This career management post originally appears in my Work In Progress blog for Forbes.com:
For many people, there is something career-related on the new year resolutions list. Perhaps you will finally get a new job, ask for that raise, or simply get out more and network. Then the reality of your day-to-day job and busy life intrude on the best of your intentions, and that career goal seems less exciting than overwhelming. In order to prevent this career overwhelm, here are 5 areas to pare down so you can find the time, energy and attention for your main career priority:
You want to be specific in your career goal and not include too much. In the above example, I suggested finding a job OR getting a raise OR networking more, not all three, even if each supports the other. So finding a job does entail negotiating and networking, but it also entails refining your marketing (resumes, online profile, cover letters), researching companies and positions, and getting clear on your interests, values and strengths. It is overwhelming to execute all of these proactive job search activities while also plotting out a raise request and a more thorough networking plan. Simplify your goals.
Too many goals leads to overscheduling. But even if you pare down your goals, you might already be overscheduled – too many meetings, too many commitments outside of work. Check to see which engagements you really have to attend. When you’re faced with a request, don’t automatically agree. Instead, ask yourself if it fits with your critical work responsibilities or your main career goal. If not, politely decline. Simplify your schedule.
You might have a clear schedule but still find your time is frittered away, and social media is a popular reason. As with goals and appointments, decide which social media platforms to focus on and which to discard. Unless your job is in digital marketing, you do not need to be deeply engaged and active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, and whatever new platform launches this year. Instead, pick and choose the platforms that fit with your priority goals. For the career-minded, LinkedIn is a must. Otherwise, simplify your social media.
In addition to social media overload, we get too much information from other places – emails, news programs, magazine subscriptions. Just because you at one point signed up for a 3-year renewal does not mean you need to read cover-to-cover. Depending on your priorities for this year, you might be better served with industry publications or trade journals. Or you might be too inundated with breaking news in sound bites and need to read more books and cultivate your analytical reasoning. Don’t be afraid to ruthlessly edit your sources. Simplify the information coming to you.
Even if your main goal is to network more, you still need to pick and choose where to spend your efforts – conferences, associations, individual get-togethers, mastermind built around a specific purpose. There are lots of ways to network, and there are a lot of people already in your network that you probably want to maintain connections with. You can’t prioritize every relationship, or you run the risk of losing touch with everyone. Simplify your network.
The only way you can fit in your new career activities is to prune old activities that no longer serve you. Discard goals that aren’t meaningful. Don’t be afraid to say no and keep a clear schedule. Minimize your social media. Pick and choose your information sources. Pick and choose your key relationships. Do less with the things that don’t matter so you can do more of what matters most.