There is something so powerful about seeing the year change. From the moment we hang the new calendar, our motivation, hope, and will to try again or keep on moving forward is strong. Many sterile processing (SP) professionals actually delay goal planning until this time of year. Therein lies the reason why so many New Year’s resolutions don’t make it to the end of February. This surge of passion has been bottled up and waiting until the Gregorian calendar sounds the start, shooting out the gate in all directions.

We, as SP professionals, begin to tackle everything at once without any new habits or processes to support our desired outcomes. Stagnation ultimately leads to frustration and we welcome the stuck feeling with which we have become so well acquainted. The entire time we spent waiting for that fateful midnight countdown, we should have been planning to ensure the success of our goals.

Prepare to launch

Many companies and governments close their fiscal year in October. While this may seem odd, and there are a number of reasons why they do this, let’s draw our attention to the outcome of this decision. The company leaders have provided their accountants with ample time to prepare financial statements and budgets for the next year. It also allows for newly elected officials to participate in the creation of said budgets and processes that will occur during their term.

An entire quarter of the year is used to tie up loose ends, finalize numbers, and then use that information to prepare for the outcomes of the following year. Even mega corporations like Amazon, who close their fiscal year on the calendar year (by December 31st at midnight), allow for this same amount of quarterly closing and planning. This essentially creates a launch runway to gain speed toward the liftoff of the next year’s goals.

The connecting thread between small and Fortune 500 companies and the sterile processing professional is this power of planning. Effectively reaching our goals must include time to plan for them. The size of our goals will determine just how much time is needed. And honestly, it’s during the planning period that we can actually appreciate the true nature and size of our ambitions.

Effective planning

A plan is the outline of our goals, objectives, and the steps needed to get there. Effective planning requires us to dig deeper into what it takes to achieve the desired outcome. The results are the foundation necessary to reach our goals and define our progress. This foundation includes aspects such as:

  • Measurable milestones
  • Realistic plans
  • Manageable tasks
  • Timelines and records
  • Physical indicators of success

In my New Year’s article published in Volume 5, Issue 3 of NewSplash, “How to Create Professional Resolutions,” we reviewed some key components that lead to the creation of SP resolutions. This article detailed specific actionable steps that can help us remain in motion once we have begun the pursuit of our professional goals.

The conversations that this article elicited were profound. So many SP colleagues shared just how clearly they knew what they wanted. It was inspiring; however, what also became clear was the imbalance between planning and action in these goals. Very few SP professionals could detail or outline how they actually planned to go about achieving their goals and focused primarily on the outcome as motivation.

From outcomes to progress

Outcomes are the result of actions. Who doesn’t feel good (and maybe a little tired) after completing a day full of tasks? This is why New Year’s resolutions have so much gusto at first; it feels good to put in the work that we believe will result in our goals. However, we must remember that not all movement is progress. To have progress that helps us achieve our goals, the actions associated with it must be intentional and purposeful. This is the area where planning helps the most.

During an effective planning period, we can use our desired outcomes to determine the goals we need to guide focus, maintain progress, and create success. For example, our managerial resolution is to increase technician retention, and the goal is to raise workplace morale. But what does that really mean in terms of actionable steps? Due to the vagueness of “raise workplace morale,” this would serve better as the outcome we use to gauge our progress toward increased employee retention. Now planning can occur to create physical indicators of success, such as:

  • Clarifying professional progression
  • Defining a career path
  • Developing a career ladder
  • Strategizing increased wages
  • Recognizing professional accolades

Even the brevity of those action items certainly leaves room for plenty of work to get done. One might suggest that this is a multiyear resolution; however, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the magnitude, intensity, and benefits of such a resolution without planning.

Plan on yourself

If a bit of daily inspiration is ever needed, I recommend asking a sterile processing professional about their goals. Our industry deserves all that our fellow colleagues have in store for it. And with a little more time spent on planning, we create the foundations necessary for these intentions to thrive.

Let me tell you, I’ve heard what my colleagues plan on contributing to the future of our industry. The ideas, ambitions, and passion shared is why I know the future of sterile processing is going to be even more profound than it has been in the past. Everyone, hold on tight. It’s going to be a good year.

Note: The views and opinions expressed are of Sarah B. Cruz only and do not represent the businesses she works for or companies she collaborates with.