As the days get shorter and the calendar moves closer to a new year, many begin to think about their new-year resolutions and plan for how to start things off right in January. Ideally, before you jump ahead to 2014, it’s a good idea to decide how to make the most of the current year so you’re well positioned to start the new year off right.

What can you do now to plan ahead so you’ll be ready to excel next year? 

1. Improve your habits.

Are you the colleague who annoys everyone because you are constantly late to work and can’t be counted on to get anything done on time? Take a good, close look at your work habits and think about how you could improve them now so you can really start the new year with a fresh approach.

Even if you’re not causing trouble at work, think about what habits you can change. Have you been eating a ton of junk food, even though you promised yourself to adapt a healthy diet? Are you staying up way too late on a regular basis? Think about what habits you have that you can try to change to help yourself feel better and be more productive at work and in the rest of your life.

2. Set goals.

When you saw the calendar change to November, did you get a feeling of dread because you haven’t accomplished most of the goals you set out to achieve in 2013? Or, are you like many in the workforce: did you forget to set any goals at all? As the saying goes, “You’ll never get there if you don’t know where you’re going.” You definitely “can’t get there from here” until you decide where you want to end up, and now is the time to identify some plans so you won’t be in this position next year at this time.

3. Improve productivity.

How can you get your work done faster? If you’re not already asking yourself this question, now is the time to start. If you can accomplish more in less time, you’ll free up hours for projects or interests you don’t think you have time to consider and be able to make a better impression on those you need to impress. Some key time wasters include: excessive email checking, not prioritizing projects and spending a lot of time gossiping around the water cooler or on the Internet. Start tracking your time on these activities and you may be surprised by how many hours you can recover from your day.

4. Learn something new.

Have you thought about how you could use some of your free time to learn something new? In a competitive environment at work, one way to get ahead is to put in extra effort and, in the process, to make yourself more marketable as a valued employee.

5. Identify a mentor.

If you have new goals for 2014, you may decide it’s a good idea to find a mentor or two who may be willing to help support you as you try to accomplish them. The best mentors are willing to invest their time and energy in you, and can expect to learn something in return. Consider actively seeking someone to serve in this role.

6. Extend your relationships.

Is there someone you would love to get to know better, but you’ve never made the effort? Maybe it’s a colleague at work, or a someone in your professional organization. What can you do to get to know the person better? Make a point to invite him or her to join you for coffee or lunch, or attend an industry networking event together. Never forget that your in-person relationships are key to your professional success.

Read more: 8 Ways to Finish the Year Strong

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