Today's modern professional not only needs to keep their resume current, they also need to continually strive to improve their job performance to stay ahead in a competitive market. You can't rely solely on your boss or company leadership to provide ways for you to sharpen your skill set.
Your work is a big part of your life, and how you make a living and your work performance should be something you’re proud of. Read on to learn strategies you can start implementing today to improve your job performance.
One of the biggest job performance killers is a lack of productivity. If you aren't able to develop good organisation and time management skills, you likely won't get far in your career!
The internet and social media make it easier than ever to get distracted at work and waste time. Avoid distractions by taking short breaks throughout the day or installing apps to block websites that often distract you. Some programs like StayFocusd can even set a custom amount of time that you can be on certain websites of your choice.
It's easy to set big, challenging goals — but they can feel daunting and out of reach. Each new year, set 1–3 big goals you'd like to accomplish. Then set milestones weekly and monthly that will help you get there. Reaching the smaller goals are the personal benchmarks or milestones will motivate you along the way to your 'big picture' goal.
For example, if a sales representative wants to sell $1 million in revenue by the end of the year, he should set weekly and monthly goals to guide the way. He should aim to sell about $20,000 every week and estimate the number of deals per month he would have to close.
Perform a self-assessment to determine what skills you already possess that can make your job performance shine and find out where you have room for improvement. You may want to enlist your boss or a trusted coworker or two to help you make an honest assessment.
For example, you may discover you are great at innovating and finding new ways to accomplish tasks in less time with new technologies. Maybe you're great at pipeline management, but not so great at negotiation with customers.
Keep a record of your strengths and successes. Evaluate your job performance on a regular basis by documenting your successes. Be your own advocate, bring your list to your annual performance review and discuss your progress with your boss. They just might recognise your potential and promote you based on your job performance.
Volunteer to do the things others won't. That intimidating big project? Volunteer and work with your team members to do a great job. You'll sharpen your skills and develop new ones along the way.
Even if you aren't a manager of any direct reports, you can get there by volunteering to mentor new hires or employees who are struggling. Or if your department is piloting a new software program, volunteer to become the in-house expert and provide training for coworkers.
It's important to have a good work-life balance to be your best at work. Even if you're trying to improve your work performance, that doesn't mean work has to be your life.
Having hobbies outside of work and getting enough rest keeps you from burning out. Focus on self-improvement activities outside of work like meditation, sports and social events to keep your stress levels in check.
You might also find that your hobbies and interests help you to progress at work. Skills that you acquire through a team activity — like leadership, negotiation, time management and working as a team — transfer easily to the workplace.
Communication is key to maximising your performance at work. If you aren't sure what you’re supposed to do, don't feel afraid to ask for clarification. The most successful business leaders are naturally inquisitive and look for innovative ways to solve problems.
It can be tempting to chat to coworkers and catch up on the latest news, but this can have a negative effect on your work performance — especially if it becomes too frequent.
Developing relationships with the people you work with is important, so take an interest in your coworkers’ lives, but don’t engage in drama or gossip. Not only can it harm your productivity and concentration, but it can affect the way that others see you.
Most workplaces are much quieter before the official workday starts, so if you have the opportunity to arrive early it can be a great way to be more productive and improve performance. With the office quiet, there are fewer distractions or temptations to prevent you from tackling a task or two.
It’s amazing how much more accomplished you feel when you arrive an hour early and are already working through your to-do list while everyone else is arriving and making themselves a coffee.
Another way to improve your performance at work is to create a schedule that works for you. If you have the flexibility to decide when you complete tasks and schedule meetings, this can have a big effect on how productive you are.
Organise your day. Set a daily schedule and create a to-do list at the end of each workday for the next day, or do it first thing in the morning. You can even block out your calendar to help keep yourself on task.
Be guided by which tasks should be a priority, weekly essentials and your energy levels throughout the day. If you need to concentrate on writing reports, schedule this for the morning to avoid the after-lunch slump. For creative projects, Friday afternoons can work well.
Within your schedule, make sure you leave time for breaks or less challenging activities. Everyone needs rest and these breaks can help to keep you working at your most productive. Reward yourself for completing tasks with continual short breaks throughout the day to refresh your mind.
We tend to save our least desirable tasks until the last minute, even if they are critical. Get your most important tasks out of the way first so they aren't weighing on your mind. Once that first task is complete, you’re free to move on with another or reward yourself with a break.
By prioritising important or high-value tasks first, you demonstrate to your boss and coworkers that you can be relied on to make progress towards goals — even if it’s a task you don’t enjoy.
When you work in a team or office environment, it means that you’re always around for people to approach and ask for help or chat with you. This can be a welcome distraction at times, but it harms your productivity and can have an impact on your performance.
Try to avoid these distractions and manage interruptions, like offers to have a ‘quick meeting’ or ‘catch up’ on a project. Next time, ask if the issue can be resolved by email or discussed another time. Don’t feel guilty for saying no to requests that don’t help you reach your goals.
We all have the same number of hours in a day, but one way you can work smarter with yours is to group (or batch) similar tasks together. Instead of checking your emails throughout the day, create set times to do this and you’ll find that you work through them quicker, become less reliant on your inbox and free up valuable time for other activities.
This approach to working can apply to almost any task or activity that you repeat on a daily or weekly basis — including emails, phone calls to clients, analytics reports, data entry, meetings with direct reports and more.
One of the easiest ways to lose time throughout the day is through task switching. It’s easy to be tempted to move from one task to another, but you lose momentum and focus this way.
Focus on finishing the task that you’re working on and don’t be tempted to begin another. This can be difficult if you’re not enjoying the task you’re working on, but stay focused and complete it. You’ll then have a sense of achievement and be able to cross it off your list, then you can start working towards the next goal.
A great way to improve your work performance is to be committed to your own professional development. Take an interest in learning as much as you can about your role, your industry, your company and topics that interest you, and you’ll realise the benefits.
Not only does continued learning help you learn new skills or improve existing ones, it builds up a bank of knowledge that you can apply to your existing or future roles. For example, by reading about productivity you could identify an inefficient process at work and save yourself and others hours of time by improving it.
Are you easily distracted by your environment? If so, cutting out the distractions around you can really boost your productivity and performance at work.
Start by looking at what’s around you. Clear your desk of anything that’s not essential for the task you’re working on, and reduce the amount of clutter that you can see. Apply the same principles to your digital world too — close apps and programmes that aren’t in use, have a clear desktop and don’t be tempted to check notifications for emails or instant messages.
If you have the opportunity to delegate some of your workload to a colleague, do it. Sometimes tasks can be performed by more than one person and by delegating you are simply moving it along to the right person to handle it. For example, could someone source the data you need for a report, so that it’s ready for when you need to write and present it?
Not only does delegating tasks remove them from your to-do list, it also shows that you can take the lead and manage tasks effectively.
We’ve talked about how being the first into the office can have a positive effect on your work performance, but how you start the day is just as significant.
Ideally, begin the day beforehand and plan out the day ahead of you. Then, when you arrive in the morning, set your desk up with everything you need before beginning with the most important or highest value task first.
Our inboxes can be the source of a huge amount of lost productivity in the workplace. It can be tempting to check in regularly, read emails as soon as they arrive and even several times before we get the opportunity to reply to or action them.
To reduce this and recoup some of this lost time, create set times throughout the day to check your email. You may need to check this with your boss first, but once the team gets used to the idea, they’ll soon see the benefits and try it themselves.
Are there processes you encounter that slow you down? If so, think about how you could change them or petition for them to be reviewed by management.
We all want to work at our best, and sometimes others don’t realise that a process or way of working could be improved to benefit everyone involved. Common examples of processes that can be made more effective include the process surrounding communication within the organisation, purchases of goods and services, and quotes for projects.
In the workplace it can be easy to say yes to every request that comes your way, even if it’s not something that you would usually deal with. When you are working towards a goal or target, focus only on what is essential to meet your objectives.
When a coworker comes to you with a request for help or someone tries to add another task to your list, ask yourself whether it’s essential or not. If it isn’t essential, someone else should be able to work on it or it can be discussed at a later date. If it is essential, it may be time to delegate an existing task or rework your schedule to make room for this new one.
What we do outside of the workplace has as much effect on our performance as the work we do. Make sure that you stay healthy, exercise and get enough sleep so you are well rested and energised for the day.
If your schedule means that you are in the office early, see if you can fit in a workout during your lunch break or go to bed earlier so you can get the right amount of sleep.
Your energy levels will be higher at work, and you'll be able to put in your best effort consistently if you have good sleep habits, exercise regularly and leave work at work when you go home for the day.
All of us have moments in the day where we are more awake, alert and focused than others. For some people, they may find it easier to concentrate first thing in the morning. For others, they reach their peak energy levels later in the day.
To work at your most effective, schedule your day and activities around your energy levels. Knowing when you are most focused and when you should take it easier can help you decide when to work on specific tasks or activities.
As well as understanding your energy levels, it’s important to recognise that each of us has our limits when it comes to our workload.
You’ll know you’re nearing your personal limit if you start to feel sluggish, distracted or begin to procrastinate. Avoid burnout by recognising your responses and take a break. If a task is challenging or you’ve run out of energy, switch to something that’s less taxing for a while. After you’ve refreshed your mind, return to the original task and power through.
Every now and then you’ll take on a project or activity that’s outside your comfort zone. At times like this, it can be tempting to second guess yourself and to question your approach, process and abilities.
Try to avoid questioning yourself and believe in your intuition and experience. Doubt and worry can have a negative impact on your performance, so instead focus on your accomplishments and knowledge and seek help if you need it.
Do you have a plan for your career? Having a strong sense of direction can help you to stay on track with your project goals and improve your performance at work. Think about your personal ambitions, as well as the strengths and weaknesses you identified earlier, and ask yourself how you can move forward.
Make a personal development plan once you've identified your areas for improvement. Ask your boss if there is a professional development budget so you can take a course or go to training events geared towards improving your current skill set and honing new skills. You could also ask if there are opportunities to contribute in a greater way to the company’s future. Not only will you make progress against your plan but you’ll also look great for taking the initiative.
We often think about how to improve our performance within our teams or organisations, but you can also work on your development in your wider network.
Take the opportunity to build relationships with people at other organisations, in similar and different industries and both online and offline. It’s always beneficial to know the right people, and you never know where you’ll find the next friend, business partner or new hire.
One of the secrets to working productively and effectively is to realise that nobody’s perfect. We all have ‘off days’ where we are less motivated, lose our confidence or don’t perform as well as we normally do.
If you’re realistic about this, you’re less likely to be affected by any dips in your productivity levels. You’ll also be more empathetic towards others who are having a rough day or aren’t working at their best, which can help team relationships and morale.
When you’re thinking about your long term goals, it can be helpful to have a destination in mind. Take some time to visualise your goals and consider where you see yourself in five years’ time or further ahead.
Taking this ‘big picture’ view of your career can help you make decisions more easily. With an end goal in sight, you can decide whether to volunteer for a specific project or to invest more time in reading and learning about a topic.
Sometimes we can get stuck in our own routines and find it hard to innovate or focus. If you want to experience something new, try asking if you can shadow a coworker. You could also explore whether a temporary transfer to another department, known as a secondment, is an option.
These opportunities help you to learn new skills and build relationships with different teams, and they position you as someone who is eager to develop their experience. You’ll also gain transferable skills that you can bring back to your existing role. This can be especially helpful if you want to move into a role with more responsibility or ask for a promotion.
It's one thing to set goals and make commitments to yourself regarding your work. However, if team members make public promises to one another in a transparent place, they are much more likely to reach their goals.
Many companies have introduced performance management systems to assess work performance. This kind of software can help you to stay accountable as your team will be able to see your targets or goals and how you are progressing against them. You’ll also be able to see their progress, so you can hold them accountable to their goals and celebrate their wins too.
Involving others in your goal setting and tracking can help you to stay accountable and improve your performance. Whether you track your goals and progress using tools and software or on a whiteboard in the office, this accountability can help you stay motivated and ultimately improve your work performance.
We’re all in control of our productivity and effectiveness at work, so why not use this list as inspiration to improve your work performance?
Whether you decide to visualise your ‘big picture’ goals or start arriving at work earlier, every small change can have a big impact on how you work and how others perceive you. Make a commitment to yourself to try one of the tips above this week and see how it works for you.
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