then we are stung with shame every time we side-step the scale, reach for the smokes, toss another shirt on top of the stationary bike, splurge at the Mall or let that phone call from the mother-in-law go to voicemail.

Your desire for change in your personal life holds true in your professional life as well. You may like to do things differently at work – things that may hold the key to more business, more efficiency, and more money. You read self-help books, or attend professional development seminars to improve your sales technique or networking demeanor with grand plans that many professionals find nearly impossible to implement long term.

What they should do instead, is something everyone does every day: tweaking.

Think about it. We tweak marketing copy, graphic designs, proposals, presentations, and budget numbers. Rather than making a wholesale behavioral change, why not just tweak your professional life the same way?

Success is in baby steps

What you have learned can be unlearned, but first, we should decide what behavior to tweak. It takes about 30 days to establish, or break a habit, either good or bad. But don’t freak out if it doesn’t happen on that timeframe. Take another 30 days, as long as you feel you’re going in the right direction!

Start slow and do it right, then practice getting better or faster, until the new habit becomes natural.

What habits to tweak

Pick something simple. If the change is easy it will be easier to stick with it. A dietitian once suggested that, rather than going on a diet to lose weight, just cut out something small, like cream and sugar in your coffee, from your diet. It’s a small, simple dietary change that over time eliminates a lot of calories.

How to tweak your professional habits

You can improve, for example, professional communication in the same way. Let’s pretend that everything you do at work is emailed. You email files, reports, and thoughts, even jokes. While email is fine for certain professional communication, you know you could benefit by interacting with colleagues and clients in a more personal way… but it’s a hard habit to change.

Start simple. Select a client you want to communicate with differently and rather than sending an email, make a phone call instead. Take a few minutes to feel comfortable with the change. Enjoy the chat with the client and give yourself a pat on the back. Then, do it again. Each time you want to “just email” something, try the other approach. Tweak it.

Over time, these tweaks become habit and soon we are not even conscious of our decision. It’s just the way of doing business.

Here’s another example: staff meetings. Yes, they improve communication between staff members and get projects organized and launched. But you may have come to view them as a “dreaded necessity.” But, why? Are they too long? Too convoluted? Are too many people in the meeting not participating?

If you are the person leading the meeting, it’s time to make some tweaks. Look at the time frame: what day of the week/time of day is it occurring? Change it up!  What about the length—maybe you should jot down an agenda and stick to it. Come up with a proper amount of time for a meeting (maximum of one hour is suggested) and ring a bell (set one on your smart phone).  Have a standing meeting instead:  you’ll find you and staff will propel the topics along and it’s harder to nod off whilst maintaining your balance. Tweak it.

If you are attending the meeting, try something different: participate, speak up! Or perhaps you need to restrain yourself and let others speak.  Sit in a different chair (amazing how the perspective changes!) Sit next to someone you don’t know well. Make friends. Tweak it.

You may find you enjoy the meetings; becoming more energized and excited about projects and upcoming events.  I believe this can only be better for business!

In conclusion, find small items in your professional and/or personal life to tweak. You’ll find it’s easier to stick to that “resolution” — and winning the small battles will be much more satisfying. Happier New Year!