Winter Break Reset: Strategies for Student Affairs Professionals
For many Student Affairs Professionals, December is a time to unwind and catch up on lower-priority tasks (when not taking time off to travel or rest at home). As the busy months are now in the rear-view mirror, we can set our sights ahead for 2024 and a new semester. In this blog post, I will share two ways to reflect over winter break and set new goals for a productive new year.
1. Reflect on achievements, challenges, and goals
We need periodic reflection to allow ourselves to think critically about our routines, accomplishments, or deficits. Travers (2022) suggests that failing to recognize behavior patterns that no longer serve us can be problematic. For instance, should we delegate tasks that are no longer suitable for us? You will know once you reflect and analyze how best to use your time.
My favorite form of reflection is through journaling, either physically or digitally. It is an opportunity to reflect on a time when I once thought particular challenges I encountered would get the best of me. However, I overcame them instead, whether it was a failed job interview or the looming process of applying to graduate school. I also keep my reflective journal handy when updating resumes, cover letters, or LinkedIn. It is a scrapbook of what I have accomplished and overcome as a new professional and a habit that I hope to continue in my efforts to keep my most essential routines alive.
2. Instilling daily or weekly habits
Why wait for January 1st? Now is the time to establish necessary changes to improve your overall wellness, which can start in the workplace. Suppose you do not know where to start. In that case, the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General has listed Five Essentials for Workplace Mental Health and well-being, including Protection from Harm, Connection and Community, Work-Life Harmony, Mattering at Work, and Opportunity for Growth (Office of U.S. Surgeon General, 2022). Each essential stems from human needs, including safety, social support, autonomy, flexibility, dignity, accomplishment, and security. After reflecting (See step 1 above), consider which essentials you would like to focus on for 2024 and incorporate them into your daily or weekly habits.
Remember that new habits take, on average, two months to build (Clear, 2022). We are setting ourselves up for success in 2024 by starting as early as possible. A tip that I use to hold myself accountable for new habits is keeping a physical habit tracker. It is as simple as writing a description of the habit next to the days of the week and marking off when I complete the habit successfully.
Of the Surgeon General's essentials, I am keying in on Connection and Community and Work-Life Harmony. In order to cultivate more trusted relationships, I plan to attend more in-person meetings instead of opting to join virtually, which I usually do. A second habit I would like to start is walking for 10-15 minutes after lunch; this will help me exercise more and make new connections on my walks around campus.
I hope this inspired you to carve out time this winter to reflect on your calendar year and set well-meaning goals for the next semester. By planning, we allow our best selves to show up at work and home. How will you plan for a prosperous new year?
Clear, J. (2022). How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science). James Clear. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from https://www.hhs.gov/surgeongeneral/priorities/workplace-well-being/index.html
Office of the U.S. Surgeon General (2022). Workplace Mental Health and Well Being. Current Priorities of the U.S. Surgeon General. Retrieved December 6, 2023, from https://www.hhs.gov/surgeongeneral/priorities/workplace-well-being/index.html
Travers, C. J. (2022). Reflective Goal Setting: An Applied Approach to Personal and Leadership Development (p. 51). Palgrave Pivot. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-99228-6