The importance of continuous work improvement
For many of us, working from home — whether full-time or part-time — has become the new norm, and with that comes new challenges at work. Between the distractions, interruptions, and the continuous need to maintain an agile mindset, it can become difficult to manage, seek, and commit to new ways to improve work performance.
By not taking the time to identify and improve work performance, you may find yourself experiencing issues like a decline in work quality, communication, and professional development.
Whether you’re new to the workforce, seeking a promotion, or trying to make a career change, learning how to continuously develop yourself professionally should be a standard practice that’s inspiring and challenging in a positive way.
Don’t wait until your annual performance evaluation — or, worse, until your boss brings it up. Here are 17 ways to improve work performance and push yourself to become the best version of yourself at work.
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17 ways to improve work performance
1. Set milestones.
We have a natural tendency of shooting for the stars and establishing challenging goals.
It’s okay to be bold when setting goals to improve work performance. The problem is that big projects can become overwhelming. Setting milestones can help you achieve those moonshot goals whether personal, professional, or both.
By breaking those big personal and professional projects into smaller goals, you’ll stay motivated with each victory you achieve.
Setting individual success metrics to analyze your goal is also very helpful to boost morale and energy levels up. Track the progress, allow yourself to enjoy your success (as small as it may be) and share it with your team.
2. Hack your workday with automation.
If you find yourself in a loop of repetitive, time-consuming tasks, take control of your workday with automation. Read our article to learn more about automation and the types of tasks that can be automated, or check out these two ways you can hack your workday and get back time better spent on value-adding work:
|Drafting and sending a high volume of emails||– Automate the heavy lifting by creating an automation trigger that will send off the follow-up emails by a certain deadline or time. |
– Email templates that pull data from your process can also help eliminate time spent drafting emails.
|Notifications and workflow updates||– Never lose track of the status of items with automated trail audits.|
– With automated notifications when an item moves or falls behind, don’t fall short on following up and track important updates.
3. Plan, organize, and prioritize.
Planning your daily schedule plus organizing and prioritizing tasks or goals is essential to improving your work performance.
When making your to-do list, be reasonable and achievable. It’s much better to establish realistic goals and overachieve than the opposite. Making a detailed plan in advance is also very useful for identifying which tasks you can postpone for more urgent, valuable tasks, and which ones you can pass off without affecting the result.
After planning, organize your work by breaking down big projects into smaller tasks and establishing a due date and priority status for each one. Then, prioritize your work by combining the most urgent and essential tasks, then take into consideration how much time it’ll take to finish each one.
In order to be able to prioritize tasks and manage your to-do list effectively, it’s important to learn how to delegate and say “no” to tasks that may jeopardize your progress. Below is an example of how to practice delegating tasks:
4. Stay focused and avoid distractions.
Workers today are experiencing an increase in distractions and interruptions with a decrease in uninterrupted focus time, leaving much-working overtime with little to show for it.
|How the pandemic affected workers’ productivity, performance, and collaboration|
|28.3% experienced difficulty concentrating|
|5% spent more time in meetings|
|24% spent more time in 1:1 meetings with their manager|
|11% saw an increase in fragmented time or blocks of time shorter than two hours|
|20% reported taking longer to complete tasks|
|12.4% completely put off challenging work|
The most productive professionals in the world have named distractions as productivity’s number one enemy. Never lose sight of your goals. Every time you feel tempted to check out your Facebook feed or watch your favorite YouTube channels, remember what’s at stake.
Focus on taking one step at a time and completing the previous task before starting a new one. Check out this article for a deep dive on how to avoid distractions at work.
5. Learn to manage interruptions.
Do you know how many times you’re interrupted in a day? According to various studies, it’s estimated that workers are interrupted every 6 to 12 minutes.
Interruptions come in many forms and learning how to avoid them is vital for improving work performance.
Whether it’s a Slack chat or your family knocking at your home office door, constant interruptions can cause you to lose focus and waste time you’ve previously allocated to a task, increasing the risk of running late on a deadline.
Here are four tips to better manage interruptions:
- Schedule focus time. Create a one-person meeting in your calendar for deep focus work time by blocking off certain chunks of time.
- Let your team (or family) know you need to “unplug”. Communication is the best solution. By simply alerting your team that you’ll be “offline” — or letting family members know when you need quiet time — gives you the ability to focus without going completely off the grid.
- Mute your Slack, Google Chat, or Microsoft teams notifications. Whether it’s for 30 minutes or a couple of hours, turning off notifications can help you avoid interruptions. Updating your work status to let your teammates know why you’re temporarily “unplugged” can also help ease nerves around slow response times.
- Set meeting hours. If you do your best work in the morning, set your meeting availability to afternoons. Update your working hours so that meetings can only be scheduled within a certain time frame.
6. Avoid multitasking.
Most people claim they’re experts at multitasking, but the only thing multitasking actually does is compromise the quality of work.
Even though it feels like multitasking allows you to accomplish more, it actually does quite the opposite. Whenever you start working at more than one thing at a time, take a step back and determine which task is more important and focus entirely on it. Working on one task at a time makes you faster, less stressed, and less prone to making mistakes.
Use these tips to keep multitasking down to a minimum:
- Block out distractions — literally. Use a browser extension that allows you to temporarily block work interruptions like browsing social media for a designated period of time. Here are two options to get you focused: Forest and BlockSite.
- Hide your phone. It may be tempting to check your phone throughout the day, so consider hiding it somewhere safe — like a backpack or desk drawer — to avoid the urge to check your phone.
- Turn on work hours. If you need to have your phone nearby (and your phone allows this), turn on work hours. This setting mutes all notifications between a certain timeframe (say, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and only allows updates from your chosen contacts.
- Clean up your work area. A cluttered workspace may make it harder to stay focused. Start your morning routine with a quick sweep of your workspace to “set the tone” for a clear, focused, and organized workday.
- Track your multitasking habits. If you find yourself losing track of time and not sure why, keep a log of every time you become distracted or find yourself multitasking. This will make it easier to recognize distraction triggers or habits and how to work on eliminating them.
7. Don’t leave things half done.
This is very likely a consequence of trying to multitask (and another thing I’m guilty of).
Try to remember how many projects you’ve started only to abandon them shortly after: New Year’s resolutions, diets, a new sport, or hobby. They’re all great for a while, and then they start to slip straight back to your to-do list. Don’t let that happen.
Once you start a task, try to see it all the way through. Motivate yourself by recording every project you’ve completed.
To really boost your productivity, turn your work into a game with the Pomodoro Technique. This challenges you to break down your work in 25-minute intervals, separated by breaks, to make daunting tasks seem more manageable. With the timer set, you may find yourself being more considerate of your time, working faster, and breaking half-done habits.
8. Read something new every day.
Change is happening all the time, all around us. Reading is the best way to learn about new tools, trends, and technologies affecting your company or industry, and a great way to keep up with the competition.
To improve your hard skills, try to read at least one relevant article regarding your industry every day. (Count on our blog to help you!) To improve your soft skills, read one book a month on topics like communication, effective leadership, or creative thinking.
9. Communicate effectively.
Whether you’re a manager or not, make it your ultimate goal to establish a consistent communication channel among your team members.
Effective communication at work can take the following forms:
- Evaluate your work performance on a frequent basis to keep your goals and responsibilities in mind every time you have to make a decision.
- Create a solution by talking with your colleagues, and actively listening to what they have to say.
- Make sure everyone knows their opinion matters when brainstorming new and improved ways to achieve better results.
Keep in mind that communication is a two-way street. Whenever you’re feeling uncertain or unclear about anything, it’s better to ask than to assume.
10. Recognize your weak points.
There’s no way for a person to be good at everything. We all have strengths and weaknesses. The great thing about acknowledging your weak points is that you’re able to identify opportunities to improve.
Even though you can always find things to improve, focus on identifying the things decreasing your work performance and continuously work on improving them. Don’t settle for “quite alright” when you can achieve “awesome.”
11. And work on your strengths.
In addition to recognizing weaknesses, it’s important to also pinpoint your strengths and spend time cultivating and improving them. Read, learn, listen — do whatever you can to be the best version of yourself every day.
12. Don’t work in a vacuum – ask for feedback.
The best way to gauge your strengths, weaknesses, and overall work performance is by simply requesting feedback. This tip is great no matter what stage of your career you are in — from just starting off to seeking promotion to making a career change. Regularly seeking feedback allows you to quickly recognize and address any mistakes or work performance blind spots in real-time. Plus, it’s an opportunity to learn from the “pros,” gain new skills and practice being a better active listener.
Whether it’s from your manager or from one or two of your peers, consider these steps and questions to better understand how to improve work performance:
- Decide on what areas of improvement you’d like feedback on. This can be related to soft skills (indirect aspects of your role, like communication, planning, time management, or teamwork) or hard skills (direct aspects of your role, like writing, data analytics, software knowledge, or language skills).
- Determine who you want to speak with. The ideal partner for this would be someone that you work with on a regular basis and someone who has the bandwidth to provide detailed and considerate feedback. For example, your manager may be a great resource for soft skills feedback, while a peer may be more appropriate for feedback related to your hard skills.
- Prepare your questions. In order to receive feedback that’s helpful, it’s important to carefully consider what you want to ask. If you already have an idea of what you want to work on, more detailed or specific questions would be ideal. If you want to open the floor and get a general assessment of your work performance, open-ended questions might be a better option.
- Take notes. Keep a record of the feedback so that you can refer back to it and track the steps you’re taking to improve your work performance.
- Reflect and respond. Once you’ve requested and received feedback, spend time reflecting on what was shared with you. Next, create a plan of how you’re going to improve and set milestones for each area of improvement.
- Get started, and then repeat again. This one speaks for itself, but it’s important to mention requesting feedback should not be a one-time occurrence. With your improvement plan and milestones in place, repeat this process over to stay on a path toward continuous improvement.
13. Take a break when you need one.
Admitting you need a break is not a weakness, it just means you’re aware of your limitations and you’re wise enough to admit it.
Stress and burnout levels are increasing at alarming rates. It won’t do anyone any good to push yourself after you’ve reached your limit. Your productivity will suffer, and you’ll get even more stressed for underperforming, and so on. This is a vicious cycle you don’t want to get trapped into.
Rest time is just as important to your professional development as any other aspect. Turn off your computer, go away for a weekend, get a full night’s sleep, change your scenery, and always remember to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
14. Find a mentor.
When you’re in college, internships are a great way to gain experience and break into the workforce. Once you’re in the workforce, seeking mentorships are a great way to continue building experience. If approaching people in your industry sounds intimidating, start small and turn to where you’re already comfortable: your workplace and existing coworkers.
After introducing yourself and expressing why you’re interested in meeting with them, schedule a time and meeting cadence that works for both parties — whether that’s a biweekly virtual meeting or a monthly in-person coffee shop outing.
15. Network, network, network.
Did you know that employee referrals are four times more likely to be hired? While this is a big benefit of building a network of professional relationships, networking is also a great way to improve work performance. By meeting new people and gaining new skills and perspectives, you can charge your professional development and gain opportunities to grow and challenge yourself.
16. Track how long it takes you to complete your tasks.
If time management is a challenge or if you just want a baseline of how you work, start timing how long it takes you to complete a task. By understanding your current time management, you can have a better understanding of how to make the most of it. Over time, you can begin to approach tasks more efficiently.
17. When you’re feeling stuck, get up and move around.
Some studies have shown that small spurts of exercise can improve brain function. So, if you’re feeling stumped or experiencing brain fog, going outside and getting some fresh air could be the brain boost you need to get through a task or deadline.
Use Pipefy to improve work performance
Pipefy is a low-code automation platform that makes building and automating standardized processes easy. Low-code automation enhances agility for business users without sacrificing IT’s need for security.
This means you can track your work and scale improvements when you need them and how you need them. Plus, low-code automation enhances collaboration through process orchestration, one of the common things to continuously improve on at work.