Most New Year’s Resolutions are related to small habits. (No cake! More calf raises!)


Rather than making resolutions – or worrying about the ones you’ve already broken – I suggest designing your career (and life) for the New Year. Designing your near future is a bit like loading a dishwasher – there’s never any room for the big stuff unless you put the big stuff in first.


What would a well-designed life look like to you? Allow yourself to think about things you would do with twice as much money and twice as much freedom. You might be surprised how many of the big things can be worked around. Here’s an example:


NO SCREENS two days a week. I do not want to even see a computer or iPhone. I want to look at our nation’s waterways and architecture, and at cappuccinos and books and naked men.

NO SUBWAY two days a week. As a New Yorker, you can start to feel a bit like a rat.

Exercise three days per week.

Only work for clients that are respectful and pay on time.

Dedicate serious time to starting companies.

Oh, and make 25% more money.


If you’d like to take the challenge and design your career for the upcoming year, here are some suggestions.


Actually schedule things on a calendar

Print out pages from your calendar software so you can scribble on them. There’s a reason I’m not suggesting an app for that – staring at a blank calendar page and then writing “exercise” or “creative writing class” or “study for the GRE” or “make a weeks’ worth of healthy meals” on it twelve times is an excellent way to gauge your real feelings about these things (and thus help to define what you most value).


Never vow to just do “more” of something; at least sketch it on the page, and you’ll see what has to go, or how much of your valuable lifeblood it’ll really cost you. Then you can make decisions deliberately. If you don’t really want a six-pack enough to put in the effort, let it go without guilt. It’s just not part of the life you’re designing.


If you’re an employee, spin your suggestions and ask WAY in advance.

Obviously, you have much less freedom to design your career within an office. But in general, it is much easier to get the things you want if you ask way, way in advance. For instance, “I have realized that I would work better if I came in an hour earlier every morning and then took a longer break in the middle of the day, so I can come back from the gym with more energy and keep up peak productivity until 6.”


Are big changes warranted?

If it seems that the things you want will never be compatible with your 9-to-5, at least a session of serious advance planning will make that clear. Why just drag along from day to day, lamenting what you don’t have, when you could outright declare your current situation unacceptable, and plan from there?


New Years resolutions are fine, but designing a better career is more sustainable, more powerful, and the way to make sure another year doesn’t just “happen” to you.


Jennifer Dziura runs GetBullish.com, which provides “aggressive lady-advice” for young and ambitious women. Adapted from material originally published on The Gloss.