Tips to Improve Work Performance for the Ambitious Employee

Jun 06, 2017
9 min read

Who wants to improve work performance more, the employee or the company doing the employing? As an employee, you obviously want to do better every single day, be recognized for your feats, and have your achievements propel you up the ladder.

As the employer, or let’s call you manager or boss for the sake of simplicity, you might be more focused on the bottom line, and know improved team performance leads to better numbers. All of this along with the fact that you too want to shine, and put your stamp on the organization’s success.

So, here we have a few guidelines for those looking to improve their own personal work performance, and/or that of their team. You can also take these suggestions and make them your own, adding or subtracting where necessary. The important thing to remember is even the best advice falls flat without implementation. Start with small changes, track your results, and crank it up when you’re good and ready. 

Tips to Be More Productive

Call these hacks, tips, or your favorite content buzzword of the day. Regardless, think of them as opportunities. Even if you don’t want to give any of these suggestions a try, hopefully they give you the inspiration to just do something different in your day to day. I guarantee you that nobody ever gets better by sticking to the same routine each and every day.

1. Wake up (and get out of bed) 30 minutes earlier 

Nobody likes physically getting out of bed, but showing up to work just a bit earlier can boost your productivity for the rest of the day. Arriving before your co-workers show, and keeping your head down amongst chatter improves the chances of your day getting off to a good start.

Even if the benefit of showing up earlier to work is as simple as finding a parking spot in a normally crowded garage can help you maintain positivity. Alternatively, you can use the extra morning time to exercise, or make a healthier lunch than what you’d go out to retrieve at noon. There are only so many hours in the day, so lengthen yours a bit and see what happens.

2. Define “healthy breakfast” and then eat it

Now that you’ve got 30 more minutes in your morning, you don’t really have an excuse to not eat breakfast. Importantly, this is not a directive for daily pancake intake. Sluggish is just as bad a look as being hangry, so load up on a healthy breakfast before setting out, and let it fuel you to a more productive day.

3. Yeah, your phone. Lock it up 

The average user engages in 76 separate sessions with their phone per day, according to a recent study. That’s insane, and insanely disruptive. Especially when you have a major project to complete, stick your phone in your drawer and physically turn the key to lock it. You’ll be surprised how liberating this action can can be, and how laser-focused your mind can become.

4. Listen to music, but try to ditch the lyrics

Recent studies suggest that music eliminates distractions and can help improve your mood. However, music with lyrics was shown to have a negative effect on people trying to write due to the language part of your brain being used to listen to the song playing. I say maybe, maybe not. But something to be aware of, and try yourself.

5. Treat yourself 

Give yourself a small incentive to aim for when completing a project. Make it something you wouldn’t normally indulge in, to help preserve the thrill of the chase. Also, don’t do this for any old task, as that thrill will surely lose its luster.

6. Don’t do anything without a to-do list

The brain craves accomplishment (it’s probably why so many people are checking their phones throughout their days). So, make a to-do list of achievable tasks and be sure to mark them off as you complete them. Make sure your list remains visible and accessible.Again, accomplishment, achievement, and recognition.

These are powerful drivers in any arena. Host a contest within your department, or if you’re in sales, a short-term SPIF to help improve productivity drastically. Even if something isn’t set up as a formal competition, identify areas where you can make up your own personal challenges, and hold yourself to a standard above your peers.

7. Hustle all day, but especially before lunch 

I don’t know about you, but I love tackling the biggest and most pressing items as early in the day as possible. One, if you don’t, it’s natural for your brain to constantly tug on and remind you that something is looming. And two, the earlier you get that “thing” done, the better chance that you won’t have to stay late at the office to finish, which is great for keeping morale high and productivity flowing for the next day.

8. Eat lunch with someone outside of your department

Not every day, of course, and maybe even not once a week. Just start somewhere, maybe once every couple of weeks or once a month. Why? Because whenever you go outside of your comfort zone, you’re bound to get better or learn something new. It’s common to get tunnel vision and focus only on what’s going on in front you, within your own department.

When you have a chance to sit with someone that is part of a completely different function of the business, it gives you an opportunity to brainstorm new ideas and see things from a different perspective. This new view can inspire you to start new projects or go about redundant projects differently, and perhaps more efficiently.

9. Nix early morning meetings

Per the tip above about working hard before lunch, try to schedule meetings later in the day. This will give you a chance to clear out your inbox and start tackling important tasks first thing. It will also give you time to adequately plan for that meeting, making your presence more valuable for all in attendance.

10. Take a mid-afternoon walk

Stroll around the building, up the block, or down the street, depending on your surroundings. What’s important is that you leave your desk for some fresh air. It will help you see your day from a different light, literally, inspiring performance for the remainder of the day, and then some.

11. Have stand-up meetings

We all know the feeling, you get into work energized and ready to start the tasks at hand when you look at your calendar only to realize you have back to back meetings and no time to get any of that work done. It’s the absolute worst, especially given the fact that most meetings don’t provide the return on your time investment. An easy solution is to shorten your meetings, and you can easily do this by having stand up rather than sit down meetings.

12. Add “no” to your work vocabulary

This tip comes courtesy of a recent INC. article, and it’s incredibly helpful to remember. According to Larry Kim, Founder and CTO, WordStream, “when you’re too eager to please, you often end up getting in over your head. Remember, it’s not simply a matter of being agreeable–when you take on too much, all your work suffers.”

Saying no might feel like you’re not being a team player, but saying yes when you don’t have the bandwidth will do more damage in the long run. Also, considering the previous point, say no to meetings that you simply don’t need to attend.

Seeing Past Monday

While I could have included these Monday-specific tips above, dealing with Monday is deserving of its very own section and breakdown. Why? The dislike of Mondays is extremely pervasive—between Garfield’s famous distaste for the day, Office Space’s ‘case of the Mondays jokes’, and enough anti-Monday memes to fill your Twitter feed for days, I have to question if we’re setting ourselves up to hate Mondays, and fall victim to the Monday blues? Is it a self-fulfilling prophecy where we expect the day to bum us out, and so it does?

Sure, Monday signifies the end of your carefree weekend, and the beginning of another work week full of obligations and to-do’s, but there are many ways that you can learn to like Monday as much as, say, Thursday. Let’s be honest we’re never going to feel about Mondays like we do a Saturday. So, if you are reading and like these tips, don’t feel guilty. Many people who like, or even love, their job but still need a few ways to get themselves over the beginning of the week hurdle.

1. Prepare for Monday to come in order to embrace it when it arrives

Preparation is the key to being able to open your eyes without your mind rushing to the fact that it’s Monday and you have a million things to worry about. If you have stuff to do or loose ends to tie up, your brain will find them quickly. “Do I have coffee in the pantry? Did I pack my gym clothes? How many meetings do I have today? Did I finish the presentation I was supposed to? Oh, I have dinner with Samuel tonight…” and so on until we’ve stressed out about our entire day; all before the sun is even up.

The more you can take care of on Sunday, the less you’ll be stressing about first thing Monday.And yes, that annoyingly together co-worker you know that always saying “a Sunday well spent brings a week of content” is so annoyingly right. Sunday nights spent cooking a big batch of food for the week, doing laundry, and getting your briefcase packed sets your mind at ease so that you can get a good night’s sleep and be prepared for the week that is going to come no matter how hard you try to stop it.

Last, leave your desk as clean and clutter-free as possible when you leave on Friday so that you’re greeted by a space conducive to work when you get to the office the following week.

2. Set clear goals for the week ahead, the week before

People usually dread Mondays because after the weekend, they’re overwhelmed by the work that they’ve pushed off until then. This is valid, but if your company uses a system to track goals, then it’s easier to see what your major objectives are and not get caught up with less important tasks; those more “minor” responsibilities that might take your energy away from the larger projects that align with company goals.

3. Ease into the week

This one I took from Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, who says she has a good friend that advises “not to do any ‘real work’ until after lunch on Monday. I know, this flies in the face of the productivity tip above, but if there is a day to put off the major tasks until later in the day, Monday is it, and for good reason.Gretchen eases into the work week by checking email, reading professional newsletters, and doing more substantial tasks IF she feels like it, but doesn’t consider herself “at work” until 1:30 p.m. The result? She gets about as much done as she did before – she just feels less pressure

4. Purge your weekend details in one sitting

Conversation around what everyone did over the weekend is natural, and something you should partake in to help build team camaraderie. But, such topics definitely have a chance to linger as people trickle into the office. So, you could have a quick morning round-table to discuss weekend highlights, talk about movies you’ve seen, and get yourself into an energetic mood that leaves you ready to take on the week ahead.

To Close, Always Be Learning

I won’t go into too much detail here, because the idea is simple. If you don’t have a handful of blogs you read daily, books you can’t put down, or events you want to attend, you’re already behind your peers. Or, maybe you don’t care or find enjoyment in what you do, which is an entirely different issue altogether. Here are some things we’ve put together to help get you started:

Again, to get better, you need to make change. By embracing the tips above, or at least some iteration of a couple of them, you’ll be in prime position to improve your performance at work.

  • Sales Coaching and Motivation
Karrie Lucero
Karrie Lucero
Content Marketing Manager

Karrie Lucero is a Content Marketing Manager at Xactly. She earned marketing and journalism degrees from New Mexico State University and has experience in SEO, social media and inbound marketing.