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As our ever-changing technological society continues to expand, keeping your knowledge and skills stagnant is a surefire way to put an end to your professional growth.
Regardless of where you stand in your career, there’s always potential to improve your work performance. Exploring ways to enhance your skill set or learn something new will not only help you do a better job at work, but it can also open up possible opportunities for professional development.
Alternatively, if you don’t take the time to regularly identify areas for potential improvement in your work performance, you may find a decline in the quality of your work, increased miscommunications, and halted professional development.
So, Whether you’re just getting started with your first job, you’re looking to get ahead, or you’re considering switching careers, working to continuously improve your professional self should be an inspiring and positive standard practice in your life.
In this article, we are going to look at 17 simple strategies you can start implementing now to improve your work performance.
Let’s get started.
What You Will Learn
- 17 Simple Ways to Improve Your Work Performance
- 1. Limit Distractions
- 2. Learn Time Management
- 3. Learn to Say “No”
- 4. Set the Right Expectations
- 5. Break Down Your Large Projects
- 6. Reward Yourself
- 7. Prioritize, Don’t Multitask
- 8. Know Your Strengths
- 9. Know Your Weaknesses
- 10. Group Like Tasks
- 11. Don’t Leave Tasks Unfinished
- 12. Talk to People Who Are More Successful Than You
- 13. Read Every Day
- 14. Take Breaks
- 15. Plan Ahead
- 16. Effectively Allocate Your Time
- 17. Communicate Effectively
- Final Thoughts on Simple Ways to Improve Your Work Performance
Some distractions at work are likely unavoidable. Interruptions come in all forms and sizes–but regardless of how many distractions you potentially face at work, each can negatively impact your performance.
One universal tip to consider when you’re trying to stay focused at work is to silence your phone and email. With notifications constantly alerting you to check your phone, it’s easy to get sidetracked and temporarily postpone whatever you’re working on.
While this may not be an issue in isolated instances, it can become a primary factor for a reduced rate of performance if it happens frequently enough that it causes additional stress.
And, depending upon your office environment, you may need to also silence online inter-office chats and find a way to drown out any background chatter. Keep your eye on the task at hand until it has been successfully completed.
Studies show that it takes most people about 30 minutes to get back on track after being distracted. So if you get distracted just three times throughout the course of a day, it could cost you an hour and a half of focused work, which can impact your productivity and the quality of your work.
Resource: Here are 11 Ways to Stay Focused on Your Goals and Avoid Distractions, and this article will help teach you How to Not Get Distracted at Work.
Time management is the process of planning and controlling the time that you spend on activities, especially when you’re trying to increase productivity.
Part of this means learning how to avoid dangerous interruptions at work that can lead to a loss of focus, wasted time, and a disruption in your workflow, but this also involves having a system in place to avoid procrastination and work efficiently.
When someone asks you to do something that you don’t want to do, you have three options:
If you want to improve your performance at work, you need to learn how to say no to others when they’re leaning on you to make their job easier. Of course, you want to be a team player, but you can (and must) learn how to decline anything (or anyone) who is trying to take time from you that you don’t have to spare.
While you may feel like you’re letting the other person down when declining their request, if you learn how to say no, you can reclaim your sense of power. One thing you could say to be polite is, “I'm sorry I can't help you at this time, but I’ll be sure to let you know if that changes.” This helps you take charge by telling the person you'll lend a hand if you have time to spare in the near future.
Something else you could say is, “I appreciate the fact that you’re asking for my input, but I have too much going on right now to devote enough quality time to help you.”
Setting the right expectations from the beginning of any project or undertaking will ensure there are no surprises or disappointments when you’re finished.
When you set expectations both for yourself and your team, it provides you with a way to hold yourself accountable for your work. With clearly defined expectations, you will feel more empowered in your position to create your own road map for your success.
Resource: To learn more about the difference between goals and expectations, check out this article.
The best way to ensure you’re performing at a high level when working on a big project is to break down your tasks into small, achievable milestones with appropriate deadlines.
When you break down your large projects, you will be left with a schedule to follow and an order in which to complete each step.
Breaking down your goals will help make sure that you're consistently taking the necessary steps forward to achieve the life that you want. It’s best to have a mixture of short term, intermediate, and long-term goals. Each type of goal has its own benefits that can help launch you forward to the final results you’re seeking.
In order to achieve a great outcome, make sure you allow enough time to reach each milestone. Create action steps along the way to make sure you stay on track.
While improving your work performance will likely result in rewards from your employer, you can also keep yourself motivated by rewarding yourself along the way. Give yourself small rewards as you make progress or accomplish milestones. Doing so will help you feel good along the way and keep you feeling driven to keep working hard.
When you reward yourself, your brain releases dopamine, which makes you feel good. These positive feelings result in increased motivation and a drive to succeed. And, because completing the task made you feel good, it will help you look forward to doing it again in the future.
To ensure that your reward system helps improve your work performance, you have to choose an appropriately-sized reward. This means give yourself small rewards for small milestones, and bigger rewards for achieving larger goals.
For example, you don’t want to reward yourself for working for 25 minutes straight by watching a 2-hour movie. Choose an appropriate level reward to match your level of work or progress.
Resource: Here are 155 ideas for how you can reward yourself after achieving a milestone.
Multitasking is one of those professional skills that people think is in-demand, but attempting this can actually be detrimental to your success. Depending upon what your work environment is, you may need to handle client calls or unexpected emergency situations on top of doing your actual job.
And while you may think trying to get all of this done at once will help you save time or be more efficient, you’re actually negatively impacting your amount of output and the quality of your work by attempting to do more than one thing at a time.
In fact, studies have shown that multitasking can reduce one’s productivity by 40%. So instead of trying to multitask and the quality of your work being risked as a result, prioritize your tasks and work on them individually. Keeping your focus on one thing at a time will result in fewer mistakes.
If you have too much on your plate, decline any tasks assigned to you that could distract you from your primary job and be open and honest with your boss about how the results of your work could likely suffer if you’re trying to do too many things at once.
Do some self-reflection to determine what strengths you have that can make your performance at work shine and where you may have some room for improvement. It can be helpful to ask a trusted colleague or even your boss for their opinion so you can make an honest assessment.
Whether it’s your creativity that helps you stand out or your knack for negotiating contracts with clients, keep a record of your findings and look for ways that you can use your strengths to your benefit.
Document your successes moving forward, so you can keep adding to your list of strengths, and know your strengths so you can advocate for yourself when the need arises.
Your weaknesses will not ruin you. These are simply the areas of your life in which you have room for improvement—something you can develop and build. However, if you don’t address them, your weaknesses can hold you back from achieving your full potential.
Knowing your weaknesses will give you a clearer understanding of how to prevent these shortcomings from keeping you behind in your profession.
For example, let’s say you’re creating a prototype for a new kind of robot and you know you’re great at generating ideas about how to reach your end goal; however, you know you’re not very artistic.
This could mean that you could take the lead on coming up with the product that will result in the desired expectations, but it would be best to have another group member design the prototype.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t work on or give up on your weaknesses. In fact, working to improve your weaknesses is an important component of achieving self-growth. Even if you can just slightly improve upon a weakness, it can make a big difference in your work performance.
But learning to work around your weaknesses may be a more effective method for preventing your weaknesses from holding you back. Generally, it’s more beneficial to work on your strengths because you’re already good at doing these things.
Focusing on your strengths will allow you to seek opportunities rather than fix problems and focus your energy on what you’re naturally good at doing instead of fixating on your struggles.
Resource: Perform a SWOT analysis of your life to determine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Working smarter and not harder is a key thing to keep in mind when you want to improve your work performance. We all have the same amount of time to complete everything we need to do each day, so it’s up to you to organize your tasks in an efficient way that doesn’t leave a lot of time wasted.
One thing you can do to work smarter is to group together similar tasks. So, instead of checking each email as it pops up, set aside certain times during the day to address all of your emails.
This will help prevent you from losing valuable time as you switch between tasks. You can gain momentum when you group similar tasks together, which could ultimately speed up your work.
Grouping similar tasks together will help increase your productivity, reduce your need to continuously switch gears, and finish each task you’re working on completely before moving onto the next. Which leads me to not leaving tasks unfinished…
Resource: How to batch your tasks together to be more productive with your time.
It’s easy to start a task and then walk away from it, especially if you have a lot going on at once. There are several reasons this could happen–maybe you get distracted, you’re overloaded, or you think your work isn’t valuable enough to finish.
But when you leave things unfinished, you’re leaving behind incomplete cycles of work, which can actually lead to anxiety or an emotional burden as the task hangs over your head–whether you realize it or not.
When you have several lingering unfinished tasks, it means there is a disconnect between your goals and your actions. So while you may have every intention of completing something, that doesn’t mean it will necessarily translate into taking the steps you need to get it done.
Leaving tasks unfinished can result in consequences that can negatively impact your work performance, such as:
Resource: To boost your productivity, check out the Pomodoro Technique, which will teach you to concentrate on a task in 25-minute increments, while also giving you limited moments of rest to help you recover your mental energy and keep moving forward.
Schedule some get-togethers with professionals who are in the positions in which you strive to be and get some tips on how they got to where they are now. These are the people who already possess the knowledge that you need in order to be successful at what you love doing.
Most of the time, someone who is successful in your field has faced the challenges that you’re facing right now and has come out stronger on the other side. Whether you’re suffering from a lack of results, setbacks, or fatigue, talking to someone who has been in your shoes can be helpful.
Being inspired by other people can be motivating when it comes to improving your work performance, which is likely why you look up to your role models in the first place. And connecting with them only enhances your level of inspiration, which is definitely an important factor when it comes to doing your best work.
When talking to those who are ahead of you in your career, you will get the chance to understand more about the different attitudes and qualities that successful people have. This is a valuable opportunity to learn what habits you should adopt to become as successful as the person you admire.
Because change and innovation are ubiquitous, reading and keeping up with new inventions, tools, and trends that are affecting your industry is paramount to your success. You need to keep up with the times in order to keep up with the competition who are also out there trying to improve their own work performance.
To improve your industry-related skills, read at least one relevant article each day. And to sharpen your universal, soft skills, read at least one book a month on topics such as leadership, interpersonal, and teamwork skills.
Resource: Here is an article on some soft skills that are critical for success and here are 135 soft skills that will help your resume stand out. For some tips on reading, check out this article on how to read faster and this article on how to retain what you read.
Admitting to needing a break doesn’t show weakness, it simply means you have self-awareness of your limitations and you’re smart enough to respect them. People are more stressed and are experiencing more burnout than ever before.
Your performance will not improve if you push yourself past your limit. Not only will your productivity suffer, you will also experience stress from performing at a sub-par level.
Taking appropriate breaks is just as important to improving your work performance as any other strategy. Shut down your computer, take a weekend trip, get a change of scenery, and be sure to always keep a healthy work-life balance.
Organizing your time, planning your day, and prioritizing your tasks are all a crucial part of your daily routine if you want to do your best work. These workplace habits will help you get things completed on time and improve your work performance.
Before you begin your day, make a habit of reviewing the list of tasks or commitments that you have on the books for the day. Once you have an idea of what you need to accomplish, complete the most urgent tasks first to get them out of the way. Focus on the things that need your immediate attention.
You will need to be flexible throughout the day because of unexpected things that will undoubtedly arise, but try your best to do your tasks in an order that makes sense with your typical schedule of energy.
For example, if you usually hit a 3:00pm slump, don’t schedule a project that requires a lot of thought or focus for that time. If you’re a morning person, do your most challenging or complex tasks first thing in the morning.
One thing that takes up a lot of time in many professions is meetings. While they’re an inevitable part of the professional world, they’re often ineffective and take up valuable time and attention that could better be spent on things that are more influential to your bottom line.
To improve your work performance, try to make your communication and interactions with other people as efficient as possible. Send direct and undiluted messages to colleagues, and when it’s necessary to come together as a group, make sure to have a defined agenda and a schedule for your meeting so you don’t waste time.
Make sure you’re prepared for your meetings by planning your objectives ahead of time and communicating them to the attendees. And when you’re in a meeting, remember that every opinion matters and has the potential to help take your work performance to a higher level.
Resource: Here are 11 time management activities that will help you effectively allocate your working hours.
It’s imperative to communicate effectively with your colleagues, especially as many jobs have turned virtual and the number of possible methods of communication continues to grow.
You may already be confident in your communication skills, but seeing as you probably work with or interact with new people on a regular basis, you may come across someone with whom you struggle to effectively communicate because of their communication style.
Being intentional about how you communicate with colleagues will ensure your work performance is on track with everyone’s common goal. But communication is certainly a two-way street.
If you can effectively communicate, it will help you be certain about your work, be open to learning new ways to achieve better results, and improve your overall work performance.
Resource: This article will help you understand different communication styles and give you tips on how you can improve this skill, and this article teaches 12 critical business communication skills to build.
In this article, we have reviewed some simple things you can do to improve your work performance. Continuously identifying opportunities for improvement in your professional life will help open new doors in the future.
Don’t settle for “good enough” when you hold so much potential to excel at work. For some examples of professional goals you could set for yourself that will keep you striving to be better, check out these examples of leadership SMART goals.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.