We all want to be great at our jobs. We all want to keep our jobs. We all want to get paid more, and some of us even want to get promoted. To achieve all of this, we have to improve our work performance. I’ve put together a list of ten tips on how to improve work performance, which I believe should help you in reaching any of your work goals you have set!
Improve Work Performance: Focus And Concentration
To be a great IT professional, to be great at your job, you need to be focused during your work day. You need to be able to concentrate on the task at hand to be able to get it done effectively and efficiently.
It’s all well and good to say you need to focus, but how can this be done? I’ve written a post on how you can manage your energy in the workplace which contains some ideas, but a few ways to increase your focus and concentration are:
- Eliminate distractions from your work. Don’t be tempted to check your Facebook or Twitter accounts when you should be doing work. Put your phone on silent or vibrate if you can.
- Get enough rest each night. I’ll go into more detail on this further in the post.
- Take small, regular breaks from your work. Rather than getting up once a day to have your lunch, take breaks regularly to stretch your legs and give your mind a rest. You’ll find that you return to work a little more focused and relaxed.
Set Goals For Yourself and Your Career
If you’re not sure where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? Creating some goals for yourself and your career is a great way to improve work performance. Have a think about what you want to achieve for your career, both in the short and long term. I’ve written a post on this topic which you can read for more information.
You can also set goals for the immediate short term, such as each day or each week. If there’s a certain task that you’d like to get done by the end of the day, or the end of the week, make it a goal and work out how you can achieve that goal and what you need to do. This could involve getting a decision made by someone else, completing a document, finalising some code, or anything else you need to get done.
Improve Your Organisation
Arguably the best thing I’ve done to improve work performance since starting my career in IT is improve the way I’ve organised my work and my life. It’s given me a clearer focus on my job and provides less distractions to my work. Organisation can be broken down further into a few different areas:
- Organising your tasks and commitments at work
- Organising your desk and physical work area
- Organising your computer – folder structures, desktop icons, documentation, etc
- Organising your life outside of work
I’ll go into more detail on these in a further post, as there’s a lot to say on this topic. A great idea is to do something to become a little more organised in each of these areas above, which will hopefully make you perform your role better and improve your work performance:
- Write everything down that you need to do. This will make sure that you don’t forget it and have it all in the one location
- Clean your desk. Only store what you need on your desk and put everything else away.
- Come up with a folder structure that works for you and stick to it. Clean up your desktop icons and any other areas of your computer that you use frequently.
- Try to stay organised with your life outside of work by getting things done.
Improve Your Time Management
You may not realise it, but a lot of time at work is usually wasted on doing things that don’t help you get your work done. Time management is the ability to manage your time and to improve how you spend it.
The first step of this is to identify how you spend your time. Have a look at your calendar – this is a good place to start. Have a look for any meetings you go to, and if you really need to go to them. Perhaps start logging how you spend your day – what tasks you perform, and how long they take. Once you can identify where your time is going, you can manage it easier and make cuts or time savings where appropriate, which is a great way to improve your work performance.
Most of us, at one time or another, have felt this feeling. It’s the feeling of having more to do that time to do it in. This is a common expectation that work will still get done, and you are expected to handle it.
But, how do you solve it? If, for example, you have 10 hours of work to do today and only 8 hours to do it in, how do you get it done? Excluding overtime for this simple example, the way to overcome this problem is to prioritise your work.
For each task you need to do, work out its priority. This could be self-determined (as in, you have the ability to give it a priority), or it could be determined by your team leader or another team. At the end of the process, you should have an indication on the importance of each task.
Now, focus on the high priority tasks first. By definition, these are the ones that need to get completed first and are the most important. Once you complete these, or get them sufficiently progressed, you can move on to the next one. Depending on your role and the particular tasks, it’s more likely that the low priority tasks are OK not to be done, than a random selection of tasks that were not prioritised.
Keep A Healthy Work and Life Balance
While it may initially make sense to spend more time at work to get more done, this can have long term effects on your ability to do your job. You might be tempted to always work 10 hours a day or more, or to take your work home with you so you can work on the weekends.
Personally, this isn’t something I do very often at all. I believe that you should put in a highly productive day at work, and once you leave, your work stays there. Sure, this day may be longer than normal – you may start at 8 or 8:30 and finish at 6 – but once you finish, you have finished. Work stays at work, and once you get home at night you don’t do any more work. Your weekends are free to do non-work related activities – seeing friends and family, housework, shopping, anything you like.
This is called a work/life balance – you should be balancing your work activities and your other life activities. If you let your work overtake your life, you’ll end up feeling tired, stressed, and possibly burnt out – which in the long term is more of a disadvantage than something to improve to your work performance!
Of course, exceptions always apply, if there’s a deadline to meet for a project or if overtime is required. However, most companies appreciate the value of work/life balance and may be open to time off as compensation.
Get A Full Sleep and Keep A Healthy Diet
I’ve been told by many people for many years that a good sleep and a healthy diet is very important to work and life in general. Personally, I don’t have the best diet going around, but I don’t have the worst either. I try to get a normal amount of sleep each night.
However, I certainly notice the improvement in my mental and physical state when I eat healthy and get a good night’s sleep. I feel a lot better the next day, I have more energy and I’m less tired.
I’m no health expert, so I don’t know a lot of the details on healthy eating, but a well-balanced diet is a good way of improving your mental and physical state, which will improve your focus at work and improve your work performance. Also, most people recommend about 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night – so if you regularly have that amount of sleep you should feel the benefits. If you get less sleep, or eat a lot of unhealthy takeaway food, you’re not performing at your best!
Communication Is Essential
In each job that I’ve worked – both IT and non-IT – I’ve realised that communication is one of the most important aspects of the job. Sure, you can go to work, do your job and try to do it with as little communication as possible – but I don’t think you’ll get very far. Improving communication in the workplace involves:
- Socialising and networking where appropriate. Being polite, asking how people are and getting to know them both personally and professionally can be advantageous to your career and your job. They say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, which I believe to be true. I’ve written a post on what networking is and why you should do it, if you want to know more.
- Keeping people informed – make sure you keep relevant people up to date on what you’re doing and when you’re doing it. This includes team members, managers, and anyone else who is involved in your work. Be proactive about this – try to anticipate them asking a question and give them the answer before this. This may mean a daily status update to your manager, or keeping people informed at each major milestone of a critical task.
- Asking questions – I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a stupid question. I would rather ask a hundred questions than make a fatal mistake because I didn’t ask a question – this will make you look a lot worse! Ask questions of people if you’re not sure, or if there’s anything that you need to know. This may lead to more information or more realisations on how you can improve your work performance.
Be Aware Of Your Manager’s Goals
Having your own goals is a great idea. Your manager will also have their own goals for their team. It’s a good idea to be aware of these, as if they’re goals for the team they have usually been created based on strategies from their managers.
Being aware of these goals will help you to improve your work performance, as you will know the reason why something needs to be done. It will also help you in deciding on priorities for your work and coming up with ideas and suggestions for the team.
Let’s say that one of your manager’s goals is to improve the time taken to get documentation reviewed by users. It may currently take them two weeks between releasing a document and getting the signoff. If you’re aware of this goal, you can come up with ideas on ways to improve it and even work on tasks which will help your manager achieve this goal – which is a great way to improve your performance at work!
Your attitude goes a long way to your performance at work. If you’re in a bad mood (which, sometimes just can’t be helped), this can be perceived as being difficult to deal with and may have a negative impact on your job. However, if you’re in a cheerful and positive mood, this will give people the impression that you’re in control of your work and that you’re good at doing your job. Other ways to improve your attitude at work are:
- Think of the bigger picture or overall reason that things need to get done. If you feel you have a negative attitude about a certain task, project or decision, try to understand it from other people’s point of view. It may be a good fit for the overall strategy of the company, even though it is an inconvenience to your team.
- Focus on the positives in each person. If you notice that some people you work with are annoying, incompetent, lazy or anything else, don’t start getting angry or negative towards them. Instead, try to focus on the positive in that person. This will not only help improve your opinion of that person, it will make you look like someone who is good at dealing with people that others can’t – which I’m sure we’ve all come across in our jobs!
- Smile – Smiling is a great way to show people you’re in a good mood, calm, happy and confident. Practice smiling at work and you’ll notice the effect it has, both on yourself and others!
Bonus Tip: Additional Training and Education
A bonus tip! I said I could come up with ten, and it turns out I could think of eleven tips on how to improve work performance. Here it is, number eleven.
A great way to improve work performance is to obtain additional training or qualifications. The IT industry is constantly changing, and education you may have gotten from university or college may be out of date years later. A great way of keeping up to date, or to add more skills to your job, is to get more qualifications or education.
I’m currently studying to obtain a database certification, which will not only improve my knowledge of the specific technology, it will allow my employer to sell me to clients by saying, “He also is officially certified in Oracle database technologies”. It also has an influence on your salary – both at your current employer and any future jobs you may go for.
It’s also helpful if you wish to change career path. If you want to move into Java programming, you may wish to take a part-time course in Java to give you enough knowledge for a beginner Java role.
Also, you can take more advanced or expert qualifications to help you stand out from the crowd in your own specialised area. Most technologies that have qualifications have different levels for beginners and experts.