Today is the last working day of 2023. Next week we start with the New Year's holiday on Monday and then many of us go back to work, starting a new year. This is the time of year where many people make New Year's Resolutions, most of which will be abandoned by March. Some of you might keep to your goals, but it is hard to make substantial changes in your life all at once, especially based on a calendar date.
Instead of making a resolution this weekend, I would suggest that you think about your career and sketch the outline of a plan. Having a plan is a good way to approach the new year, one that I think might be better than setting goals without a plan. It's easy to set goals, but without a concrete approach to attacking those goals, I think it becomes difficult to meet them, and more importantly, difficult to drive your career in the direction that makes it better for you.
I heard some good advice from Brent Ozar at SQL Saturday Boston 2023. He said a good way to build a plan is to think where you would like to be in a year. What would you like to know? Or what skill would improve your career? What do you think would impress your boss? I'm sure most of you working in technology would like to make more money or find a better employer but those are the results after becoming a better data professional, not the plan.
In a year, I think you can easily spend 50 hours working on your career, in an hour a week. Two hours a week is doable, but it can be hard to do more with a busy life, especially if you have family. However, you can make a couple of scheduled times a week to spend 15, 30, or 60 minutes on something in your career. Consider it a hobby and discuss how and when you'll find time with your partner and family. Put the times on your calendar and take the time to sit at a computer.
As for what you work on, look at my questions above, and pick a technology/language/framework/tool/platform/etc. and start typing. Write code, build a server, read what others have written, and practice answering questions that others have asked on your topic, even if you don't post the answer in a forum.
In the beginning, it will be hard. You'll feel like you aren't accomplishing anything. You might feel like you're just wasting time, but you'll learn things and slowly you will be able to actually get something done. Whether you want to train AI models, write better T-SQL, or learn to manage Availability Groups like an expert.
My last piece of advice is to write. Journal, blog, make notes, but write about what you've learned. Whether these are notes for yourself to review before an interview or published blogs that build your brand. Document your journey and I am sure you will be very proud of yourself on this date next year.