By Priscilla Claman
Harvard Business Review, January 10, 2018 —
According to research published by the New York Times, one in four of us has abandoned our New Year’s resolutions by January 8. Some resolutions are too daunting for people to follow through on. That’s especially true of any “new year, new job” resolution.
If you are one of those who are bored, unchallenged, and overworked, but you can’t bring yourself to start yet another job search, here’s an idea. How about keeping your job, but changing what you do in your job? It’s far less work than switching employers, and it just might make your job fun again.
To get started, make three lists:
- The A list is the parts of your job you love,
- the B list delineates the parts of the job you feel neutral about, and
- the C list details the parts you find boring or annoying.
Next to the lists, draw a circle that represents the amount of time you spend at work in a week. Shade in the amount of time you spend on each list. When you are finished, is the A part of the circle the smallest by far? Are the C and B sections much larger than you’d like? Probably. Your goal for 2018 is to grow the time you spend on A list activities and to shrink the C list activities as much as possible.
To do this, start by adding more A list activities to your schedule. If you try to start by shrinking your B or C list, it won’t work. Nor do you want to increase the number of hours you work each week. Instead, you want the presence of more A tasks to force you to chip away at your C and B lists.
For example, if learning something new is on your A list, find a colleague who can help you with whatever the topic is — say, data analytics. What books or online courses would your colleague recommend? Or, if you enjoy mentoring, and want to do more of it, ask your company’s recruiting people if you can help orient new hires or join on-campus recruiting visits. The key to getting yourself more A list activities is volunteering. It’s hard for most people to say no to a genuine offer for help — particularly if your A list activity happens to be on someone else’s B or C list.
After you’ve added another item or two to your A list, start attacking your C List — the activities you really dislike. Frequently, these are things you have done over and over. For you, they may be boring or time-consuming, but they might be something new and interesting for a colleague or subordinate. Tired of writing the latest blog for the website? Find a guest columnist to do it. Think you’ll go crazy if you have to spend another day interviewing college graduates? Find someone to take over at least some of the interviews for you.
Now, look at your B list. Much of it can probably be automated, delegated, or just plain ignored. Does anyone really read or comment on that internal report that takes so long to create? Does your department have some bureaucratic sign-off authority that is long past its sell-by date? Get rid of as much of your B list as you can.
As you start to put this plan into action, you will come up with more A list items you want to add and find more and more ways to diminish or get rid of B and C activities.
If you are an executive, this “new year, new job” approach is made for you. Executives are much closer to understanding the strategic objectives of their organization, so they know what A list actions to volunteer for. And they have many more opportunities to delegate or get rid of B and C activities. But even if you don’t have that much power or autonomy over your job, you might be surprised at how much control you can wield over the work you do.
And that’s the beauty of this change-the-content-of-your-job approach: You are in control of how fast you make any changes. You can stop and start again. You can work under the radar if you like, or let people know what you are doing. You can try out new directions without making a big commitment. And you can add to your résumé and network while doing it.
That way, if you decide in a few months that you’re ready to take the plunge and put yourself on the job market for real again, you are more likely to have a successful job search.