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Three Ways to Make Your 2018 Productive, Efficient and Fulfilling

Two female colleagues smiling and chatting while coloring together

First, this is not another resolution article. Yes, resolutions are goals or actions you commit to at the start of a new year, but we all know how far we get with those, right?

Nope, these simple tips will help you feel more productive, efficient and fulfilled at work and at home in 2018 and beyond.

Be kind to yourself

We are often more kind to others than we are to ourselves. But studies show that self compassion leads to less stress. According to Dr. Emma Seppalla, science director at Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, “Self compassion is the secret to resilience, strength in the face of failure, the ability to learn from mistakes and to bounce back with greater enthusiasm.” 

In Seppalla’s blog, The Scientific Benefits to Self Compassion, she shares an infographic that outlines three aspects of self compassion: Self kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. Being aware of how you respond to failures is a necessary first step to self compassion, and this mindset will lead to greater resilience and happiness, increased productivity and decreased stress, she says.

Here are some easy ways to start building self compassion:

  • Don’t overschedule your day; the more you have to do, the more stress you put on yourself

  • Make time to engage in self-care activities, whether it’s a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood or quiet time with a good book, it’s important to make time to treat yourself

  • Practice forgiveness by letting go and being less critical of yourself and failures

Learn more practical strategies for a fulfilling and rewarding life shared by Seppalla in her book, The Happiness Track.

Learn something new 

Build learning time into your week: take a workshop or online webinar, read or engage in conversation. Whether you block off an hour each week to read an industry trade publication or schedule time to meet with a colleague to share best practices, this brief investment will generate new ideas and improve your creativity.

Activities to increase your intellectual capacity:

  • Learn a new technology to help you be more productive at work such as Zoom or Jabber. University IT offers online training and support to help you get started.

  • Join a Community of Practice (COP) to connect and collaborate with colleagues who have similar work experiences and interests. Or, start your own COP! The idea is to grow your network and build relationships across Stanford.

  • Get to know your colleagues. Having quality relationships with your co-workers builds trust, teamwork and productivity, but more importantly, it makes coming to work enjoyable and fun. You’ll find as you get to know your colleagues, personally and professionally, the more positive your workplace culture will be.

Play to your strengths

So many of the conversations we have at work tend to be about identifying “areas for growth,” also known as weaknesses. But when was the last time you gave real thought to your strengths?

Gallup—a group whose strength is in polling people and collecting data—has surveyed more than 10 million people in the past decade and found only one-third of workers feel they are able to do what they do best at work. As outlined in the book Strengths Finder 2.0, researchers also found workers who are able to play to their strengths are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs, and three times more likely to report an excellent quality of life in general.

How to pursue your strengths and passions:

  • Define your strengths. Marcus Buckingham, a longtime Gallup researcher and author, writes that “strengths are not what you are good at, and weaknesses are not what you are bad at.” Rather, he adds, strengths are activities that strengthen you or energize you. Start your journey by watching a short video of Marcus on or read Strengths Finder 2.0, which includes an online test to highlight what is important to you.

  • Ask for feedback from others. You are the best judge of what energizes you, but your co-workers, manager and family may have noticed an excitement or anticipation for certain projects that you didn’t realize you had.

  • Incorporate more of what matters into your day. You probably will not get to do what you love 100 percent of the time, but what if you felt passionate about most of your day? Talk with your manager about how you might focus more of your energy on your strengths.

A note to managers: Gallup research shows when you focus on employees' strengths, you'll find they are more engaged at work. Learn more about Developing Your Employees to keep them engaged in the Manage & Lead section of Cardinal at Work.

Benefits & Rewards, Learning at Stanford