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10 Workplace Lessons I Wish I’d Learned When I Was Just Starting Work

10 Workplace Lessons I Wish I’d Learned When I Was Just Starting Work

When you are starting working life, you have to be very careful to avoid making mistakes that could damage your career. Some experts say that the first three months are crucial because that is enough time to make or break you.

Here are the top ten new-to-the-workplace mistakes to avoid like the plague so you can get off to a great start. I know, I learned the hard way.

1. You think you know it all

Of course, you were the best candidate, but that does not mean that you are going to get the employee of the year award. Even if you know quite a few of the things that co-workers or managers are telling you, resist the urge to say ‘I know’ with impatience or rolling your eyes or other revealing body language.

2. You ignore the company culture and dress code

Look around you and see how people are dressed and conform to the pattern. You might look out for whether employees are showing off their latest tattoos or piercing, for example. Cover up if they are not!

3. You do not want to socialize

This is a huge mistake because one of the most effective ways of getting noticed in a new job is to use all the networking skills you have got. These are a great investment. That means chatting at the water cooler, accepting happy hours after work or simply inviting a colleague for coffee. Remembering people’s names and their roles is a great way to start. Also, look out for the people who are more influential in your section. Nobody is going to back a loner.

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4. You get involved in office politics

If you get involved immediately and are seen in certain cliques, this is not going to do you any good at all. Staying out of the gossip and political circles is a vital strategy in the first few months. Cultivate the art of sympathetic listening, without getting involved or committed. You can always rightly claim that you are still getting to know who’s who.

5. You are unaware of your body language

Time to educate yourself on the messages that you are sending. For example, when you stand with your arms folded as you listen to a co-worker explaining a new procedure, you are sending a closure signal. Maintaining eye contact is also important and avoid slouching when someone approaches you to tell you something.

The right body language goes hand in hand with what you are saying. It also helps in bonding, which is so important when you are starting out. Being aware of your voice pitch and its volume can also be a great help.

“We’re losing social skills, the human interaction skills, how to read a person’s mood, to read their body language, how to be patient until the moment is right to make or press a point. Too much exclusive use of electronic information dehumanises what is a very, very important part of community and living together.” – Vincent Nichols

6. You are unaware of the importance of emotional intelligence

If you think emotional intelligence (EQ) is just a new fad, think again! I never thought it was something to bother about because I am fairly empathic anyway. Observing colleagues was an eye opener and I could quickly see that those with high EQ were getting promotions faster.

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I remember a fellow worker who always said ‘yes.’ He went on to become a senior manager in no time at all, and yet he was not very well qualified. It was his emotional intelligence that really helped him to rocket to the top.

Basically, controlling your emotions and being acutely aware of their effect on your colleagues is key. Learning how to gauge and empathize with colleagues, clients, managers and stakeholders is extremely important.

No surprise to learn that psychologists estimate that IQ can account for a maximum of 25% in career success. The rest of the whopping 75% is mostly occupied by social skills and emotional intelligence.

“What matters is hard work, and emotional intelligence.” – Millard Drexler

7. You do not ask for feedback

If you think that your boss is going to notice what you are doing straightaway, don’t be so sure! He or she might not. Keep them in the loop by asking for a quick meeting so that you are both on the same page.

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It is a great chance to spell out what you are doing, what you have learned and any obstacles you are encountering. Telling your boss that you are able to stick to the deadline is also going to make a great impression.

“An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager.” – Bob Nelson

8. You think that taking notes is not trendy

If you have an impeccable memory, this is fine. If not, then join 95% of the working population. In a new job, if you do not take notes, you may well find that you have to ask colleagues to explain, clarify and remind you again. This is a great way to watch your popularity sink.

9. You forget to check what the media policy is

If you assume that it is legit to update your Facebook status at a slack time, you might be in for a shock. The same goes for texting, using laptops and iPhones in meetings and in the workplace generally. Just check out what people are doing, and then act accordingly once you realize how strict or lenient they are on media.

10. You are not a good listener

Being an active listener and not switching off is a great asset. Learning the art of listening is another investment that will stand you in good stead.

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Spending as much time in preparing to listen as you do when you speak is a great rule to follow. Showing that you are listening by using the right body language and offering feedback are other great skills you can acquire.

Once you are aware of these mistakes and how to avoid them, you will become successful in the corporate world. It’s not rocket science!

Featured photo credit: Amazon.com Welcome New Hires/ Will Merydith via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

But what does being productive actually entail?

Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

1. Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

2. Turn off Notifications

According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

3. Manage Interruptions

There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

4. Eat the Frog

Mark Twain once famously said that:

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“if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

5. Cut Down on Meetings

Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

6. Utilize Tools

Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

Some examples of tools that could be used:

Communication
  • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
  • Samepage for video conference software.
  • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
Task Management
  • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
  • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
  • Wekan for an open source option.
Database Management
Time Tracking
  • Clockify for a free tracker.
  • TMetric for workspace integrations.
  • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

7. Declutter and Organize

Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

8. Take Breaks

Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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9. Drink Water

Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

The Bottom Line

The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

More About Boosting Productivity

Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

Reference

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