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Be Better than You Were Yesterday

What Have You Learned in a Year?

Self-improvement equals business improvement

By April 2020, many Americans were facing radical changes in their way of life. Whether working from home, on furlough, or providing services in extremely modified capacities–we changed how we do business and how we spend our free time. We baked bread, started novels, dusted off the mechanic’s tools. Some learned new languages. Others, how to play an instrument. And many lived in a stasis of home-Zooming, dog walking, and Amazon Prime.

We learned things, too. Take some quiet time—possibly those precious moments when the kids are off to school, the coffee’s brewed, and Slack has yet to ping you. Put away your phone. Get out paper and pen or pencil to go through the mental process of physically writing your thoughts down. Think back to who you were in February, or March, or April 2020. What have you learned? 

What have you learned about yourself?

First, write down everything that comes to your mind. Initial thoughts might include:

  1. I enjoy gardening but only plant mint in containers. It spreads too fast.
  2. I’m better at running than yoga.
  3. The only time my spouse and I argue is when we’re putting together furniture from IKEA. (We use IKEA as an example as the closest one to Boise is five hours away, in SLC. No hurt feelings from our great local stores.)

Then, you might have to pull out a calendar to refresh your memory. For instance, what did you do in August? October? Were there projects you were proud of? A period of time when you gritted your teeth over a co-worker’s communication style? A client you loved working with? Write those down.

  1. The research job on ingredients and long-term effects of chemicals in sugar-free foods was fascinating.
  2. Taking two whole weeks off for a family vacation—instead of little ones here and there—really rejuvenated all of us.
  3. I enjoy trying new things personally and professionally.
  4. When Mildred texts me twelve times between 9 and 10pm I get mad.

How do you use what you've learned about yourself for self-improvement?

Now, the real work begins. In a different colored pen or pencil, jot down ideas based on what you’ve learned. How do you build on what you’ve learned to make yourself better at what you’re doing?

  1. Only plant mint in containers. It spreads too fast.  Dig up the mint already planted so it doesn’t continue to spread. Buy an attractive pot for your backyard or kitchen and transplant the hardiest of the rhizomes.
  2. I’m better at running than yoga. Not everyone is good at yoga. If you tried yoga for the stretching benefits, try some traditional stretching routines, such as the ones shared by physical therapists Bob and Brad
  3. The only time my spouse and I argue is when we’re putting together furniture from IKEA. Don’t buy furniture from IKEA. 
  4. The research job on ingredients and long-term effects of chemicals in sugar-free foods was fascinating. Look for more research jobs. And if the topic itself is what interested you, how can you build on this? Contact the client to offer additional services. Research similar companies to introduce yourself. Speak to a marketing strategist about how to best position yourself as a knowledge source.
  5. Taking two whole weeks off for a family vacation–instead of little ones here and there–really rejuvenated all of us. Plan for more long-term vacations, even if you can only take them every two years. Work with your boss/clients/caregivers, etc. to begin planning for Rejuvenation 2022!
  6. I enjoy trying new things personally and professionally. Identify at least one new “thing” to try, personally and professionally each month. A class through Udacity or Coursera? That delicata squash everyone gets excited about? A new core-strengthening routine? Maybe, you decide to branch out into a new service that you’ve been offering for free, but with a few adjustments you could monetize. Test the waters; they might feel fine.
  7. When Mildred texts me twelve times between 9 and 10pm I get mad. It is okay to set boundaries. Unless your job is to respond to emergency calls round-the-clock (if you’re a facilities manager you might not be able to turn off texts), it’s okay to tell people what your nighttime hours are. 
woman thinking and writing in a journal

What small steps can you take toward self-improvement?

Finally, review your past year list and think about what steps you can take towards self-improvement. If you’ve determined you enjoy a hobby such as gardening or baking, look into books, YouTube videos, Facebook groups and local classes (when they are available). 

Marcella, 58, is feeling better than she did at 28, due to discovering that she enjoys stretching. “As I got older I found I was less and less mobile due to aches and pains, and was gaining weight. That led to depression and more weight gain. And I was moving even less. One day I started a regime of stretching and muscle building. I do it daily for 20 minutes. It’s been a few years and I feel better than I did when I was young, and I lost all the weight!”

How can you improve in your career path? 

Maybe you’ve decided to change how you work–working from home, or exactly the opposite. You might have found that you enjoy working with certain tools and would like to explore using them more. Would your company support your becoming your team expert with that tool? Or, you might find that you detest tasks of a certain type. 

Find people to do what you don’t enjoy

“I had a job that I really liked,” shares Betty, one of our past interns, “it was creative and I was given a lot of latitude to make the job what I wanted. But there was one duty that I hated, and it ruined the job for me: I had to clean the bathrooms twice a day. I hate cleaning, and some days it was just disgusting. I never spoke up about it and found a new job instead. But I wish I’d told my boss how I felt, because maybe they could have made some changes. I miss that job!”

If you grit your teeth every time you have to do a certain tasks, such as bookkeeping or writing press releases, hire a specialist to take on that burden. Because they are specialists, they will be able to complete the dreaded task faster than you can. And, because it’s something they enjoy they will likely had a better result than you would! Here at Dogwood Solutions we specialize in helping small to medium businesses with public relations, marketing and communications–which we love! 

Small improvements add up to big changes

Spend a few minutes each week thinking about what you did towards self-improvement. Then, consider what you can do in the next week. Can you encourage co-workers or friends to join you? This next week we’re going to be spring cleaning our home offices to mark a year-plus of working from home. A few of us are testing classes from Coursera, Udacity and Udemy. Others are growing seeds, having a competition of sorts to see whose survives the longest .

Whatever you decide to do, have it rooted in self-discovery. And, remember it’s okay to admit that you don’t enjoy something. You don’t have to make big changes all at once. It’s the consistency, and the will to improve, that is the key to eventual self-improvement!

plant seedlings under grow light
Some of these seedlings are doing better than others.

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