By Michelle Moser
We often sit back and wait for an annual performance review to identify areas we need to improve. Position yourself to be accountable, improve your skillset, and continually learn by setting personal benchmarks and reviewing them regularly. Learning leads to a better quality of life, boosts confidence and personal development, and influences our lives in a positive way.
Here are 20 ways you can take control, improve your reputation and performance at work, and reach new skill levels and professional development.
1. Organize & Prioritize
Create a daily schedule and follow it. Identify the top three or four critical projects that need to be completed. Ensure your task list is manageable, adds value, and benefits your firm.
2. Stop Multitasking
Guilty as charged! In the past, I’ve been a master multitasker, or so I thought. I could answer a phone call, respond to an email, and dabble on a project simultaneously. I was satisfied that I could work on several projects at once. In reality, the quality of my work was compromised. Multitasking lowers IQ, lowers EQ (emotional intelligence), slows you down, increases stress levels, and causes mistakes. Master unitasking instead.
3. Avoid Distractions
Did you know that focus is a fundamental quality of productive people? Our brains are wired to work best when we focus on a single task. Practice staying focused and strive to complete one task before diving into another.
4. Manage Interruptions
It’s easy to minimize or forget how many times we’re interrupted during the day. Interruptions can come in all forms: co-workers, bosses, family, etc. Here’s a great trick to manage your interruptions. Keep a stack of post-it notes or index cards nearby. On top of each one, write down a person’s name who may interrupt you during the day. The next time they stop in and ask, “Do you have a minute?” say yes, and also talk about the things you’ve jotted down on your list for them. Imagine the time you would save if everyone interrupted you once a day to discuss the three or four things they thought of, rather than three or four times a day for one item.
5. Be a Great Finisher
Many of us are great starters but we fall short on finishing. Think about how many times you’ve started something new: a project, a New Year’s resolution, or a letter and end up adding it back on your to-do list. Keep a journal of completed projects and reflect on it to demonstrate your contributions and accomplishments.
6. Set Milestones
The road to completing a big project may seem overwhelming. Don’t let that stop you from taking time to celebrate interim achievement. Break large projects into blocks of mini-tasks and set individual success metrics to keep your morale and energy levels high. Record your progress, reward yourself, and share your progression with the team.
7. Wear the Bosses Shoes
Put yourself in your boss’s shoes. Think about the big picture and look at goals from his/her perspective. One of the most effective strategies is to empathize and discover what his/her aspirations are. Ask questions, “What are you looking for in an employee?” or “What skills and qualities does it take to be successful in my position?”
8. Get a Mentor/Be a Mentor
Enhance your skills with a mentor. A mentor can offer new insight, perspective, and vision. Working with a mentor will stretch your thinking and supply you with a stream of self-development ideas related to your unique skills and talent. Don’t forget that you can gain experience by mentoring someone else and facilitate your own professional growth which will position you as an asset to your firm.
9. Simply Listen
Listening is vital to effective communication. Spend time thinking about how you listen. Do you interrupt others? Mature listening skills lead to increased productivity with fewer mistakes, innovative growth, and higher client satisfaction rates.
10. Aim for Clarity
Clarity provides confidence. Ask questions if you are not 100 percent sure of your responsibilities. Schedule time quarterly to re-evaluate firm goals, how your responsibilities fulfill those goals, and how you can better partner with team members to reach each goal.
Take time to research. Don’t waste other’s time; do your homework before taking on a new task. You’ll be better prepared to present strategies to reach each objective.
12. Write a Letter to Your Future Self
Where do you see yourself in 1 year, 3 years, or even 5 years? What will be the same? What will be different? Write a letter to yourself and work hard to become that person.
13. Identify Your Blind Spots
Blind spots are areas we are unaware of about ourselves and may cause good intentions to be perceived in a negative way. Blind spots can hold you back and prevent professional development. To identify blind spots you must be willing to look at yourself honestly, ask others for feedback, and be willing to make changes. Reach out to your peers and ask how you are perceived; you may discover behaviors that hinder your influence as well as strengths you’re not aware of. View feedback as an asset rather than a judgment; which will allow you to make adjustments to align your reputation with your ideal self.
14. Simplify Something
Often, we do things because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” even if it’s complicated or messy. Find something each week to simplify or automate: a difficult system or process, a messy office, daily tasks, or email. Your efficiency will increase by keeping things simple.
15. Ask Questions
Constantly challenge yourself by asking, “Is there a more effective way to achieve the same results?” Brainstorm to determine if you are working as efficiently as possible. Always believe that things can be improved.
16. Know Your Competition
Know and observe your competition. Identify what they’re doing right and use it as a learning opportunity to implement something new at your firm.
17. Acknowledge Others
Help others excel, express gratitude, and give credit where credit is due. You’ll be surprised how much encouragement and motivation a simple, “Great job!” provides. Your team is bound to grow and rise together.
Read at least one personal development or industry-related article each day. Start a journal to record your notes, identify what you learned, and determine how you can apply your findings personally or in the workplace. Share your information with others to establish expertise.
19. Give Yourself Down Time
Vacation time is critical to professional development. Without it, stress and burn out levels increase and productivity declines. Schedule time away from the office to expand your horizons, re-energize, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
20. Practice Humility
Avoid self-promotion and practice humility. Encourage team members and hold a high level of respect for their unique skillset and contributions to success.
Passion is one of the most important drivers of success. If you don’t love what you do, it’s difficult to put your best effort forward and perform to the best of your ability. Ensure your values are reflected and respected in your personal and professional life so that you see the true meaning in all that you do.