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micro skills

The start of the new year is a great time to map out your plans.Brian Jackson/Getty Images/iStockphoto

This is part of a series looking at micro skills – changes that employees can make to improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Read about the 2017 winners of the award

Registration for the 2018 Employee Recommended Workplace Awards have closed. Companies can pre-register for 2019 at

What's your personal game plan for this new year?

A personal game plan refers to the decisions we make at the start of each year to achieve a desired outcome before the year ends.

The start of each new year provides a window of opportunity to think about what we want to have accomplished within the next 12 months. Each new year can be thought of as being pure and filled with hope.

This micro skill assists in mapping your game plan for the next 12 months.


Before making any decisions, take a moment to pause and reflect on the past 12 months. For each of the five areas of money, career, relationships, mental health and physical health, answer the following questions:

· Why was this area good or bad for me? Be specific.

· What worked well for me in this area?

· What would l like to change in this area?

· How would making the above changes improve my overall fulfillment and happiness?

Now give the past year a grade from A+ to F.

The wonderful thing about a new year is that it's a blank slate. Regardless of the grade you gave last year, consider three things you would like to accomplish over the next 12 months. There likely are more than three things, but for this micro skill pick the three biggest rocks you'd like to move or maintain.

As an example, Kelly wants: 1) Financial – get my credit card paid off and maintain a zero balance; 2) Relationship – finalize whether my personal relationship with my girlfriend is going to advance to the next stage, or reframe my expectations and move on; 3) Health – maintain my current fitness level, complete three 10-kilometre runs this year.

By picking just three key things he wants to impact Kelly can evaluate them clearly at the end of the year. He can always add more goals if he chooses, but if he achieves these three he will have accomplished something he can be proud of.


Our environment plays a role in influencing our personal thinking and behaviour. Many kinds of environmental factors can impact us positively and negatively, such as work, work peers, friends, politics, partnerships, family and community.

When mapping a path for the new year, it's helpful to consider the different kinds of environmental supports and drains we have. Sometimes a goal will be to move away from some environmental factors.

Ultimately, when mapping your three goals it's important to pick ones that you directly control. Leaving personal fulfillment to chance and solely dependent on the environment can lead to a sense of disappointment and a feeling of powerlessness.

Be accountable for what you want and then do what's needed. As a general guideline, it's best for all when we set positive goals that don't intentionally hurt others.


This micro skill's success requires taking ideas and putting them into concrete actions designed to achieve goals. For each goal, be clear on its intrinsic benefits as well as what motivates you to achieve it.

Readiness – To achieve a goal, ensure you have the knowledge and skills to proceed. If you don't, this would be the first step.

Priority – The top three goals need to be a priority, to reduce the risk that they will get bumped. Priority setting is critical for success, as it can be easy to ignore a task today and make the excuse that it will be done in the future, thus diminishing its importance.

Schedule – Once a goal has been made a priority, it's necessary to schedule the specific time when you'll work on it and when you'll have it completed.

Success – Be crystal clear on what success looks like, so there's no ambiguity, and you can celebrate it.

Steps – What are the tasks you'll need to do to achieve your goal? It's common for tasks to be repeated over and over, such as lifestyle habits. Daily measuring and journaling provide a feedback loop that can assist in maintaining focus.

Repeat – Repeating this three-goal step each year frames your desired goals, and provides steps for success and an annual grade.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto.

This article supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award. This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series