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December 29, 2015 // 8:00 AM

16 Professional New Year's Resolutions You Should Actually Keep

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For many, New Year's resolutions often feel like a forced, trite way to make a change. After all, if you really wanted to change, why would you wait around for January First? You'd be better off just making sporadic changes throughout the year, right?

Well, that strategy doesn't always pan out like we'd like it to. Waiting until you "feel ready" to change often enables you to push aside goals that are important, but not time-sensitive. 

If you're serious about making a change, it's important that you put specific, time-bound goals in place in order to achieve success. And the great thing about resolutions is they don't have to just live in your personal life; they can be a powerful aid to help you grow your business, too.

If you're looking to set resolutions for next year but are struggling with coming up with some solid, achievable ideas, keep on reading. Here are 16 resolutions you could pick for next year along with additional reading and resources to help you actually accomplish them.

16 New Year's Resolutions for Professionals

1) Designate an electronics-free zone.

Arianna Huffington once gave this advice to attendees of HubSpot's INBOUND13 conference, which I'll never forget: Ban electronics from your bedroom -- for the sake of your health.

"I never take devices to bed," she said. "iPads, iPhones, Blackberries -- I don't charge them near by bed because I feel it's imperative to be able to have uninterrupted renewal time."

What a great idea. After all, researchers have found that artificial light from electronic devices can mess with the brain chemicals that promote sleep. And even if you do get just as much sleep as someone who didn't look at their electronics before bed, studies have shown people who stare at a backlit screen right before bed report lower-quality sleep.

Whether it's your bedroom or somewhere else, choose an electronics-free zone this year to help you clear your mind and focus on the people and things happening in meatspace.

Resources to Help

2) Write something every day.

Want to become a better writer? Then you need to write. A lot. The only way to improve is to get in the habit of writing on a daily basis. Neil Patel suggests writing for at least 30 minutes every workday, skipping the weekends.

Even if you're not a writer, pick a customer's question and write something about it. Or write nonsense. Just try and enhance the habit of writing.

Don't know what to write about? Here are three great tools:

  • Daily Page emails you a writing prompt every morning, and you have the rest of the day to write your response. Once you've written your response to the prompt, you can either share it or keep it private.
  • 750 Words is a tool that encourages you to write 750 words per day about anything you want. It gamifies writing by giving you points for writing at all, for writing 750 words or more, and for writing on a consistent basis. 
  • Twords calls itself "the app that nudges you to write." It notifies you when you haven't written in a while so you can keep yourself accountable -- and even gives you the option to connect with others who will help keep you accountable.

Resources to Help

3) Improve your design skills. 

You've probably heard all the hype about visual content already -- you just haven't buckled down to start creating some yourself.

Well, 2016 is the year to do it. As more and more content on the web becomes visual, you're going to need to be able to create the content yourself -- or, if you have a bigger budget, learn to better communicate with contractors and agencies to create it for you.

Resources to Help

4) Master Excel.

It might seem like an old-school skill, but knowing how to use Excel can come in handy far more often than you think. The next time you have to create a custom report based on two data sources, track the growth of your marketing, or make a chart to prove a point to your boss, you're going to wish you knew how to use the program. 

Resources to Help

5) Listen to one podcast per week.

Podcasting is a thriving mini-industry. And it's no wonder: Listening to podcasts is a great way to learn something new without it being a direct skill you are mastering. There are so many good ones out there, though, that it can be hard to know where to start. Here are a few lists of the best ones out there -- they should last you a while. 

Resources to Help

6) Hire new, awesome teammates. 

I'd venture a guess that most marketers are strapped for time and resources -- which means you'll be looking to hire new talent in the upcoming year. 

If you're going to choose this resolution, be sure to take your time. It's all about hiring the right candidate, not a warm body that can tweet on your company's behalf. You need to ensure that you have a solid job description and a vigorous screening process to ultimately find a solid teammate. This process could take weeks, months, or even a full year, so get started as early as you can.

Resources to Help

7) Develop a mobile strategy. (Seriously.)

The year 2015 was the year having a mobile strategy went from nice-to-have to need-to-have. For one, Google made a massive change to the way they rank websites in search: Beginning in April 2015, they began rewarding mobile-friendly sites and penalizing sites that are not mobile-friendly. Secondly, by midway through the year, more people were searching for things online using their mobile devices than using desktop computers.

Have you truly invested the resources to learn about mobile, and adapted your marketing strategy accordingly? If not, it's time to sit down and develop a strong mobile strategy, which means overhauling your website, emails, social accounts, blog, and any other online content to be mobile-friendly. 

Resources to Help

8) Blog consistently.

Blogging is like working out: You've got to do it consistently to see great results. You can't just publish once every few months and expect to rack up the views, lead, and customers. 

If you're struggling to keep a tight editorial calendar, then commit to blogging consistently this year. It doesn't matter if you decide to blog every two weeks, every week, or every day -- the point here is to pick a frequency you think you can accomplish, and stick to it. Once you develop a solid, reliable cadence, then you can work on increasing the volume.

Resources to Help

9) Don't forget about your old content, too.

If you already have a solid publishing cadence established, you might want to take the New Year to look back at your well-performing content. Take time to identify the posts that perform best for you, and then figure out how you can squeeze even more juice out of them. Next, apply those experiments' findings to the posts that are "second tier" -- the ones that are decently successful, but could be even more so if you optimized them. 

Spending time optimizing content you've already created can be a great way to keep your evergreen content fresh for readers and search engines. 

Resources to Help

10) Read more external content.

The most successful people never stop learning. One of the best ways to keep up with industry news, learn from experts, get the creative juices flowing, and even become a better writer -- is to read what others are writing about.

The tough thing is, there's so much content out there, you have to be discerning to find the really good stuff. To start, three places where content quality stays high are Harvard Business Reviewthe New York Times, and Slate. (Don’t be afraid to pay for top-tier content, by the way. There’s a reason it costs money, and it’s often well worth it.)

You'll want to spend time reading more niche or industry-specific content, too. Below are a few ideas. To make it easier to read them all, look for applications that let you read all your favorites all in one place, like Feedly.

Resources to Help

11) Run big, strategic tests.

Many marketers tend to run small, haphazard tests -- a subject line A/B test here, a CTA color change there. But all of these incremental tests might not really make a difference in your marketing. 

In the New Year, think about running larger, more strategic tests to get to the heart of what your audience enjoys. Challenge conventional best practices. Make big changes to your marketing. Make your experiments as statistically valid as possible. By doing bigger experiments, you'll have a better chance of getting big results. Here's an example of a test we conducted at HubSpot this past year on the "quality versus quantity" blogging debate.

Resources to Help

12) Invest in better measurement. 

Ahh, marketing ROI ... one of the most notoriously difficult things to measure, but also the key to unlocking career growth. So why not make it your New Year's resolution next year? 

If you're going to tackle this in the New Year, I'd highly suggest setting up a coffee meeting with your counterpart in Sales within the first two weeks of the year. To justify your department's impact, you're going to need to tie your activities to the bottom line -- and your Sales team can help you do just that. Meeting early and often in the process will be key to your success.

Resources to Help

13) Make a point of learning from your network.

Everyone knows networking is an important skill and priority. After all, it's not what you know; it's who you know -- right? But sometimes, our busy lives cause us to push networking further and further down our priority list.

This year, don't let networking fall by the wayside. Once a quarter, set up some time with counterparts of yours in different companies. Learn from them, tell them your best tricks, and create an equal exchange of ideas.

Resources to Help

14) Share your skills with others.

Jumping on opportunities to share your skills with others through public speaking engagements isn't just beneficial for your audience -- it's also a great way to present yourself as an expert, increase your visibility both online and offline, and build your personal brand. Plus, getting your name out there in the context of your job is beneficial for your company, too.

Talk with your manager about opportunities your company can get you in on, like local meet-ups or conferences. You could also get in touch with a university and offer a guest lecture -- after all, there's something very rewarding about inspiring future talent.

Resources to Help

15) Move to the next level of your career.

Regardless of what "next" means for you -- changing your title, getting more responsibilities, starting your own thing -- you can set out to accomplish it this year. While it may take longer than a year to fully accomplish the career goal, setting up a plan for yourself to make big, life-changing moves isn't a bad thing. If your goal is really monstrous, try breaking it into a year-over-year plan, and using the first year plan as the basis for your resolutions. 

Resources to Help

16) Prioritize sleep.

We live in a culture of competitive sleep deprivation -- and it's getting out of hand. Getting enough sleep has a huge impact on your health, energy, productivity, and happiness, and lack of sleep is downright unnatural.

In fact, Neuroscientist Russell Foster thinks we're being "supremely arrogant" by ignoring the importance of sleep. He told BBC, “We feel we can abandon four billion years of evolution and ignore the fact that we have evolved under a light-dark cycle. What we do as a species, perhaps uniquely, is override the clock. And long-term acting against the clock can lead to serious health problems."

While the number of hours of sleep you need varies from person to person, most adults need a solid seven to eight hours per night. This year, include getting that seven or eight hours of sleep in as much as a way of getting healthier, happier, and more productive at work. And when you do have an inevitable sleepless night or two, build in recovery time to help make up your sleep debt.

Resources to Help

Which of these resolutions will you make -- and actually stick to? What else would you add to the list? 

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in December 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing Professional Development

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