Credit card bills, terrible weather, dieting and a self-imposed alcohol ban are just four of many things that can make the new year a drag. Yes, January can be a tough and unforgiving month, yet so many of us choose to make it worse by setting unachievable goals that only serve to make us miserable.

However, setting more realistic targets based around your working life can really put the extra spring in your step required to broaden your skillset and take your career to new levels.

Get a mentor

Unless you happen to be at the very top of your game, there’s a good chance that you’ll sometimes find yourself coming up against certain barriers that are holding your career back. Whether you are struggling to crack a new market, or just can’t seem to win over that one big client you’ve worked so hard to impress, we’ve all been there.

Spending regular time being mentored by a professional you admire can provide you with the knowledge and inspiration necessary to break down these walls and move on. Don’t be afraid to ask someone you get on well with for help– the chances are, they will be flattered you’ve asked. Alternatively, take someone under your wing and try to teach and inspire them. Successful mentoring is a two-way process, where both parties win.

 A bit on the side

The flexibility of working for yourself can sometimes provide you with a little more spare time than those chained to a conventional nine-to-five office. Used wisely, you can turn this time into something advantageous, whether for profit, well-being or both. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to write a book, start a blog, upskill or fancied volunteering for a local charity.

Pick something that really floats your boat and run with it. Spending a little time on something your passionate about can be great for the mind, body and soul; even if it’s just for a couple of hours per week – you never know where it could lead.

Digital detox

As a nation completely addicted to tech, the thought of not having our smartphones for even half a day can cause us to break out in a sweat. And, while completely switching off is impractical for many, cutting down our digital consumption is a possibility well worth considering.

Facebook themselves recently admitted that prolonged social media sessions can lead to anxiety and depression, and it’s not hard to see why scrolling through so much junk in your feed. Try switching off from your phone at least an hour before bed and avoid checking social notifications first thing in the morning too – it can set you up for a really bad day. And, if you’re a real addict then download the Cold Turkey app, which allows you to temporarily block online distractions to enable you to focus on more pressing matters.

Pick up a book

Switching time glued to the TV or your tablet for a good old-fashioned book is a simple but effective way to expand your mind. Studies prove that reading books is not only good for boosting brainpower, but that it can also improve emotional intelligence, aid sleep and reduce feelings of loneliness. So, whether your cup of tea is a slice of crime fiction, or a self-help title such as The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, a bit of brain food can do you the world of good.

Set mini-goals

Telling yourself you’re going to ‘work harder’ won’t cut the mustard – you need to be more specific. Without targeted goals in life, we lack focus and direction, but taking a more strategic approach to achieving them gives us a better chance of success. Firstly, only pick goals that motivate you and make sure they are SMART – e.g. specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. Write them down on a to-do list and record your progress to stay on track – the sky’s the limit.

Embrace a good podcast

Podcasting is a hugely successful industry today and is an easily digestible and fun way to learn new skills while you’re out and about in the car or at your desk working. Try downloading the Stitcher app, where you can access over 65,000 podcasts on topics ranging from art and design to comedy and politics. There’s a podcast out there with your name written all over it.