Keeping the momentum from your New Year’s resolutions

It is worth putting the effort in to make sure you stay on track to achieve your goals – both in your professional and personal lives. Here, occupational health adviser Diano Romano-Woodward look at some ways to ensure you’re on track to success.

Now that some time has elapsed since January, there is an opportunity to reflect on the resolutions that were made and how they are going. For many people, ideas and intentions embraced with real enthusiasm do not develop into positive changes in habit or action. Why is this? Probably because it is easier to continue doing what is comfortable and familiar, which means that if any small hindrance or a period of increased life stress comes about, we go back to doing what we always did.

This is relevant to our work in OH, because, at times, we are encouraging individuals to make changes in their lifestyles that will promote health.

This may be in the context of general health promotion or in an individual consultation for short-term sickness absence, where the aim is to help the person to improve their health and so reduce absences and their impact on the organisation.

If you are creating health material, there is guidance from the NHS on how to produce patient information that is likely to have the desired effect. But what about our own actions and habits? Do we stop to reflect on what is going on in our lives, what we want to happen and how we are going to make it so?

Hands up those who have a five-year plan for both their personal and their work life. A one-year plan? A plan for the next month? We seem to bumble through life, going where it takes us rather than taking control and creating our own path. As the song from the film “South Pacific” goes: “If you don’t have a dream, how are you going to have a dream come true?”

Setting goals

Think carefully about where you want to be in both the long and short term. In your personal life, do you want to find a partner, have children or remove yourself from a destructive relationship? Financially, do you want to save for a specific cause, be able to retire at 45, or just know you can get by comfortably? At work, do you want to acquire technical, sales or managerial skills? Do you want a promotion? If so, how are you going to become the preferred candidate? What attributes do those already in the role have?

If I want to get better at anything, I have to make a conscious effort and invest time and money to buy books or CDs to gather the information I need before I can take action – some sources I have found helpful are listed at the end.

quotemarksWe seem to bumble through life, going where it takes us rather thant aking control and creating our own path.”

Diane Romano-Woodward

One useful tool is thinking about the components of your life, giving them a score out of 10 and then seeing which areas have low scores and where you might need to pay further attention or increase your skill. (Hardy, 2010; Heppell, 2008)

Repeat this on a monthly basis and gradually all aspects will improve. But you need to put in the time to do this – make a diary appointment with yourself. I can already hear you clamouring that you have a busy life and cannot find the time, so maybe that is one aspect that needs to be worked on first.

Consider your actions from one day and see if you can identify some time where you are not actively working towards your goals. My personal time waster is Facebook. I delude myself that I am keeping up with friends, but this should not take as long as I spend on it.

Achieving your goals

Once you have identified what you want to achieve and by when, work backwards and plan how you will do it. For example, I have identified what skills I want to acquire or refresh this year, suitable training courses, what money will be needed and when it will be needed to pay for them. I am not leaving my professional development to chance or to the vagaries of others. If you are employed and your manager will not authorise the training, consider paying for it yourself.

Self-improvement is money well spent. Many are not aware that the Association of Occupational Health Nurse Practitioners (UK) offers scholarships to pay towards members attending events that contribute to their continuing professional development – and at times, nobody has applied for the money that is available.

Plan a to-do list

To keep on track, develop your own particular style of a “to-do” list and update it frequently.

I tend to alternate between three styles. The first is a traditional list with three columns headed “work” “personal” and “other”. As I think of actions required, I put them on the list and tick when done. The disadvantage of this is that there is no sense of priority, so every few weeks I will transfer what remains on to a graph with “importance” on the x axis and “urgency” on the y axis. This is based on Stephen Covey’s quadrant system for time management, where items are placed in four boxes (Covey, 2004). If I am really trying to create new ideas or solutions to problems, I will use a mind map.

Small changes in habits over a long period of time lead to big results – think of compound interest. Start making some small changes, do them consistently and you will be surprised at what you achieve. Read at least one book on the subject and take action, but better still, start your own library.

Diane Romano-Woodward, RN RSCPHN-OH BSc M Med Sc (Occ Health) is an OH nurse adviser at Sunny Blue Sky Ltd


Buzan T (2004). Mind Maps at Work: How to be Best at Your Job and Still have Time to Play. London; Thorsons.

Covey SR (2004). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. London; Simon and Schuster.

NHS Quality and Improvement Tools. Patient Information.

Hardy D (2010). The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success. Vanguard Press; Jackson, Tennessee, US.

Heppell M (2008). How to Have a Brilliant Life – Put a Little Bit More In, Get So Much More Out. Pearson Education Limited; Harlow, UK.

Sieger R (2006). 42 Days to Wealth, Health and Happiness: How to Take Control and Transform Your Life Forever. Arrow; London.

Tracy B (2004). Eat That Frog! Get More of the Important Things Done – Today! Berrett-Kohler; San Francisco, US.

Winget L (2004). Shut Up, Stop Whining and Get a Life: A Kick-Butt Approach to a Better Life. Wiley; New Jersey, US.

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