As we approach the end of 2021, we have to admit that it’s been another somewhat strange year. But despite our collective experience of going through another year of pandemic life, there have been plenty of hopeful signs. Not the least of which is an incredibly strong job market, both in the U.S. and right here in Canada. Many employees and contractors took full advantage of a seismic shift in the way work is done and used the state of the market as leverage to advance their careers and income.

As you look back on your working year, it’s important to have a game plan for finishing strong, ending on a high note, and planning for a successful new year. Here are just a few steps we’d recommend you take before the year runs out to ensure you’re ready, recharged and excited to take on what comes next with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism. 

Recognize Your Achievements

While we can’t know the exact type of year you’ve had, we’re betting on the fact that you had some achievements you can point to and be proud of. Whether it was a year filled with change and constant upheaval that you had to adjust to, or one filled with small and large milestones, it’s important to reflect and mark those accomplishments. 

Part of that recognition and celebration can be as small as simply taking mental note of the challenges you overcame and goals you achieved. Or, if you’re feeling particularly proud of your work performance over the past year, you can look to celebrate with your colleagues or splurge on a gift for yourself to commemorate your hard work. These steps, big and small, will help cement your triumphs and help provide a positive mental framework as you plan your goals for the coming year.

Assess Where You Fell Short

It’s rare to run up a perfect score at work in any given year, and setbacks, wrong-turns or simple mistakes are bound to happen over the course of twelve months. So it’s healthy to both recognize those few areas where you feel you could have done better or fallen short in some regard. But even more importantly, it’s crucial to evaluate why you may have fallen short on some goals. 

But before you go down a path of self-criticism, remember that you’re working in an environment that most workers haven’t had to experience in over a century. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be honest about parts of your work performance that could be improved upon. Questions to ask yourself about this year’s past goals are:

  • Were your goals realistic?
  • Can you still achieve them with a final push in the coming weeks?
  • What can you do to help mitigate external factors that harmed your goal attainment?

Obtain Feedback

Part of any retrospective analysis of a work year should involve some form of external feedback. Whether you have trusted colleagues or a well-respected boss you can turn to, it’s important to hear both good and critical feedback. Ensure a formal process for assessing your feedback that equally incorporates both positive and constructive feedback. When soliciting feedback, make sure to cast a fairly wide net and weigh opinions based on how intimately familiar any given person is with the work you did this past year. Finally, once you’ve collated all your information, decide on what lessons you can take to heart in an effort to set yourself up for an even better new year at work. 

Tie Up Loose Ends

In order to head into a new year with a sense of renewal and excitement about the challenges that lie ahead, it’s important to remove as many nagging encumbrances that don’t feel quite finished. That’s why it’s important to review any loose ends, small projects or unanswered emails that can give you a positive sense of closure and a new beginning. Leaving too many loose ends or unfinished to-do-list items will likely weigh heavily on your mind and prevent you from enjoying any holiday time off.

Make a Plan for the Coming Year

While looking back and basking in the successes of the preceding 12 months is a great way to get you feeling good heading into the holidays and a confidence booster, there’s no better sensation than starting the new year with a fully formed plan. Creating a career map by having a clear set of north-star milestones you’d like to accomplish will provide you with a clearer picture of how to achieve them. It will also offer a collection of benchmarks you can review during the course of the year and after it ends to see how your performance fared. Just make sure varying uncertainties, risks, and realistic timelines temper your goals. 

Part of your professional development plan should also include the idea of continuous learning. Most industries are experiencing rapid change, and if you’re not keeping up with the shifting landscape, you’re likely to stall out or get left behind. Within your goals, it’s important to continue to add to your repertoire of skills and experience as a way of either accomplishing new goals or simply making yourself more valuable in the eyes of your current or future employers. 

Clean Your Workspace

There are almost too many benefits to mention from having and maintaining a tidy workspace. Everything from improving concentration to increased efficiency and stress reduction are the cornerstones of a workspace devoid of clutter and distracting encumbrances. And while you may not be able to keep your desk in a meticulous state at all times, an end-of-year cleanup and clear-out is a good way to achieve the above-mentioned benefits. Here are some quick desk organizational tips you can employ:

  • Toss out the things you won’t need
  • Colour code your hard copy papers or digital files for better organization
  • Disinfect your keyboard, mouse, phone and desk surface
  • Keep only the essentials out on your desk surface
  • Create designated spots for your various tools or use a desk organizer

Appreciate Your Colleagues

On some level, we all crave some form of recognition, particularly in the workplace. And while that recognition may often come in the form of promotions, raises and verbal commendation from your bosses, it’s almost as important to hear it from colleagues that you work alongside every day. 

So in an effort to foster better relationships and improve your coworker’s confidence, take some time to think about all the hard work that your own work is either dependent on or related to, and give your colleagues some form of recognition. Sometimes a simple “You did a great job this year!” is enough to lift someone’s spirits and set the table for a productive coming year. 

Enjoy the Holidays

Finally, if you’re planning some time off during the end of the year, it’s important to properly unplug and give your brain some much-needed rest. You’ve worked hard this past year, and giving your mind some time away from screens, email, and Zoom is just the sort of digital cleansing you might need to feel a sense of mental restoration. It’s crucial to spend some time with friends and family this holiday season, as well as take some time just for yourself!