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Build a Career Plan that Drives for the Best Results in 5 Easy Steps

Build a Career Plan that Drives for the Best Results in 5 Easy Steps

The future of employment is right around the corner and about to rear its ugly head to an already floundering middle class. It’s real and it’s starting to happen right now. Here’s the inside scoop on what growing employers really want from their candidates and employees, and how to create a career plan that fits.

For job seekers, today’s new normal economy calls for a strategic, multifaceted approach. Whether you are a janitor, administrative assistant, general laborer, accountant, or sales representative, taking your career to the next level begins with you. Employers don’t want do-it-all generalists; they want top performers who specialize in one field and have systematically built in-demand skill sets that make them masters of their craft. And they’re no longer looking for bodies to fill a seat and perform a function. They want an innovative, forward-thinking person they can call their partner. By being proactive and taking the initiative to speak up for your professional future, you are giving potential employers exactly what they are looking for: accountability.

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Most job seekers I interview have the same goal in mind: to secure a position in a company culture that brings them joy, presents new challenges, and offers opportunities for career mobility and salary enhancement. But there’s one factor missing: they have no idea how to make a career plan that leads to happiness. Left feeling stuck in their crappy job situation, working professionals often turn to their inner circle of influence (family, friends, mentors, and colleagues). They tap everyone around them for career support and neglect the one person who holds all the cards: themselves.

1. Treat your career like a business and yourself as its owner

An overwhelming majority of the candidates who walk through my door believe that an invisible force is guiding their future—the economy, their current boss, the tooth fairy, whatever. But my team’s extensive research tells us that it’s just not that complicated. The most successful people (physically, mentally, and monetarily) are those who recognize that it’s up to them to decide their fate. These people also approach each new position as an opportunity to add to their skill set in a way their previous position couldn’t. And they’re constantly evolving professionally in order to establish a well-rounded background. If you drop the self-sabotaging mindset that you work for “the man,” and realize that the choices you make guide your professional development, it can be incredibly empowering.

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2. Identify an in-demand specialty that aligns with your skill set and background

Although they’re undoubtedly well-intentioned, your friends, relatives, and colleagues aren’t expert career advisors. Too many people choose occupational choices based on outdated and limited viewpoints. “It’s the family business and I sort of just fell into it,” or “I went to law school because my parents wanted me to” are common excuses I hear all the time. Not enough professionals take the time to explore their options and find out what type of work makes them happy. Or they’re hesitant to follow their dreams because they were taught to think traditionally. Step out of your inner circle and research in-demand jobs that align with your skills. Take advantage of career assessments, which never fail to provide some much-needed perspective.

3. Choose educational/training opportunities that support your career goals

Because traditional higher education is a big promoter of stereotypical high-paying jobs that have been around for ages—medicine, law, finance, engineering, teaching—many budding minds miss out on new positions in emerging technologies and marketing, for example. So many positions go unfilled due to a lack of awareness, which is a shame since job creation is soaring. For those of you already working, be sure to keep your skills sharp both inside and outside of work. Very few companies that offer optional training programs have a healthy number employees who actually take advantage of them.

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4. Build a marketable, online professional brand

It goes without saying that your professional brand plays a significant role in your current and future success. Employers aren’t relying solely on resumes and cover letters to fill their next role. They want to get to know their candidates on every level possible. At the very least, candidates must create, optimize, and maintain a LinkedIn profile. But, make no mistake, I don’t support the “build it and leave it” approach. Keep active by sharing growing trends in your field, contributing to group conversations, and connecting with thought leaders you admire. Not only does it demonstrate your expertise and show that you’re not letting your skills soften, it also shows you’re tech-savvy and ambitious—traits employers look for in a new recruit. Not to mention the fact that the professional exposure is in itself worth it.

5. Map out a blueprint for achieving short-term and long-term goals

If you don’t know what your ultimate dream job is, that’s ok. That doesn’t mean you can’t accept positions strategically. The key here is to amass a variety of experiences that build upon each other. Staying at one job in one capacity is no longer a sustainable career plan. If you’ve spent some quality time working for a large corporation, try a smaller company. No matter your career situation or experience level, it’s important to have a written professional plan you can commit to.

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Featured photo credit: Black coffee in a white cup on a table with a computer. via shutterstock.com

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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.

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Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

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