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It’s 2017: Move to the Front of the Line!

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Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Even if you didn’t, there’s still something oddly liberating about a fresh calendar in January. A brand new year. A blank slate. Endless opportunities. A renewed sense of commitment to reaching goals.

So what’s the problem?

Many people can’t resist the urge to funnel all of that New-Year-propelled enthusiasm into their careers. They are relentlessly driven to impress the top executives. To spend more time with their direct reports. To find more effective ways to motivate their teams. Impressive goals? Sure. But these people also run the risk of leaving their work/life balance…well, unbalanced.

In my work as a leadership coach, I’ve talked with clients who demonstrate clear and impressive commitment to their jobs. They are fully accountable to the people they lead. But when I ask about their commitment to themselves, the response is either nervous laughter or a look of confusion. They seem to view that as selfish. It’s much more admirable to take care of everyone else, right? Wrong.

Sometimes the most powerful resolution you can make to advance your career is advocating for yourself:  carving out time to care for your own health and well-being. Exercising regularly. Eating right. Getting plenty of sleep.

No matter what job you have, there will always be people and projects lined up to compete for your time and attention. This year, allow yourself to move to the front of the line. It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s absolutely essential if you want to achieve greater professional success.

Have you inadvertently fallen into this trap? See if any of these habits apply to you:

  1. Ignoring your needs to live a healthy lifestyle

  2. Failing to keep commitments to yourself

  3. Having poor time management skills

  4. Neglecting to delegate effectively

  5. Believing you are responsible for doing everything yourself

  6. Seeing yourself as the victim

  7. Refusing to let go of projects/issues beyond your control

  8. Negotiating with yourself about “acceptable” behaviors

Some of us rationalize that taking care of ourselves is selfish. After all, we have serious responsibilities to other people. We make excuses. And suddenly we start to believe the lies.

No one will know if I delete the “personal time” that’s been marked on my calendar for two weeks, but my team will miss the deadline if I don’t step in. I had planned to go to the gym during lunch, but the CFO wants the reports by 5. I tried to leave the office on time for dinner with my family, but a client needed my help. Since I worked late, I’ll pick up some fast food so I don’t have to cook. And on and on it goes. It’s a downward spiral fueled by the best of intentions.

Great leaders can’t optimize their success if they don’t fight for balance:  caring for themselves with the same enthusiasm they use when championing their employees and clients. If you tend to put everyone else first, it’s time to make a change. Your professional success depends on it.

Here are 7 tips for moving yourself to the front of the line in 2017:

  1. Mentally put yourself first, and be deliberate. There will always be lots of distractions. Focus on you!

  2. Remind yourself that taking care of YOU will improve your work performance, your relationships, and your health. Set out to capture those cumulative benefits.

  3. Pay close attention to how great you feel when you make yourself a priority.

  4. Team up with a partner or spouse to help maintain work/life balance. Negotiate timing for work-outs that fit in with both of your schedules, and keep each other accountable.

  5. Get support from mentors. Ask for their advice and find out how they broke away from always serving others before themselves.

  6. Model this new behavior for the people around you. Demonstrate the results of making smart choices, and those good habits will be contagious.

  7. Find great inspiration by reading Ask Outrageously by Linda Swindling.

I want to wish all of you a happy and healthy new year, and I hope you’ll give yourself the attention you genuinely deserve.

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