Did you set resolutions for 2022? Did you track them? Honestly, we can't even remember, and from talking to colleagues, we know we're not alone.
Talking about disruption, we should say that there is a very reasonable body of thinking to suggest that we should make resolutions for the spring, and not for 1st January anyway. This is particularly true in the northern hemisphere, as on top of the post-festive dopamine slump, we also have bitingly cold weather and dark days to contend with.
The ancient babylonians, who are thought to have started the whole new year's resolutions thing, actually began their year in March, when the spring crops were planted. It appears that the methodists changed that to 1st January during the late 18th century and much of Europe, North America, Australasia and many others just decided that sounded pretty sensible.
Even after 4000 years of doing this, humankind have a pretty miserable track record of sticking to these resolutions, which is why next week, we will be looking at the science of building effective habits. It can be done, and the NEO team have each decided to set their resolutions, and not only support each other where they can, but also to keep each other accountable. And if we decide to start some of them with the spring crops, then that's what we're going to do.
So here they are; our resolutions, as personal as they are. How do they resonate with you? We are hopeful that, in sharing these, we can encourage others to do the same, and to support each other in making the changes we hold most dear.
Sole was candid when said that resolutions are really part of a longer journey. While new year might be a useful reflection point, Sole's 2022 and 2023 resolutions are blending into each other, and we'll bet that she is not alone in that.
Some things can be compartmentalized, however, like professional development. In 2023 Sole wants to finish her training refresher in paid media campaigns, and begin a new course with the Project Management Institute. Project Management is a big part of Sole's role at NEO and when you have a fully remote team, the structures become even more important. Much of this, according to Sole, is not only for the team, but for our clients, as they deserve clarity, precision and follow-through at all times.
However, the longer term goal of developing deeper leadership skills is where Sole's focus has been for some time now. To be an effective leader, and to be present for others, means a generosity of spirit and acceptance towards ourselves. Leadership is a dual journey, being about ourselves and about others, and it is never linear.
What is clear, is that Sole wants to be the best version of herself for others. To support them, to help them develop their own unique paths and to embrace that, so they feel they both have a voice and an ear when each is required.
You can't pour from an empty cup goes the old saying, and in the last team meeting of 2022, Sole accepted that while she had always pushed others in the team to set healthy work-life boundaries, she herself had not been able to do so. NEO grew quickly in 2022, and Sole held nothing in reserve as she gave it all to supporting that growth, looking after others and making sure our work was always of the highest quality.
So much did Sole remind the team that they needed to switch off and leave work alone sometimes, that the team affectionate refer to her as their "police dog" (it probably sounds better in italian). However, that has to work both ways so in 2023 Sole has committed to not only continuing to reinforce strong boundaries between work and personal time for the team, but to actually model that behavior herself. The team, in this way, also get to be police dogs (it sounds better in Spanish too), and hold Sole accountable to that. We are all greater together than the sum of our parts.
Oh and lastly, Sole was so inspired by the EAIE Conference in 2022 that she has determined to make a more positive impact on education in 2023, and really be conscious of the wider effects of the way she works. When asked for more information, Sole mysteriously said it was a "work in progress". When pressed again for specifics, Sole admitted she could provide "No more details because I don't have them yet, heheh :)"
That response is one of the many reasons we love Sole. Authentic and strong while embracing radical candor and vulnerability; a rare mix indeed.
Tsundoku, according to the Japanese, is the art of buying books and never reading them. Sara confesses to this, but through lack of time, not lack of motivation. In 2023, her goal is to read at least 5 books from her list, starting with the incredible book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.
Not making time to to do the things that nourish us is a common ailment of the modern world. It is particularly difficult when remote working, as boundaries blur between work time and personal time in the same physical space. Sara aims to reinforce these boundaries more this year, taking completely work-free breaks to recharge, and disconnecting mentally and technologically from work to restore balance.
Lastly, though energy efficiency is a hot topic right now with spiralling costs and dangerous levels of emissions, we really should be equally conscious of our personal energies. Some people and activities give you that energy, and others take it. Sara wants to use more of this year to reflect on who and what are the fountains or drains in her life, and eliminate the latter.
This sounds easy, like something that could be handled by a bit of thinking time and a two-column spreadsheet, but not so. Sara has recognised that she has people pleasing tendencies, and so saying "no" does not come easy. However, having already learned the hard way that you can never please everyone anyway, Sara is in a good space from which to move forward to a life that has clearer boundaries.
Now you're already going to see a theme emerging here, and we bet it is familiar to those of you in startups and agile teams within our sector. Yes, it's work-life balance.
Alejandra is setting the goal of having less screen time, and filling that space with hobbies or quiet time. Having reflected that giving ourselves permission to have this time actually makes us more productive, Alejandra feels that this is a win-win. What is perhaps less discussed, however, is the fact that, even in a horizontal and tight-knit team like ours, culture change has to come from leadership. Whether consciously or not, when we see the CEO setting a healthier work-life balance, it helps the rest of the team feel more at ease to do so.
That does not mean working habits don't change, however. We still have to have meetings, but why at a desk? Why not while walking? Alejandra has committed to a learning journey to develop more nature-based practice in the work environment and to personal leadership in 2023, and we will of course share what we all learn from that. If she connects to a Zoom call from the woods or while walking someone else's dog, now you'll know the reason why.
Mark is the oldest dude on the team and, while that might bring some useful experience, it also means he has had longer to reinforce bad habits and wire them in. Giving himself permission to switch off from work and do nothing at all is the one thing that has challenged him most, but he feels that this year, all the right things are in place for him to make the change.
It is a subtle thing, but powerful. Think about it- you switch off the laptop and say "no more today". And then what? Doom Scrolling on Instagram? Ok, it might be easier to fill that space with something else, but how many of us can just give ourselves permission to truly, authentically stop? A resolution to do nothing, rather than to do something, is a new twist on a 4,000 year-old challenge.
Professionally, Mark aims to focus himself much more on specific areas related to sustainability, and to develop a healthier reflective learning practice built on a more disciplined daily routine.
Purity raised quite an interesting angle on the whole resolutions thing, in that she has always set them for herself, but being part of the NEO team has brought out a drive to be better not only for herself but for the team around her too.
Now we can always trust Purity to buck the trend, and as the rest of the team are figuring out how to switch off and decompress, Purity is looking for the booster switch. Not only has Purity set out what she called a "skill acquisition marathon", but she has segmented it all into different parts of the year, just to make certain she is hardcore learning every single month.
January to March Purity attacks Data Analysis in Marketing and HTML & CSS get gobbled up between April and June. No summer holiday for our Purity as she slays Google Tag Manager & Marketing automation by September, and then eases into the year end with some light CRO & Programmatic Advertising in Education.
Purity isn't just going hard at hard skills, but aims to "polish" her attention to detail, time management and stress management. When we say "aims to", that's perhaps a hollow phrase as we all know that Purity will do whatever she sets out to do.
And if you think we are overdoing things with words like "slay" and "attack", we will leave you with Purity's own words to conclude: "By the end of the year, I would like to be an Analytics BEAST, no matter what it takes." Purity wrote that in caps, and she's not messing around.
On top of an amazing year supporting our clients and tour team at NEO, Ashley learned to be a full stack developer in 2022! So while she might not personally refer to her approach as "beast mode", it kind of is.
Ashley is an observer. Always conscious of her interactions, reflective of how people around her act and what she might learn from that. It is no surprise that in 2023, Ashley wants to work on her leadership skills, and really focus on soft-skill development.
But you don't nail a challenging coding programme if you're only interested in coaching and active listening. Ashley has the bug for the hard skills too, and is determined that by the end of 2023 she will have more detailed knowledge of a wider variety of CRMs and databases and their complex integrations for data management. Ashley also plans to dive deeper into the world of SEO and through technical integrations be able to increase the engagement and positioning of web pages, and we have no doubt that she will make that happen.
Charlie is a robot, so he pretty much has things under control, but he does feel that he should perhaps oil himself more often. The team used to maintain him more carefully until they started to get dogs, and now he realizes he has to be a bit more self sufficient. It's a hard truth to take, or at least it would be, if Charlie wasn't made of springs and wires.
What Charlie will do, however, is make sure the world knows that even in the age of automation, AI and immersive tech, people matter. Our wellbeing, the way we work and live, the support we have for each other, and how we communicate that, is perhaps more important than ever. Our common resolution is always going to be a commitment to you; to be the best we can be in supporting our clients, colleagues and partners with a values-based approach. As Charlie would say, that's the nuts and bolts of it.