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14 Ways to Improve Work Performance and Get Ahead of Your Career

14 Ways to Improve Work Performance and Get Ahead of Your Career

I have a friend whose parents can be a little “absent.” They will disappear for months on end – meaning they don’t answer calls or emails and don’t reach out or connect. And then all of a sudden they appear with an invitation to go to dinner at a fancy restaurant and they give him $500 to go shopping. This is what my friend calls The Grand Gesture.

Sure, it’s nice – but it wouldn’t be necessary if there were just some regular check-in’s and opportunities to visit together from time to time.

I see improving work performance and getting a leg up on your career in the same light. It’s the little things that make the biggest difference – and there are a ton of little things you can do, day in and day out, to make that difference you need when promotion time rolls around next quarter, next season, or next year.

1. Set Goals

Goal setting can happen anytime you need it – you can set daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, quarterly goals…shoot, you could set hourly goals if productivity was that important in your work.

We all need something to shoot for, so give yourself that target with your goal setting.

Don’t forget to make your goals as “SMART” as they can be: specific, measurable, achievable, results oriented, and time-bound. Write them down, and get them done!

2. Visualize Your Future

This is just another way of goal setting, but a little more bigger picture.

Where do you want to be next year? In five years? Ten years? Is an advanced degree in your future? Do you see yourself in a President or CEO’s office?

Visualize that future – really see yourself in the position of your dreams! And spend some time writing about it.

Check out this one simple technique to help you better visualize.

3. Know What You Want

This is not the same as knowing what you DON’T want. Do you want to work evenings and weekends? No, that’s something you don’t want. Do you want to be an account executive? Okay, that’s better.

Before I became a mid-level manager, I used to say that I didn’t want to advance in higher education because I didn’t want to be that far removed from students. And that was keeping me in lateral positions, not allowing myself to grow.

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Once I reminded myself that I could make the choice to be more connected to students, I gave myself permission to pursue more promotions. And I figured out what I wanted. Then I went out and got it!

4. Invest in Your Own Professional Development

You may work for a company who will pay for you to attend conferences and seminars; and you may be lucky enough to work for a company that will pay for additional degrees and training programs. Or, you may not.

Either way – professional development IS an investment, whether you are spending your own money or just your time. And it’s an investment to consider seriously so that you don’t waste time or money.

What skills do you want to develop? Is there a career path you wish to follow? How and where will you find the information about these things?

Figure out where and how to get it – and if you must develop your own curriculum do get it done, so be it. Equip yourself with these work related skills will get you a successful career.

5. Read more

This is a little similar to the previous point, but reading is something you should be doing more of anyway. Mental Floss cites six scientific reasons why you should read more,[1] including longer life, relieving stress, and helping you transform as a person. More benefits of reading can be found here.

I don’t know about you, but I feel strongly that transformation can help you with that getting ahead in the workplace.

We’re not just talking about non-fiction stuff either. Fiction reading actually aids in that transformation, as you are potentially identifying with the characters and taking yourself to places and worlds you may not see…EVER. Nothing like a little transformation to improve your outlook on life and work.

The flip side of this is also to read more about your vocational field and staying current in your industry. The last thing you want to do when you’re looking to get ahead in your job is to look out of date and unfamiliar with trends and new insights.

Go ask your supervisor which industry journals you should subscribe to and see what she has to say about that. I’m pretty sure you’ll get a positive response.

6. Network Naturally

My former student and good friend Jeffrey Harrington at CSU-Chico started taking Campus Walks when he was still a live-in hall director in his early 20’s. Those daily walks didn’t always have specific direction to them…until they did.

Jeff started making connections all over the campus and people began looking forward to seeing him in their halls. He made connections and friendships that last to this day. And it’s all because he got up from his desk and took a walk.

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While you may not have the luxury of a college campus in which to stroll, there should be other options to network naturally and visit other floors, sections, or departmental areas where you can see people and be seen.

You might find a mentor, a new friend, or a different understanding of your organization that will give you a leg up when you are looking for that promotion next year.

7. Ask Questions

You don’t know everything about your job or your company already…do you?

Maybe you do, but if you know everything then you have no need for growth.

That’s not going to help you.

Next big department meeting? Ask about the new project that was just introduced. Next one-on-one meeting with your supervisor? Ask her how she landed in this field. Having coffee with one of your team members? Ask him what he likes most about working here.

There really is no such thing as a stupid question, especially if you ask it with sincerity. Generally speaking, people do like to talk about themselves, especially if they are asked about something they do well.

Be thoughtful and strategic – that’s a ton of free knowledge getting dropped on you.

8. Shadow a Big Wig

This one might be a little tricky – but ask your boss if any opportunities exist for you to spend a day with the Big Boss. Or maybe just your supervisor’s supervisor. Or find the time to sit in on the open Board Meeting or Executive Session that no one else from your peer group considers.

Just ask. The worst that can happen is you get told no. Then do one of the other things on this list.

9. Get Outside Your Comfort Zone

One of the most humbling lessons in my early professional years happened when I worked in the Saint Louis area. I was tasked with finding off campus housing for about 20 MBA students from China. For some reason the idea of this project infuriated me, and I was not really motivated to succeed.

I secured the housing and made arrangements for my department to make the deposit payment. I was about to drive over to the complex to deliver the funds when my supervisor called with bad news.

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The President of our college learned of the housing location and was beside himself. Not only did the housing I selected not have full kitchens for the students, the complex was more than five miles from the campus and not on a decent bus route. I had created a horribly unwelcoming situation for these students who were paying incredible amounts of money to study in the United States.

All because I had a negative feeling about something and didn’t do my best work.

After praying for hours and hoping that I would not get fired, my boss told me a piece of advice I have never forgotten: “Solve the problem first, and have your feeling later.”

So what does all this have to do with getting outside your comfort zone?

I didn’t want to be the housing locator – this was not in my wheelhouse and I obviously didn’t think it was my job. So rather than look at the silver lining – a chance to engage with some international students and give them a welcoming living experience – I opted to kick the dirt and stomp around rather than embrace the chance to learn a new skill or make the college President feel at ease.

So when you have the opportunity to do something different, new, or foreign to your own current experience, jump on it. Make it glorious. And if it’s not, then lesson learned.

10. Ask for More Work

What? Who wants to do more work? I’m sure you probably don’t…but what if asking for more work gets you a prime seat on the next big project that’s coming down the pike? Or volunteering for that extra committee gives you the opportunity to meet the VP from another department? These are small examples that could lead to big things.

Don’t go crazy – pick your extras carefully. And don’t ever shy away from the chance to learn something new.

11. Control Your Calendar

Unless you have an assistant who makes all your appointments and schedules all your meetings, I’m pretty sure that you can go in and hold blocks of work time on your own calendar to get stuff done.

Make time for this at least three times a week and close your door so you can really knock out some important tasks without interruptions. Show your laser focus when you turn in your project one day (one week?) ahead of time and you aren’t having to stay late to get things finished.

12. Get More Sleep

Do I really have to explain this one? Sleep deprivation is bad for your health, which can also be bad for your bank account. Forbes magazine cited research stating that increased sleep led to a 5% wage increase in its participants.[2] Not too shabby.

And if the wage increase doesn’t convince you, consider these other ramifications of sleep deprivation:

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  • plummeting memory and productivity
  • learning abilities slow down
  • poor relationships with your teammates

Unless you know something I don’t, these don’t sound like ways to get ahead in your career. Get some more sleep, already!

13. Exercise

I’ve had 9 different jobs at 9 colleges in 7 states – and the jobs where I felt the most successful were those where I developed a consistent morning exercise habit as part of my daily routine. Whether I was going to the gym, running, or swimming, I felt more energized and much sharper on my exercise days.

Exercise improves your mood, lessens your stress, and can also boost your productivity levels in the work place. Take this to the next level and organize a softball, kickball (yes, this is not just for grammar school anymore) or volleyball league with your colleagues and peers. Or challenge your supervisor to a racquetball game. Or not.

14. Enjoy Your Work…Or Find Something Else

Do you love what you do?

No? Why not?

Then why do you still work there?

Has anyone asked you these questions? If you just asked them yourself and you can’t come to any conclusions, then it may be time for a change.

Take the time to reflect on how you landed in this particular gig. Make a list of pros and cons about the position. Evaluate your real feelings about the work. And talk to someone.

It’s never too late to start again if you are miserable. We have a gosh-darn-rock-and-roll-American right to enjoy our vocation.

Final Thoughts

Advancement is still available through some of the old fashioned ways: who you know or how many hours you work. But any combination of these little things, done consistently and over time, should give you an edge to improve your work performance and get ahead in your career.

Enjoy all the new things you will learn…the new friends you will meet, and the journey that comes with it. Either way, you can’t lose.

Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Kris McPeak

Educator, Author, Career Change and Work/Life Balance Guru

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Last Updated on June 26, 2020

9 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track in 2020

9 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track in 2020

The success of our day is largely dependent on the quality of our planning. Not to miss out anything in their to-dos, some people prefer to make a list of upcoming tasks in a notebook, while others have long started using digital technology solutions.

Calendar applications are some of the main tools that are worth using to organize our life and plan your time carefully.

Many people have switched to specific tools; however, there are still some who do not use calendars on a daily basis. They may find some applications uncomfortable to use, non-functional, or expensive.

In this article, we are going to check out the best calendars apps to help you stay organized.

1. Any.do Calendar

    This calendar has direct integration with Any.Do To-Do List, which gives you a unique tandem of two applications.

    Apart from its extended functionality, Cal Calendar is easy to use. The creation of events is very simple and fast.

    What is more, depending on the name of the event, the application automatically adds contacts and geolocation data to the entry description. You can even import your lists and entries from Any.do.

    Any.do Calendar is a great option for any type of user. It is very convenient and doesn’t overcomplicate the mode of display.

    Another good thing is that this tool is available for free, so you can use it without spending a dime for the software.

    Download Any.do Calendar here!

    2. Google Calendar

      Google Calendar is the official calendar for Android devices that has been tested out by many users around the globe. If you are right now trying to get away from it, consider changing your mind.

      Since this application is installed on most Android devices by default, many users think that there is nothing special in this program. They are wrong.

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      Google has been updating its calendar for quite a few years, and now it comes in Material Design with advanced event features, direct integration into other Google services (for example, supports reminders and Google Now), and comes with Exchange support.

      The program is super easy and will not cost a dime for you. It is a good thing, right?

      Download Google Calendar here.

      3. Jorte Calendar

        Jorte Calendar is one of the most popular calendar applications in the Google Play store.

        The program features a wide range of configuration options, with many design alternatives. You can adjust display mode to your needs and view calendar entries sorted by month, week, or day (by hours). It is convenient for quickly picking the desired date, using task bars, and setting reminders.

        Apart from its ordinary information storing function, this application can be a special cloud service, Jorte Cloud, allowing you to synchronize calendars, schedules, and task lists on multiple devices. The application also supports data importing from Google Calendar.

        For those paying attention to the program design, there is also Jorte Store, where you can buy styles and icons to personalize the calendar. This feature makes Jorte is one of the brightest calendar applications.

        A basic version of the app is free of charge, so if you do not want to spend money on a calendar application, it is a good option.

        Download Jorte Calendar here.

        4. Business Calendar

          Business Calendar is geared towards people who use their calendar for work purposes and business task planning. It offers different modes with wide configuration capabilities.

          The application gives a default view mode by months, and events can be marked in different colors. Display modes/ sorting can be adjusted to your needs (by month, day, year, or events).

          You can also set a multi-day viewing mode to see how things look for the next few days. Scrolling up and down moves you by month, and if you check a few days, they will be shown in a more detailed form.

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          The day display mode offers hourly scheduling, and the schedule mode provides a detailed schedule for a single event.

          Business Calendar is a great tool for planning/ scheduling cases, tasks, and events. There is a support for recurring events, which can be set up in just a few clicks.

          Having purchased software, you can use it to import and export other calendars, delete, copy, or move several events at the same time.

          Android Business Calendar application may seem somewhat chaotic, but it works fine and is easy to work with if you play with it for a while.

          A full version of the application is available for $4.99, but you can also find a free version for the app test drive.

          Download Business Calendar here.

          5. Calendar

            Calendar is a relatively new app. It works as a web app and for both iOS and Android devices. It is an intelligent app that learns your contacts, schedule and tasks. It also helps you schedule and arrange meetings according to your available time slots.

            A good thing about Calendar is that it allows you to sync up with other calendars you use such as Apple Calendar and Google Calendar. And so you can manage all the calendars you have in one place.

            Calendar also gives you analytics of your meetings, giving you a clear picture on how you can improve your time management.

            Download Calendar: Meeting & Scheduling here.

            6. aCalendar

              aCalendar opens our collection of top 10 calendar applications available on the market today. With its appealing design, easy navigation, and great functionality, it is one of the most popular calendar apps in our list.

              Some of extra functions include color schemes for each case type (48 colors to choose from), different types of demonstrations, different widgets, moon phases, and much more.

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              Taking into account it functionality, aCalendar is a reliable calendar application that has an easy-to-navigate interface with three display options. Scrolling from side to side allows you to switch between the display modes of the month, week and day.

              When scrolling down and up, you are moving through the calendar at intervals in accordance with the selected display mode.

              Apart from its time planning feature, aCalendar synchronizes photos from contact lists or social networks to remind you about birthdays, anniversaries, or any other special dates.

              The program also supports data transfer through NFC and full-screen widgets, which eases your work with any data.

              The program is available for free, but you can also get even more features if you buy the extended version of software for $4.99.

              Download aCalendar here.

              7. DigiCal Calendar

                DigiCal Calendar is very similar to Cal Calendar in the fact that the application focuses on design more than on its functionality. However, this doesn’t mean that the application doesn’t serve the purpose.

                With this calendar application, you can synchronize all your calendars and view them in different ways.

                Along with the basic functions, this program comes with support for Google Calendar, Outlook, and includes some unique and interesting features. You can match keywords to the image or set up a dark theme.

                The app can even show you the weather forecast for three days. There are many other features that deserve the attention of people who really like to use calendar applications.

                Download DigiCal Calendar here.

                8. SolCalendar

                  SolCalendar can be called a universal application. It claims to be an all-in-one digital solution having a basic calendar functionality combined with some other advanced features, such as weather forecast for a specific day.

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                  The application supports Google Calendar, as well as tasks, widgets, lunar calendar and even Foursquare.

                  Those searching for a calendar application to cover just everything in its functionality, SolCalendar is a program to consider. There are a lot of interesting things in this application; the program does an excellent job working in “all-in-one” mode.

                  Test SolCalendar – the application is available for free. You can test it out without purchasing the service.

                  Download SolCalendar here.

                  9. Today Calendar

                    Today Calendar is one of the most hip and edgy calendars in our list. The solution was one of the first ones that really embraced Material Design and remains one of the few that adhere to the neat style.

                    The calendar application offers bold colors, simple controls, and great functionality. This is not as heavy an application as many others; it will not eat all the memory of your device.

                    If you are not searching for something complicated and over-functional, Today Calendar is what you need. You can always test the application before paying for it – the program is available for free.

                    Download Today Calendar here.

                    Our Verdict

                    Searching for the right application to manage your various calendars and plan your busy day can sometimes turn into a streak of obstacles.

                    Most of us need flexible applications that can be easily used to manage our tough schedule. The application should have all necessary time planning functions and be intuitive.

                    Stylish design and limitless compatibility also matter. It is not always easy to find such a program.

                    The above digital calendar solutions fall under the category “worth” of being used. They are modern, multifunctional, easy, and easy. Pick the one you like!

                    More Productivity Apps for Better Time Management

                    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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