It’s one thing to be good at what you do. It’s another thing to be good at work — to be skilled with the actual act of doing your job.
Whether it’s learning how to manage your time, fighting against dips in productivity, or striving to achieve a better work-life balance, learning to be your best at work is an ongoing process.
These six tips will give you a good place to start!
1) Get a good night’s sleep
We don’t expect a car to run on an empty tank of gas.
So why do we expect ourselves to function at full capacity on limited sleep?
We’ve heard time and again that adults need about 7-9 hours of sleep to be truly well-rested — and there are countless studies out there to back that up.
Lack of sleep can affect your memory, concentration, and mood — as well as many other health factors — and no matter what line of work you’re in, these three skills play big roles in our professional performances.
So, if you want to put your best foot forward at work, start with getting a good night’s sleep.
2) Create your own morning routine
Life is full of choices.
Case in point: the decision we must make everyday between setting our alarm early so that we can spend our mornings however we’d like, or sleeping until the last possible second before work.
At the end of the day, only you can decide what type of morning best prepares you for a productive day of work. If those last couple of minutes of sleep are crucial to you getting your 8 hours then snooze away.
However, ideally, you can cultivate a morning routine that allows you to sidestep that great enabler of stress: rushing.
A good pre-work routine is one that allows you to get ready for the day without feeling like you’re about to get whiplash from doing ten things at once.
A great pre-work routine is one that you’re actually able to enjoy. If you can do something for yourself in the mornings, you’re much more likely to arrive at work feeling motivated and productive.
For instance, before she would sit down to write, and before she would do her daily duties like preparing breakfast for the household, Jane Austen would wake up extra early to play the piano. It was her way of getting into a creative mindset. And it clearly worked, as Austen went on to build herself an illustrious publishing career.
3) Be on time
Many companies have recognized the positive effects of allowing their employees to maintain a certain level of flexibility with their hours.
That said, there are still many types of work that rely on people arriving at a very precise time. And beyond just the act of “clocking in” on time, you should also ensure you are on time for scheduled meetings held within your working day.
For example, arriving at a meeting two minutes late may not seem like a big deal. But if you’re attending a meeting with ten other people, you’re effectively wasting 20 minutes of time. If you’re two minutes late for a twenty-person meeting, that’s 40 minutes that has just gone out the door. But this applies even if you’re having a one-on-one call with someone — people go to great lengths to time manage their day, so out of respect, it’s best practices to ensure you’re on the nose when it comes to meeting times.
4) Be a good listener
Have you ever sent someone a carefully written and detailed email, only to have them reply with a question that clearly proves they did not fully read your message? Perhaps you responded with a polite “As per my last email…”, followed by a recap of the information you’d already taken the time to give.
A popular professional tip is to speak up and have a voice at work, and this is absolutely true!
But it’s equally as important to be a good listener.
There is nothing more frustrating than talking to someone whose mind is clearly elsewhere — an occurrence that unfortunately isn’t uncommon. When you’re juggling several projects at once and minding hundreds of notifications, it’s no wonder why it’s a challenge to give 100% of your concentration to the person speaking to you.
But as Leah McLeod writes in an article for the Daily Muse, “Listening is one of the top skills employers seek in potential and current employees, and it’s correlated with perceived ability to lead (read: better chance at promotions).”
So follow the golden rule, and listen to others as you’d like to be listened to!
5) Learn how to “switch off”
We’ve all heard people say, “I need a vacation after my vacation.” And that’s because many of us use our time off to go explore, adventure and do all of the things we dream about doing during working hours.
Think about it: if you sleep for an average of 7 hours per night, that means you’re typically awake for 17 hours. And if you work for 8 of those, that means you’re spending 47% of your day working.
Factor in your non-work responsibilities, and that doesn’t leave much time for you to go through your bucket list.
So it’s no wonder people often feel pressured to pack their holidays with as much stuff as possible — tiring themselves out by the time vacation’s over and it’s back to work.
So, what’s the answer?
Well, many wise workplaces have realized the power of giving their employees “wellbeing days” — a chance to step back from work and recharge every now and again.
If that’s not the case where you work, you need to ensure that you take the time to “switch off” when you leave work. That means turning off work email notifications, not staying up in bed to work on projects, and the like.
As with the sleep problem that we discussed earlier, it’s important to create practices that allow you to leave the stress of your workday behind, so that you can recharge your batteries and come back in feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
6) Do your reading
In school, we learn about math, science, geography, history, etc. — and many of us go on to put that information to use in our careers.
What we don’t necessarily learn are things like time management, how to prepare for an interview, tips for self-motivation, etc.
These more abstract parts of “being our best at work” are typically gained through trial and error — or, through self-education.
There are tons of books out there dedicated to helping you put your best foot forward at work.
Both the traditional and the self-publishing worlds are full of credible, wisdom-packed titles to fit all niches of professional development — such as Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness, The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success, or Now What?: 90 Days to a New Life Direction.
Work is a universal thing — we all do it. So turn to the life experiences of others through books, and build yourself a little library of professional encouragement.