How to prepare this holiday season for a smashing new year at work

When Christmas and the end of the year approaches, we usually reflect on the past year and think about how we can make the next year even better. Here are some tips that help me prepare for a smashing new year at work.

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Reflect on the past year

Sounds obvious, right? But it is an important step to making the next year even a better one. Take some time and answer the below five questions:

  1. What have I achieved at work this year?what impact have I made on my company, what has improved because of me?
  2. Have I shared my achievements with my boss/team/company? What did they appreciate the most/ Why did I not share?
  3. What goals did I not achieve? Are they still relevant for the next year?
  4. What did I learn?
  5. have I build good relationships at work? Who with?

Having a moment of reflection can help you feel more satisfied with the year you had. We do tend to keep going, especially if we’re high achievers, and never stop to reflect on what we have already accomplished. This can lead to low satisfaction with your work and feeling a lack of accomplishment.

If with the year-end approaching you think that you haven’t done anything meaningful, think of yourself a year ago and go month by month on what you have achieved and how you have improved. You will be surprised how many things have changed and how far you have come. Give yourself pat on the back, relax and celebrate all these amazing achievements.

When thinking about the year ahead, try to make your goals realistic. You don’t need to go through the whole SMART goal framework, but just focus on what feels realistic to achieve. Are you working towards a pay rise? This is a realistic goal, even if you don’t know right now how to ask for it. You can sign up for the waitlist for my ‘Asking for a pay rise made easy’ course next year and we can figure out together the best way for you to ‘pop the question’.

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Relax

Did you know that Christmas can literally give you a heart attack? The study that discovered this has listed the ‘increased emotional stress as one of the reasons behind it. So it is even more important to focus on your wellbeing this time of year.

Furthermore, if you let yourself rest, you will come back to the office more energized and full of energy to tackle the year ahead. Again, yes, this is a staple, everyone tells you to relax, but how do you relax with all that has been going on for the past two years?

As someone who suffers from anxiety, I can absolutely relate. It is hard to relax if you have a billion racing thoughts in the back of your head and very often you’re not even sure what those thoughts are! All you know is that you constantly feel tense.

My recipe for calm is to set boundaries and find a quiet space for yourself. I have been known to often go on 2-3 days holidays all by myself. This has been my alone time to recharge. Since the pandemic started, I wasn’t of course able to do it (especially with the added stress of traveling and millions of tests needed to be done). So this year I have sent myself on a staycation. I have rented an Airbnb 20 min walk from my house to enjoy some alone time, no responsibilities, and an endless supply of ice cream. I have used this time to meditate, do yoga, read, and write (and re-watch the first season of The Witcher). Of course, I could do all this at home, but the added comfort of being completely alone, let me relax properly and be ready to tackle a 3 day Christmas marathon with family and friends.

You don’t need to leave your house if you don’t want to – it is a great option though if interactions with others interfere with your rest. Let me know in the comments, what is your ultimate way to relax.

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Think about the future

If you have reflected on the past, using the 5 questions in this article, you can think about the future in the same pattern:

  1. What is important for me?
  2. What do I want to focus on?
  3. What do I want to achieve?
  4. What do I want to learn?
  5. Who can support me to achieve my goals

Although some of these questions sound very similar, you will quickly discover that reflecting on them will give you various answers and let you expand your thinking.

Let me show you my own example:

  1. What is important for me?

I have learned this year that what is really important for me is the time I get to spend with my loved ones. This may seemingly feel disconnected from my work goals, but it will actually influence how I think and act in my role.

2. What do I want to focus on?

I want to focus on myself and my growth. I want to prepare myself for anything that may come my way in terms of work. The current world situation makes anyone’s job very unstable, so I want to make sure that if I am forced out of mine, I will have plenty of knowledge and experience to use for any new role that may come my way.

3. What do I want to achieve?

I want to create a great work-life balance, where I get to work on projects important to my company while learning new concepts and trying them out and at the same time still have enough energy and time to spend with my loved ones.

4. What do I want to learn?

I want to learn new skills or grow an existing one to help me stay relevant in the job market. My interests revolve around: communication, project management, and coaching. Given what’s important for me, what’s my focus, and what I want to achieve, I will probably choose project management as this fits the best with my goals.

5. Who can support me to achieve my goals?

Getting my boss on my side that project management training would be beneficial to my role, can help me receive free training on a very good level. I might also leverage any connections in the company with our actual Project Managers to learn from them.

I hope the above shows you how I got to the final conclusion to focus on project management next year. Of course, I still need to build my actual company goals into it but I know what my guiding principles are now and for every project, I will deliver going forward, I will be focusing on applying the right project management techniques to make sure I can practice them in real life.

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Let me know in the comments if this helped you prepare for the new year.

3 books I wish I read earlier in my career

Have you noticed that since leaving school you have less time to read books? If you enjoy reading them and want to be reading them, it seems to be harder to fit the reading into your daily schedule. Yet there are lots of articles, which tell you ‘Read these 20/50/100 books’. Who has the time?

Therefore, I have decided to summarise for you just 3 great books that have had a massive impact on my career, how I communicate and work, and have vastly improved my work experience.

Before you start reading a little disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you decide to purchase through this link.

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The culture map

You can get it here:

[AMAZON UK] The Culture Map

[AMAZON US] The Culture Map


This is my number one must-read if you are working in a multinational company (or even if you have a couple of colleagues from different countries than you are from). It will not only improve your understanding of where your own behaviors come from and how to communicate with other cultures, but you will also understand why some people act in a certain way, and honestly – you will become more understanding and less angry at co-workers.

Let me give you an example. I am Polish, born and raised, and proud of it. I have lived almost my entire adult life in the UK, so my behavior has adapted over the years, however, some things remained a mystery to me until someone pointed them out.

As a Polish woman, I am quite outspoken and straight to the point. If there is work that needs to be done, it gets done, everything else can wait. We appreciate quick solutions in our culture and we leave building relationships for after the work is done.

On a few occasions, I did exactly that with my English co-workers. I would arrive at the office, learn of a crisis, drop everything and ask my teammates to do something I wasn’t capable of and highlight that it was urgent. To my surprise, they didn’t respond and it took a few reminders for the next hour or so until I eventually sat down next to them and did it with them, to both mine and their frustration.

For years I couldn’t understand what was I doing wrong. If you are English and reading this, you are probably thinking already how rude I was. But in the culture I am from, this is very appropriate behavior at work. However, in the English office you are expected to arrive, say your hi’s, ask people how are they doing and add a little bit of relationship building before you start the work. Maybe ask them what they did last night or what is happening with something you know they had a problem with. After 10-15 min of conversation like this, I would then ask the question ‘Oh, I just learn that [something happened], would you mind doing [xyz] when you have a minute? I am not sure how to do this, but I know you have a great experience with it’.

‘Oh, I just learn that [something happened], would you mind doing [xyz] when you have a minute? I am not sure how to do this, but I know you have a great experience with it’.

Back home this kind of behavior would be addressed as wasting people’s time, not prioritizing your work, and maybe even as being lazy and inappropriate. Your boss could potentially take you on the side, and explain that this is a workplace and if there is a crisis, you need to take care of it before making friends.

How interesting is this, isn’t it? Those two seemingly not that distant cultures can have such a massive difference when it comes to working culture.

‘Culture map’ is definitely a book I wish I have read earlier in my career, as it would explain my early career problems with co-workers and why I struggled to have good relationships at work.

[AMAZON UK] Culture Map: Decoding How People Think, Lead, and Get Things Done Across Cultures

[AMAZON US] Culture Map: Decoding How People Think, Lead, and Get Things Done Across Cultures

Deep work

You can get it here:

This is another ‘star book’ that I wish I read earlier in my career. ‘Deep work’ shows you the value of the uninterrupted work state and how much more you can achieve by focus.

Let me ask you a question, how many hours a day during work do you switch off your email to focus on a project? I know very few people who do that, even I used to feel awkward when I started doing this. We live in a culture, where we believe that we should always be reachable. If you are at work, it means anyone can contact you, it means you have to be visible on email, Skype, Teams, Zoom, etc. But do you really?

The most valuable work you can deliver is when you actually deeply focus and remove all the distractions. If you are feeling unease about having that ‘unavailable’ status showing, have a chat with your boss first about what you are planning to do. You can agree with your boss that you will switch on your email 2 or 3 times during work to check on urgent matters, but other than that you will be unavailable and focusing on the most important aspects of your role.

If you have a bunch of meetings in your calendar or need to respond to important emails, but you don’t want to be distracted, you can set your Outlook to “work offline”. This mode will let you join meetings and write emails, but once you hit ‘send’ they will be waiting in your outbox to be sent all at once when you switch to the offline work mode.

Let me know in the comments if this tip was useful!

But going back to the book, “Deep work” is a position you should read if you are easily distracted by emails, social media, or squirrels (yup, that’s me if I sit by the window). It will not only give you an understanding of the importance of deep work but also provide you with tools on how to implement it into your work life.

[AMAZON UK] Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

[AMAZON US] Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

How to win friends and influence people

You can get it here:

‘How to win friends and influence people’ is a great book that I wish I read way earlier in my career!

I have grown up believing that doing 100% of your work in high quality is the standard and you are not supposed to get praise for it, it is what you do and that’s it. If you do the 5% wrong or just not in a perfect way, you are supposed to be told and work with your superior on improving it.

What a load of bullshit.

Praise and appreciation are the number one motivators for anyone! Telling people off and pointing out their mistakes is actually counterproductive, and can lead to resentment, less motivation at work, and actually more poor quality work. Who knew?

After reading “How to win Friend and Influence People” I have become much more generous with my praise. Before that, I was focused on improving everything that came my way. If someone would come to me for feedback on any project, I would start pointing out holes in what they have done, without acknowledging first that they have actually done a tremendous job so far! You can guess, that very soon people stopped asking me for feedback and I couldn’t understand why. In my own perception, I was an amazing feedback giver as I actually gave them ideas to improve.

The secret is, that we ask for feedback to get some kind of valuation. We want someone more experienced to acknowledge that we are on the right track and that we are doing the right thing. If you want to share feedback with someone, start with praise. Remind them what they have accomplished so far, how valuable it already is. Before sharing any thoughts about improvements, think to yourself. Is this really going to make the project better, or am I just picking holes? If you think there is a way to make it better, suggest that they could do 1 or 2 things or ask them if they have considered them already. It will go a long way!

If you want to learn more – just grab the book through the links below.

[AMAZON UK] How to Win Friends and Influence People

[AMAZON US] How to Win Friends and Influence People

3 books I wish I read earlier in my career

So there you have it. Three books I wish I read earlier in my career. If you haven’t read them yet, make sure to grab them now.

What was a book that changed your career? Let me know in the comments.