It’s the start of a new year, and with the start of a new year comes the opportunity for all of us to break out of our comfort zones and do things slightly differently.

Exactly what your focus areas for 2017 are going to be will of course depend partly on your role and your organisational objectives for the year. However, it is my belief that there are certain things which all of us should look to do more of in 2017… because the difference we can make when we do so can be genuinely transformational.

#1 Step Away From Email

Electronic communications have paved the way for one of the greatest changes in how we work over the last few decades… but they can be both a blessing and a curse. How many never-ending email chains have you been on the end of, when the problem could have been solved in less than 15 minutes by simply getting all of the stakeholders involved in the same room together? How many misunderstandings caused by email’s failure to convey tone and empathy could have been avoided if you’d walked over and had a conversation with the person instead? In 2017, we can all benefit by looking to reduce our reliance on email – knowing when it should be used, but equally, knowing when it’s time for a phone call or a face to face conversation instead.

#2 Learn Your Business Better

Most of us would, I’m sure, claim we know our businesses. But how well do we really, really know them? Do we really understand the most pressing challenges faced by our technical teams? Can we actually claim to know what the greatest skill gap is in each of our departments, and how we can seek to fill it? Are we fully aware of the external pressures we are likely to be come up against as an organisation? This year, make a conscious effort to go and learn something new about your business – and see the impact you are able to make as a result.

#3 Ask Questions

How many times have you walked away from a situation you still weren’t quite sure of, or didn’t fully understand? Make 2017 the year you ask those questions you wish you’d asked.

#4 Challenge The Status Quo

Particularly when you’ve worked in a role for a number of years, there will be processes and ways of working which you carry out blindly without ever really thinking about why you do them, or what the benefits of them actually are. This year, why not make a conscious effort to take a step back and really objectively evaluate their effectiveness. You might be surprised at the impact on both time and productivity you are able to make as a result.

#5 Look Out For Each Other

In every organisation I’ve ever worked in, the effectiveness of operations directly correlates to how effectively teams work together. If we work in silos, we will be duplicating effort, and communications will be stymied. In 2017, we should all make a conscious effort to look out for each other more, and really work together to achieve success.

#6 Take A Risk

It’s often easier to go for the ‘safe’ option… but most business transformations take place when someone has the guts to take a risk – sometimes a significant one. Provided you haven’t rushed into anything, and have fully explored the potential outcomes, this could be the year to do something more than simply playing it safe.

#7 Challenge Destructive Behaviours

For too long, behaviours at odds with the prevailing culture within organisations have gone unchallenged. With an increased understanding of how the right culture can drive the achievement of business objectives, this is starting to change, but there are still times when all of us need to do more to challenge behaviours which are unacceptable, and thereby move us closer towards the ‘right’ way of working.

#8 Learn Something New

To create true learning organisations, all of us need to take ownership and responsibility for our own learning and development, and ensure that we continuously expand our knowledge and skillsets. In 2017, make sure you learn something new. It doesn’t need to be directly related to your role – though you’d be surprised how many skills learnt outside of work are transferrable into the workplace – but by learning a new skillset you further cement the process of continuous learning and challenge yourself to do something beyond the day to day.

#9 Make Time For You

We all know we should do this, but very few of us do it well enough or effectively enough. Between juggling work and family responsibilities, the time we have to really ensure that we are being looked after and able to perform at our best is getting gradually eroded away. This year it’s time to change that. Schedule in time for you, in the same way you would schedule in meetings, deadlines, and family commitments. And don’t feel guilty about doing so, either. We need to be at our best to be able to perform at our best.

#10 Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway

You know that thing you avoided doing last year because you were really scared of doing it? Maybe it’s an opportunity for promotion; maybe it’s a big presentation; maybe it’s leading a new project. In 2017, it’s time to feel the fear and do it anyway. Every time I’ve made a big step forward in my career, it’s been as a result of doing something that, if I’m honest, I was more than a little apprehensive about taking on… but it has paid off every time, and there’s never been a time that I’ve regretted taking the leap. Life is full of opportunities… and in 2017 it’s time for us to grab them with both hands and look forward to seeing where they take us.