GET AHEAD, FAST
Doing well in your career is hard work but forming the right habits in your job can almost guarantee that you’ll move up.
What you can do to become more efficient and effective at work.
We all have our own methods for getting tasks done at work. But the most successful women tend to have similar habits – so says Laura Vanderkam, author of a new mini e-book, What the Most Successful People Do at Work.
• Mind Your Hours
Know how long your work activities take, so you can figure out exactly how much you can complete during office hours. Laura recommends keeping a time log for a full week – even the weekend.
The next step: Plan out your hours, so you can strategise about how best to spend your time at work, and not end up only tackling urgent matters all day. As Laura writes: “People lament that they’d love to have strategic - thinking time, but they’re just too busy!” She recommends a planning session at least once a week.
• Make Success Possible
Set doable tasks for yourself – and be accountable for them. First, break down big projects into small steps, and limit yourself to tackling three to six steps a day. Then get to them. Laura has an accountability partner, someone she has weekly check-ins with, to ensure she’s on track. You can also take a more public approach, such as making a promise on Stickk, a website on which people set goals and promise to do something dreaded – such as donating to an organisation they loathe – if they fail.
• Know What Work Is
Many of us spend inordinate amounts of time answering e-mail. In her book, Laura mentions a report which found that “knowledge workers spend 28 per cent of their time wading through their inboxes”. But checking e-mail is not the same as “work” – which Laura defines as the core of what you’re trying to accomplish.
She suggests weaning yourself off by being on e-mail for 20 minutes, then using the next 40 minutes to focus on a task without interruption. Gradually expand the times between e-mail check-ins.
Laura points out that while professional musicians or athletes spend time practising their craft or sport, many people with other jobs don’t. “Yet, if you think about it, your job is a performance of sorts, too,” she writes. That means you can also consciously practise your job skills to improve them.
After you complete a task, ask your supervisor how you can do better next time. Or, have a friend in the same profession look over your work before you send it to your boss, or watch you practise giving a presentation.
• Pay In
Successful people tend to pay in to their career capital account regularly. Laura says: “This is the sum total of your experiences, knowledge, skills and relationships.” There are three main ways to create career capital: • Improve your skills and adopt new ones important to your work. Take professional development classes, or have a mentor help you figure out what you’ll need to learn to succeed five, 10 or 20 years from now.
• Develop a portfolio of your work.
And get it out there. Doing work
that has any kind of visible, tangible outcome will have a positive effect on your career. • Build up a network of people
loyal to you. You can do this by introducing your colleagues to others who could be helpful to them, providing references for people, and standing by associates when they’re down. “Anyone can have lunch with someone who is successful,” says Laura. “Real career capital comes from having lunch with someone who just lost the job she loves.”
• Pursue Pleasure
Laura found that the successful find joy in their work. Many jobs have elements we like less than others, but she recommends tweaking our time to spend more hours doing the things we love and fewer hours doing the things we don’t.
She also found that joy comes from feeling a sense of progress in our work – which is even more effective than encouragement from a boss. So, focus on the parts of your job that give you the greatest sense of accomplishment – this will further fuel your desire to work.