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If You Want To Shine At Work, Do These 5 Things

If You Want To Shine At Work, Do These 5 Things

Do you want to have a career you love?

The people who have the most successful, happiest careers are the ones who are truly superstars at what they do. They invest in things that matter and focus energy on becoming the best. So how can you be someone who doesn’t just show up and get the work done, but who shines and excels while doing it?

Standing out in the work environment is difficult, especially if you work on a big team or at a company where excellence is the norm. To help you become a career superstar, take a look through a list of our top five lessons to help you shine as a leader and make the most out of your career.

1. Write down your goals

Accomplishing your goals is similar to planning a trip: once you decide where you want to go, you have to plan how you’re going to get there, your time frame, and which steps you need to take along the way to reach your destination if you want to actually arrive there. Having goals is important for staying focused in the long run, since just showing up for the daily grind isn’t enough to help you take big career leaps.

Everyone shows up. You have to plan if you want to do more: you need to know what you want to accomplish and what steps you’ll need to get there. When goal setting, think in terms of three different time frames: what do you want to accomplish in the short-term (6 months – 1 year), the intermediate-term (3 – 5 years), and long-term (12 – 15 years).

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This can be extremely daunting, but short-term goals help build toward long-term goals. Do you want to own your own software company? Well, if you aren’t able to start that company today, figure out what is standing in your way and make a plan to knock down those hurdles before you start your business, or you risk letting the years go by and nothing happening.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Kay

Putting your plans on a concrete time frame will help you stay on track so you don’t put your big goals and dreams on the back burner when life, work and other responsibilities get in the way. Prioritize your goals to make them happen.

Schedule time each week to work specifically towards accomplishing your goal and set aside an additional 15 minutes each week to monitor your progress, investigate next steps, and correct the course.

2. Ask for feedback

As the saying goes, we are often hardest on ourselves. At work, superstars tend to push themselves to be better at everything (which is a good thing), but sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what you need to do to improve yourself and truly be amazing at your job. After all, you only have one perspective. That’s where asking for feedback comes in.

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When you invite feedback, you make it possible for yourself to truly become great. By getting outside opinions on your work, you are suddenly able to improve more quickly than if you are relying solely on your own evaluations. Other people have different perspectives, values and insights to share — by inviting as many of them as possible, you provide yourself a wealth of knowledge to make yourself even better.

If you’re just starting out asking for feedback, a great place to start is with your boss, since he or she has the closest understanding of what success in your role looks like. Not only will getting feedback from your boss help you do more of the work that matters more successfully, but increased communication and face-time is valuable for building trust and rapport that helps to make you stand out on your team.

When asking for feedback, there are important factors to keep in mind. Most importantly, don’t get defensive. Even if you disagree with the feedback, rather than arguing, ask for an example of the negative behavior and get more context so you can understand his or her perspective. (Even if you don’t end up using the feedback, this can be valuable for understanding what matters to this person so you can work better with him or her in the future.)

The next important factor to asking for feedback is to try what’s recommended. Feedback can’t help if you don’t do anything with it. You may later decide you don’t like the new method, but trying it shows you are open to critique and doing things a new way if it’s better.

3. Handle bad situations like a leader

Not every day at work is great, and as a leader, sometimes it’s your job to tell everyone when there’s bad news. Whether it’s a negative performance review or announcing a cancelled project, here are important tips for delivering bad news effectively.

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Deliver the news in person to show you care and so you can respond to the employee or team’s reaction in an appropriate and timely manner. If an employee isn’t performing, tell him or her immediately, rather than waiting until the only option left is firing the person. Give him or her the benefit of the doubt, listen to his or her concerns, and be open to emotion — remember you’ve had time to process your feelings, but this bad news is brand new to the other person.

Also, be straightforward and tell people exactly what is going wrong, so they know what they need to do to make changes and how success or failure will be measured.

Lastly, follow up – give your employee or team a reasonable amount of time to make the changes requested and then check in with them again to show you are aware of their progress. Ask questions, and make it clear you’re there to help. You want to always be an ally, even in a tough situation, since positive relationships are much harder to rebuild than a cancelled project or rough quarter.

4. Banish multitasking

Multitask is a misnomer – what we actually do is task-switch, and it’s no good. Humans can only do one cognitive task at a time, so “multitasking” is just about the worst mechanism for being efficient. Studies show task-switching can cost a person as much as 40% of productive time.

Instead of switching back and forth between projects, try following the OHIO principle: Only Handle It Once. This means if you start something, finish it before moving on to your next task. A great way to stick to the OHIO principle is to schedule blocks of time for you to check emails, respond to messages, check voice mails, or any other necessary tasks that pose distractions during the day. This way, instead of stopping everything to respond to an email every time you get a desktop notification (and incurring the extra time to find your place again in your work, try to remember what you were doing, etc.) you only check three times a day.

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If necessary, you can prevent distracting emails, texts, phone calls or websites that tempt you to task-switch. Turn off desktop notifications, put your phone on silent (and in a drawer, so it’s out of sight), and use applications that help you block distracting websites, like the SelfControl App for Mac users, or Cold Turkey if you run Windows.

5. Get to know your team

No matter how much you prefer to work alone, or how much of a genius you are, we all need other people to help us succeed. It’s not practical to do everything yourself, and it is simply true that opportunities come from other people — they don’t appear out of thin air. Authentic relationships are necessary for success, so instead of trying to build a relationship when you need something, start building those relationships now.

All it takes is an hour of your time: every week, take a peer or someone in your department out to coffee. Let them know it’s your treat and all you want to do is get together and chat. Ask them about their background, their goals, their career trajectory… become invested in who they are. When you get to know your work community, you will understand their personalities and work habits, and the better you’ll be able to work together.

On top of that, you’ll be investing in trust and good communication with the people who have the closest and biggest impact on your career success. The stronger your team relationships, the better the overall performance and the more successful you all become.

These five tips are simple, effective and help improve your career success trajectory, so there’s no time to waste – pick a tip to try out this week, get started, and watch yourself transform into a career superstar!

Featured photo credit: 136:365 – I’s Kaptain Cookiedough!!/Nomadic Lass via flickr.com

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5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

Not being able to stay productive at work is a problem that everyone runs into at some point; no matter how much you like your job, there are certain factors that prevent you from staying at maximum proficiency throughout the whole day.

A lack of productive focus at work can lead to extra stress on yourself, missed deadlines, passed opportunities, raise denial, demotion and even termination.

So, if you are someone who has trouble with your productivity, here are five effective tips on how to be productive at work:

1. Take breaks

First and foremost, it’s important for you to take regular breaks. Trying to work throughout the whole day will tire your brain, which will then cause you to doze off and think about something else.

If you keep working your brain, it will fill up and get jumbled with information—sort of like a computer hard drive. Taking a break would be like resetting your computer so that it can start afresh, or de-fragmenting the data so that all the information is in order.

This is a great thing because it allows you to solve problems you were unable to solve previously, by seeing it differently; if you are able to organize your thoughts properly, you will be able to take in new information more easily.

There have even been studies about methods of saving time and staying proficient, and taking breaks is one of the leading factors.

According to Christine Hohlbaum, the author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World, eating lunch away from your work area every day will greatly increase your productivity. Eating in your work area will give you the illusion that you are working, but whether you like it or not, your brain will begin to wander and think of something else and then you will be working tirelessly with no progress.

It’s important to take breaks before and during work too: if you come to work in a rush because you woke up late, your mind will not be mentally prepared for the day ahead, and you will spend the first 10 to 15 minutes trying to get organized and composed before you can actually start working.

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Instead, you should try to wake up 20 minutes earlier than the time it would take you to “just get” to work. Take that time to stare off into space and not worry about anything.

If you do this, your brain will be empty and ready for all the challenges it has coming for the next few hours.

If your employer only allows a set amount of breaks during the workday, that doesn’t mean you can’t just get up and walk around for a quick break every now and then.

Even if it’s only 5 minutes, it will refresh your brain and you will gain renewed energy to do your job.

Learn more about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

2. Pace yourself and balance your workload

One problem that most people run into is that they underestimate the amount of work they have to do, and end up doing 50% of the work in the last 20% of the time they have to do it. This is due to an issue of balancing one’s workload.

When you receive a project, or are doing a job you normally do, take some time to really plan out your work schedule.

Consider how much time it took you to do this last time; determine how you can break the project into smaller parts and which can only be accomplished on certain days, and whether anything might come up that could interfere with your plan.

All of these questions are important for starting on a project, and when answered, they will help you stay productive throughout each day.

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For example, if you needed to design a project to map out the amount of aid offered in various regions after Hurricane Sandy, you can break it up as follows:

You will need to know what organizations are offering help to begin with, how much aid those organizations gave or plan to give, which regions were hit by Sandy, and which regions suffered the greatest losses.

You start this project on a Thursday and know you have until Tuesday to gather this information.

In order to stay productive, you need to plan out your work week—now you know you can find out which organizations are involved in helping the Hurricane Sandy Victims any day since that information is online, but gathering information on the organizations may require you to call them.

Since phone calls can only be done during week days, you have to plan on gathering all of that information before the weekend comes.

That is just one example of a situation in which pre-planning your project will help you stay productive; had you researched the affected regions first, you would not have received the info on the organizations until the weekend, and may have missed your chance to call them.

That, in turn, would have wasted time you could have spent working on this project to finish it.

Knowing what you need to do, when you can do it, and how long it will take you, is important in balancing your workload and being more productive and efficient.

3. Put your work first

This is an issue that usually occurs with young people who are new to the workforce: they’re often tempted with offers to go out at midday, and then come back lost in thought and unfocused on their work-related tasks.

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While it is important to take breaks, your breaks should consist of you clearing your mind, not loading it up with other less important information—like sports.

However, that is not the only situation where you need to worry about putting your work first before all else.

In a work environment, the senior employees will oftentimes push some of their menial tasks onto the newer employees. If you fall into that category, you need to know that their work is not your work, so if you have tasks that need to be done, you need to do it first.

If you are a new employee, you must learn to say no to other people even when it means you may not be in their good graces anymore. You can help others out once your work is done, but you are paid to do your own work, not anyone else’s.

4. Don’t open your browser unless you need them

In this day and age, everyone is constantly monitoring their social network. This is a major pain point for companies, which is why many don’t allow employees to access their social networks on company workstations.

When you are at work, disconnect the internet from your phone and keep your browsers closed so you’re not tempted to log onto your social media accounts or browse any sites that are not work-related.

If you keep your browsers closed and phone tucked away, only to be used in an emergency, you will find yourself being a more productive employee right away. 

5. Try to be happy and optimistic

If you always have a negative outlook on life, you will be more distracted and less motivated to get work done, so it’s important for you to start your day off right.

This can be done by having a good breakfast or by taking time in the morning to watch one of your favorite TV shows before work.

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If you are happy, you will find yourself able to work much more productively as your mind won’t wander into worrying about something else.

Also, if you stay optimistic and keep telling yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to, the tasks will seem much less daunting and will go by much more quickly.

Take a look at more effective ways to stay positive at work:

15 Ways To Stay Positive At Work

Happiness and optimism are the keys to being a productive and happy employee.

All in all, heed the five tips above and you will find yourself being one of the most productive people at your company.

While you do not need to master them all, each and every one of them will help you become a better and more efficient employee.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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