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9 Strategies for Surviving Higher Education in the New Year – Goodbye 2022, Hello 2023

Today, I took a moment to reflect on the dumpster fires of the recent past.

What’s worked, what hasn’t, and what I want my life in higher education to look like in 2023.

The reflection involved many coloured pencils and a flurry of post-it notes. Resulting in a mind map and list of New Year’s Resolutions for 2023.

Because resolutions are reliably unreliable, let’s call what follows ‘New Year’s Suggestions’.

Note. writing about my lived experience. I’m sharing it in case it’s useful to others. If you find it useful, please share. To skip ahead, use the Table of Contents drop-down menu below. Or continue reading.

What I’m leaving behind

The new year feels like the perfect time to start afresh, which means cutting ties with as many things that might be an impediment to success. In this instance, I’m defining success as a relatively enjoyable year which ends with my income stream intact. One might say that major recalibrations to ideas of success have taken place in recent times!

Goodbye: Toxic People

Life’s too short to pretend to be nice to toxic people. Be gone from my socials; be gone from polite chit-chat in the corridor; be gone from my inbox.

  • Strategy #1: Delete, block, or mute anyone on social media that makes my blood pressure rise. Create an echo chamber of niceness 🙂
  • Strategy #2: Create rules in my inbox to automatically redirect any email from a toxic sender into a folder titled ‘Better times’. Open the folder only during times of excess energy reserves.

Goodbye: Negative Self-Talk!

If I’m not my biggest fan, then who will be? Ruminating imposter-related feelings don’t help anyone, let alone me.

  • Strategy #3: Anthropomorphise negative self-thoughts by asking them to send me an email and letting them know I’ll get back to them later (note. I won’t send the email, although doing so could be interesting reading at a later date, per Strategy #2)

Goodbye: Drinking the Wrong Stuff

As academics, our brains are our biggest assets. Aim to stop frying mine under the guise that I write better with a glass of wine (or three) at my side.

  • Strategy #4: Switch out sparkling wine for sparkly fruit-infused water.

Goodbye: Maladaptive Venting

It’s easy to become fixated on what’s not working. (There’s so much to choose from! Oops, there I go again!) But, complaining about work can create a negative energy cycle that primes your future thinking towards negative opinions. In 2023, I’m going to test out wearing rose-coloured glasses for a while and see if it makes a difference.

  • Strategy #5: Write down one thing I’m grateful for at the end of each workday.
  • Strategy #6: If I notice my conversation deteriorating into a complain-fest, I should take a beat, call it out, and suggest a positive reframe.

What I’m adding

Here are some ideas for things to bring into the new year.

Hello: ‘No Talk’ Meeting Mode

Listening is an invaluable skill. One that’s often overlooked in the academic superpower toolkit. In the New Year, I’m committing to listening more and talking less during meetings. I hope that this practice will provide greater opportunities for understanding and growth, as well as help me to put my thoughts through a filter before making them part of the public record.

  • Strategy #7: #SUAW –> #SUAL i.e. Shut Up and Listen. Set a timer in meetings to see how long I can maintain active listening before voicing an opinion.

Hello: ‘One Thing’ Mindset

While it might seem like a great way to get more done in the short term, it has been shown, time and time again, that multitasking only leads to more stress, less productivity, and an overall feeling of overwhelm. In 2023, I will try to put the practice to rest once and for all.

  • Strategy #8: At the start of the day, write down one thing I want to accomplish. Guard the time I have to achieve it by closing Outlook, switching my phone to ‘do not disturb’, and blocking the time off in my calendar.

Hello: Get Out of Bed Metric

Sometimes, you just have to accept that you can’t fire on all cylinders daily. In 2023, I will appreciate when my body is telling me to slow down.

  • Strategy #9: Consider getting out of bed as a win. That way, anything else I accomplish can be appreciated with an additive mindset, rather than perceived as a deficit (i.e., focus on what got done, not what didn’t).

👋 Goodbye, 2022. It sure has been a ride.

👋 Hello, 2023. May you be pleasantly uneventful.

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