January 09, 2020

Getting Fit for the New Year

TRYING A NEW DIET? IMPROVING YOUR PROGRAM QUALITY, PERHAPS?

By Ben Trentelman | 

The idea of a fresh start in the new year can be a refreshing idea. We’ve all been plugging away at things we’d like to achieve over the past year, some of which may have gone well, while others may have fallen off your plate. I remember the speech I’d get from teachers in school every new trimester, “You are all starting out with an A right now, it’s yours to lose, so keep up on your work!” I was always a bit of a fidgety day-dreamer in school and had a tendency to fall behind while I was busy doodling or getting distracted by my imagination so that fresh start always carried a lot of weight for me.

As we navigate the school year it can be easy to aspire for greatness for your program only to have ambitions and goals to implement bold new ideas get squashed by the reality of day-to-day responsibilities. I can see it now; you started the school year out with big plans, you learned lessons from the summer or previous year and you’re ready for bright new beginnings. Then the weight of registrations sets in, and parent-teacher conferences, and your Lights On Afterschool event… Before you know it you are holding your Halloween carnival and wondering what happened to those two months of change you were going to implement at the beginning of the year. You find your ambitions renewed after you complete the Quality Tool in November (I hope!) and then it’s Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, and then… well, here we are in January and you still haven’t gotten to that stuff!

Firstly, I’m here to tell you that it’s ok. Look at everything you’ve accomplished so far: maybe your attendance is up, maybe you’ve strengthened relationships with community partners, or maybe you’ve just been improving the lives of the youth you serve on a daily basis. That is all big stuff.  Secondly, I’m here to tell you not to feel overwhelmed by your goals, even if you are just now looking at them again since November, that is totally cool. What matters is that you take the time to look back and plan.

Here are a few tips to help you reflect on what you wanted to do, what you’ve done so far, and what you can do as you move forward:

1: IT CAN'T BE ALL OR NOTHING

Look for two things as you assess your goals, where is the low hanging fruit and what is most urgent? Once you’ve figured these out you can start prioritizing and planning to implement. Ration out what you are trying to do and don’t feel like you need to rush. If you are focusing on one or two things a month, you are more likely to succeed than if you try to take it all on at once. 

In a New York Post article, “New Year’s Resolutions Last Exactly This Long,” Dr. Carly Moores, associate lecturer at Flinders University, says, “Start with small changes and continue to build on these or try to tackle one change at a time … Try to set goals, reflect on your progress towards these, acknowledge that changes can be hard, and results won’t happen overnight … or even in the first two weeks of the new year.” 

According to the article, the average new year’s resolution peters out by January 12th, so plan to take smaller steps and set goals that can be easily incorporated into your daily routine rather than jumping into something you can’t sustain or that will cause you to burn out.

2: ACCOUNTABILITY

You are part of a larger team and everyone needs to be on board for change to work. You hopefully started this out by including your team on your Quality Self-Assessment and setting goals, and now you keep everyone on board by including them in planning how to move your goals forward. Talk about goals as a group to make sure everyone is on the same page and has the same idea of what the end result will look like and how you plan to get there. Assign specific roles and follow up regularly. Talk to your team regularly about your progress and foster a culture where everyone is mutually accountable to one another. You can even include partners, school faculty, families, and the youth you serve in this process.  Add discussion time to your regular staff meetings, calendar out deadlines (and stick to them!), and share your successes with stakeholders. 

3: TIME!

It’s really easy to write down a goal, file it away, and then never revisit it until it’s time to set goals again, which can be frustrating as you review everything that you wanted to do, that probably would have made your life better if you had actually done it. These modern times we’re living in have given us the amazing capacity to calendar things out, set automatic reminders, and to stay in touch through various platforms on projects,  so use them. After you’ve set your goal, set repeating reminders, plug it into your calendar, and then follow through. 

Remember as you set into the new year, that unlike a lot of people trying to push-up or diet their own way to a healthier new existence, you are part of a network of experienced providers where you can get help from peers and you have a dedicated out-of-school time specialist who’s time is ready and waiting to help you achieve your goal, so phone a friend and let us help you.  Remember, you can always find access to resources and help at utahafterschool.org. 

Best of luck in the new year!

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