How to improve in your job

Jelena Mraovic

Last updated on: February 5, 2022

If you are reading this article, you are probably facing career stagnation. Don’t panic – we’ve all been there.

The key to moving your career to the next level lies in finding the most suitable way to improve your work performance.

Improving your skills and knowledge might seem difficult at first, but it certainly comes with many benefits – salary raises, respect from the people around you, being proud of your results, and self-satisfaction, just to name a few.

However, the journey to that point may seem long and hard, especially if you started working recently. In order to perform better, you must get out of your comfort zone and roll up your sleeves.

In this article, you’ll learn how to perform better at your job starting from today. You’ll notice that tips on how to do that are divided into 3 levels (like a game, because this doesn’t have to be stressful and monotonous.) To “beat the game”, you need to complete the following levels:

  1. The easy level – requires taking action,
  2. The medium level – builds habits,
  3. The hard level – requires a change of your mindset.

Note: If you’ve already implemented the majority of things from one level, feel free to proceed to the higher one. If you want, you can incorporate a point system too, maybe even sprinkle in some rewards – anything that will motivate you is allowed.

So, without further ado, here are the details on how to be better at your job.

How to be better at your job - cover

Tips for excelling at your job (divided into 3 levels according to difficulty)

We’ve prepared quick and effective tips that you can incorporate into your work routine to become better at what you do. You can start from the easiest level and slowly work your way to the highest level. Ready, set, go!

The easy level 🕹️

Level 1 is mostly based on what actions you can take to get more out of your job. Even the slightest changes in your routine can help you perform better at work and motivate you to “move on to the next level.” We’ve prepared some practical actions you can take to excel at your job and warm you up for “the medium level.”

Develop a professional attitude

This almost goes without saying; you have to be professional. When you act professionally, others will treat you with respect likewise. Professional behavior can have a great influence on your career development course.

But, what does being professional entail?

You’re polite and respectful – but assertive,

You are dependable and your coworkers can rely on you,

You are punctual and don’t miss deadlines,

You are competent,

You possess honesty and accountability,

You respect the dress code,

You avoid gossip and don’t express your opinion on controversial topics,

You are aware of your company’s policies, visions, and values.

Try integrating these simple tips into your routine, and we are sure your coworkers will take you more seriously in the workplace. This is an easy step everyone can master and boost their performance as a result.

Find solutions to difficulties

When you read different job openings, you can often come across requirements such as “possessing problem-solving skills” and similar. Your job won’t run as smooth as butter all the time, and the road to a successful career often gets bumpy. Dealing with deadlines, changes, customer requirements, etc., requires possessing strong problem-solving skills. It’s the ability to find the most effective and fruitful solutions to unexpected problems at the moment.

If you want to become better at any job, you have to master the art of problem-solving. Everyone says that it’s important, but not many explain how to do it.

Albert Einstein once said:

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.”

With that said, when problem-solving, you need to devote most of your time observing the problem itself instead of leaping to solutions right away. We’re giving you a guide for an efficient problem-solving process.

Guide to problem solving

Solving a problem is easier said than done, but here is a step-by-step guide to problem-solving according to “The Problem Solving Memory Jogger.” We’ve also included a real-life example so that you can better relate to the situation and integrate this guide into your work routine.

  1. Define the problem – Identify and deep dive into the problem. Stick to Einstein’s saying here and spend most of your time gaining knowledge to better define the problem. For instance, you want to cook a sea bream. To do so, think about the problems that may arise along the way. The problem: “How to cook a sea bream?”
  2. Identify the cause – Determine the root cause of the problem before taking corrective actions. The cause of the problem: “I’ve never cooked sea bream before.”
  3. Develop a solution/solutions – You should be able to come up with a solution to address the root cause. This requires innovative thinking because most people rely on knowledge and methods that worked in the past. You should always have more than one potential solution and choose the most suitable one. One potential solution: “I will look for a recipe online!”
  4. Implement the solution – Follow the steps in your online recipe.
  5. Review and evaluate – Assess the effectiveness of the solution and see if the change meets your expectations. After you finish cooking your sea bream, start eating it to see what you’ve accomplished. Ask others to join you to evaluate as well.
  6. Learn – Learn from your mistakes and experiences. “I put too much salt, but next time I will know!”

Follow this guide to resolve the issues that may arise in the workplace more effectively.

Seek feedback

Feedback IS information we receive about ourselves to help us understand what we do well or wrong. They can be direct such as “I was really impressed how you handled the issue X. You showed how you work under the pressure of deadlines and lack of resources. ” Or they can be indirect, i.e., non-verbal. For instance, if your supervisor or manager is maintaining little eye contact with you and keep their arms folded, with eyes downcast – they are likely to be unsatisfied with your work or even not interested in your proposal. On the other hand, a firm handshake, moderately pleased face, and direct eye contact mean you are doing a good job hence words are unnecessary.

Sometimes you have to seek feedback yourself, instead of just waiting for it (it may never come, or come too late). It’s not always the most pleasant thing to do, but there are significant benefits to requesting feedback at work according to “Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well”:

  • It provokes creativity and productivity at work,
  • It’s a great confidence builder,
  • It increases job satisfaction (if properly given),
  • It helps you improve your skills and be aware of the things you are doing well/wrong,
  • It helps you adapt faster when starting a new job,
  • It keeps you motivated to work and less likely to think about finding a different job.

But, how to politely seek performance feedback at work?

You can ask questions such as:

  • “What are the things you liked about my article/presentation/project?”
  • “Would you be so kind as to elaborate on how I can improve my performance?”

When you receive feedback from your coworkers or superiors, you need to be open-minded, receptive, not afraid to ask follow-up questions, and lastly – show gratitude.

Soliciting feedback in the workplace is another way you can improve your work performance and grow in your career.

Learn to communicate better

Effective communication is crucial in every aspect of your life, and a workplace is no exception. In most cases, it’s the company’s job to encourage workplace communication using collaboration applications, organizing different events for team building, etc. However, as an individual, you should be aware of the company’s policies and also do your best to:

Communicate clearly and concisely. This includes real-time communication, answering phone calls and emails in a professional manner. Here’s an example that will help illustrate this point:

Have you ever had the experience of looking for a recipe online?
You click on the first result, which happens to be a food blog. First, you scroll through 1000 words of a blogger’s life story and a detailed description of the mountains they used to visit every winter as a child, with no recipe in sight… until, just before giving up, you finally find it.
Well, that’s how it feels when a work email has more than 5-6 sentences.

Adjust your tone and communication to your company’s policies. For example, if your company encourages a more informal way of communication, don’t persistently address people with “sir”, “madam”, etc. However, this doesn’t mean you should be too casual saying things like: “What’s up dude?” Instead, find a proper balance, and follow the communication norms your colleagues use.

Keep eye contact when talking to somebody to show respect.

Be a good listener. It’s an underrated, but very valuable skill.

Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification to ensure understanding. It’s better to ask questions than do something your way without asking for a second opinion or permission.

LEVEL RECAP 🏆

Way to go! ? You’ve successfully completed the first level and integrated some basic actions into your work routine. You are now more professional and know how to communicate clearly, you are able to find solutions to problems in the workplace more efficiently, and are not afraid to solicit feedback anymore.

It’s time to shift gears and get more serious so as to excel at work.

The medium level 🕹️🕹️

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Will Durant (even though it’s usually attributed to Aristotle).

Congratulations, you moved on to the next level! Level 2 is about building better work habits.

If we are our habits, then we should form habits that the best version of ourselves would have. In this case, a version of ourselves that is successful at our job. How you present yourself in the workplace influences your performance and the opinions your coworkers form about you. To be taken seriously in the workplace, we’ve prepared some effective work habits that can help you stand out.

Keep up with the news in your industry

Make an effort to stay up to date with the latest trends in your industry. Some of the ways to keep up with what’s happening are:

Subscribing to blogs, youtube channels, and magazines where you can read and listen about the topics relevant to your industry.

Networking – Know what others are up to.

Getting social – Social media are a resource of real-time news, so if there’s something important going on and you’re not there in person, social media is the next best thing.
I wouldn’t advise being glued to the screen 24/7, though. Instead, checking what’s new once or twice a day is more than enough.

Keep updating your knowledge by attending seminars or webinars. They are one of the most effective and time-saving ways to keep up with the latest news and build your knowledge.

If you’re out of the loop, others won’t need a lot of time to surpass you. Therefore, stay on top of industry trends. Build your knowledge to be able to maintain meaningful conversations with your coworkers and boost your reputation at work.

Track your time

Whether you are a working parent or you often feel overwhelmed and anxious about the workload, simple time tracking may come to your rescue. Getting into the habit of tracking your time will improve your time management, and you will have a better insight into where your time goes.

This practice will help you:

Be more productive and beat procrastination,

Get a clear overview of how you spend time, to better organize your work in the future and make optimal schedules,

Get the data you need to make time estimates more accurately,

Bill more accurately or maximize your billable hours as a freelancer,

Create a better work-life balance,

Review your daily, weekly, or monthly performance,

See what areas of your workflows need improvement,

Keep track of your work hours and avoid overworking.

This is where technology comes in handy. You should opt for a reliable and easy-to-use application that doesn’t picture time tracking as a nuisance but as a process that undoubtedly bears fruit.

With that said, Clockify is a time tracking tool that offers the basic time tracking features for unlimited users and projects, free of charge.

Time tracking in Clockify

So, if you want to keep track of your productive time and control distractions – simple time tracking can help you out.

💡 If you are new to time tracking, check out → How to start tracking your time. On the other hand, if you are not a fan of time tracking, this article might change your mind → How not to hate time tracking

Set milestones

Long and complicated projects are often overwhelming. They can make you lose track of your progress or make it seem like you haven’t achieved anything of significance despite your hard work. If you don’t stay on top of your workload, you may even miss deadlines or poorly utilize your resources.

Therefore, try implementing new work habits and set milestones to create attainable project plans that better monitor the project’s progress.

But, what are milestones?

Milestones are significant events, i.e., moments in a project that serve as reminders of all past achievements. Imagine a ladder and its rungs represent milestones.

For instance, in real life, important milestones during a person’s life are starting school, finishing university, starting a new job, becoming a parent, etc. Or project milestones such as the completion of a work package, received key deliverables, important meetings, etc.

Remembering and celebrating milestones motivate us to move forward and accomplish more. Just like in the workplace.

These are some advantages of setting milestones at work as they:

  • Give you a closer insight into your project’s progress,
  • Highlight the end of key activities during a project,
  • Serve as a great indicator of project success,
  • Shift your attention to significant events or deliverables during a project,
  • Remind you of critical events or failures during a project.

To keep you and your stakeholders in the loop of your project, among other things, defining and implementing milestones in your project is of the utmost importance. For that purpose, you can create project timelines. This way you will have a visual breakdown of all elements during a project including milestones. With a project timeline, you can easily track and record data in one place.

Learn something new every day

“I am still learning.” – Michelangelo, at the age of 87.

It doesn’t have to be something related to your job, it can be related to any of your interests or even something about yourself. The thought behind this is to keep expanding your mind and make you more confident; constantly coming across new concepts and perspectives can also inspire innovation and promote creative thinking.

According to a Harward Business review study that surveyed 300 employees from numerous U.S. organizations, learning new things in the workplace discouraged employees from unethical behavior (such as stealing company property, falsifying timesheets, etc.). In addition, it positively affected their mental health (such as the ability to ease stress and anxiety).

Thus, learning opportunities can tremendously enhance the quality of your life, regardless of whether you are taking them for your overall well-being or work improvement.

There is a myriad of things or skills you can learn starting today. Find something that makes you feel motivated and that will boost your work performance such as learning a new language or a software program (this is always helpful, especially in the IT industry), improving your communication and time management skills, etc. Not only will constant improvement benefit you as a whole, but you will gain a high reputation and respect from others, too.

💡 Have you heard about the DiSSS method and the CaFE method? Check this article out and successfully learn any new skill using these learning frameworks → How to learn new skills with the DiSSS and CaFE methods

LEVEL RECAP 🏆🏆

Awesome work! 🙇‍♀️ Now, you’ve built better work habits and integrated them into your work routine, too. You should be proud of yourself since you managed to track your time successfully, set project milestones, and keep up with the news in your industry.

Let’s move on to the hardest level in this game. Don’t panic, just follow our instructions.

The hard level 🕹️🕹️🕹️

You’ve come a long way and now it’s time for the hardest level – confronting yourself. Level 3 is a mindset change. It takes more time and effort to implement changes of that nature, as altering your thought pattern is not an easy process. (It’s worth it, though.)

We’ve prepared some steps you can take to embrace changes and get a growth mindset.

Be open to growth

“Intelligent individuals learn from everything and everyone; average people, from their experiences. The stupid already have all the answers.” – Socrates

Some people believe that their personal attributes can change and develop if they make the effort. They have a malleable theory and are more open-minded, willing to learn, and adaptable to changes. Thus, these people have a greater chance of developing a growth mindset.

If you have a growth mindset, it means that you:

  • Embrace challenges and see them as an opportunity to grow,
  • Don’t let obstacles stop you from achieving your goal,
  • Love learning new things,
  • See effort as a path to mastery,
  • Learn from criticism,
  • Find inspiration and learn from the successes of others.

Having a malleable brain doesn’t come naturally but with hard work, education, and constantly adapting to changes.

As opposed to that, there is a fixed mindset – it assumes that our character and abilities are what we are given at birth and can’t be changed. For instance, students who are praised for their intelligence at school are more likely to develop a fixed mindset. To those who have it, failing is not something that inevitably happens to everyone, but an affirmation that a person who fails is a failure; because of this, they avoid it at all costs. Having a fixed mindset also means avoiding criticism, giving up easily, taking feedback too personally, and feeling threatened by the success of others.

These theories affect our brain resilience and the way we see the world.

Guess which one you should have if you want to excel at work and succeed? 🤔

Go out of your comfort zone

The authors of the book “Limitless: Destroy Your Fears, Escape Your Comfort Zone, and Conquer Any Goal – Create The Life You Want” give extra attention to reality-altering. They believe it plays an important role in escaping from your comfort zone.

A great number of people are not aware of their potential and live in a “mental prison.” Therefore, they choose to aim low due to their insecurities and fear of failure. Their low self-esteem makes them believe that if they leave their comfort zone and try something new, they are doomed to failure.

When you alter your reality, you aim for higher goals, embrace new opportunities with an open mind, and don’t settle for average. Success is not something that you can stumble upon. Bear in mind that the most successful people gained their success and wealth because they stepped out of their comfort zone.

The same book proposes that you write down a goal, for instance, to earn a higher status in your company. Now, write down the highest level of that goal – for example, to become the head of your department. Last, see what it takes to achieve that goal. Maybe you will become the head, or maybe you just get promoted to a higher position than the current one.

Setting big goals will help you step out of your comfort zone and achieve results. Maybe you failed in becoming the head of your department, but hey, you moved up the corporate ladder.

If you don’t leave your comfort zone, you will fail and you cannot grow. It places you in a perpetual state of living below your potential.

Confront your fears, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and take the plunge.

My experience

If you want to be better (at anything), sometimes you have to try doing something different from what you’re used to. It won’t feel as good as the inspirational quotes about letting go of fear may lead you to believe, at least not in the beginning.

I have a rule that every so often I have to do something I’m afraid of b̶e̶c̶a̶u̶s̶e̶ ̶I̶’̶m̶ ̶a̶ ̶m̶a̶s̶o̶c̶h̶i̶s̶t̶ as a way to overcome my fears.

For example, I was asked to speak on a panel a few years ago. I am not good or versed in public speaking, I’m better at writing. On my way there, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I got myself into and if it was too late to cancel. Before it began, I felt like I’m going to pass out.

However, contrary to what I had thought, I did okay. I even had a good time. Not only is it a nice memory to look back on, but it boosted my self-confidence. If I have managed to be okay at public speaking, I can do everything else. I realize that saying “Don’t be afraid!” won’t make fear magically disappear — I’m just asking you to try.

Acknowledge (and work on) your weak spots

“Inspiration is a guest that doesn’t willingly visit the lazy.” – Tchaikovsky

The only way to get better at something is to become aware of everything you’re doing wrong and to make an effort to improve yourself in the areas you’re weak in. I know, I don’t like it either.

Jokes aside, working on your flaws is not easy – growth is uncomfortable.

If you can’t seem to finish everything on time and miss deadlines regularly, it’s time to think about your actions and turn your weaknesses into strengths.

For instance, Laura Vanderkam, the author of “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast”, writes:

“Before the rest of the world is eating breakfast, the most successful people have already scored daily victories that are advancing them toward the lives they want.”

So, maybe the problem why you don’t perform better lies in the fact that you don’t know your productive time and can’t seem to set your daily goals. For example, there are people, aka “morning larks”, who show more productivity and perform better in the morning, like in Vanderkam’s book.

On the other hand, some people better perform at night, aka “night owls.”

Therefore, it’s helpful to know if you are more productive in the morning or night. Then, you can easily organize your workday and improve your work performance.

Going out of your way to improve yourself is a path less taken. It requires you to put your ego aside, change bad habits, and take accountability for your mistakes. Acknowledge your weak spots (without judging yourself) and start working on them.

💡 Read the following article to discover your personality type to better understand your weak spots and increase productivity at work → How to increase productivity based on your personality type

Be adaptable to change

“The only constant in life is change.” – Heraclitus

A “well, that’s the way I’ve always done it” mentality won’t get you far in a competitive workplace, especially in industries like IT, where things constantly change.

There are many examples of businesses that had to close their doors because they failed to adapt. The video rental giant Blockbuster was a provider of home movie and video game rental services. They had an impressive number of movies and games, which made them better than their competition – until the market changed, and their business model didn’t. On-demand streaming services such as Netflix were on the rise, but they refused to go digital – which resulted in slowly going out of business.

Another example is Polaroid and its instant film and cameras. They held the patent to their instant photography process, which was one of the contributing factors to their huge success. However, just like Blockbuster, they didn’t think that going digital was the right move, and Polaroid Corporation was declared bankrupt in 2001.

Whether you have your own business or you work in a company, keeping up with current technology trends and being open to change is essential. Being flexible and adaptable without losing your essence is not something everyone can do, but those who succeed will make history.

LEVEL RECAP 🏆🏆🏆

👏 Congratulations! You’ve completed the hard level successfully and beat the game!

This was the most challenging level since you had to confront yourself, escape from your comfort zone, and turn your weaknesses into strengths. Now, you have all the necessary skills and knowledge to improve your work performance and excel at work. ?

Conclusion

An exact set of steps for excelling at work differs from position to position, even from industry to industry — it could be taking some action, developing new habits, or maybe even changing your mindset.

However, some things are universal – whatever your job is, characteristics like being a problem-solver, adaptable to change, and being willing to learn will always get you far.

Find the most suitable way to better perform at work and integrate it into your work routine. You should bear in mind that even the smallest changes in your work routine can make a big difference in your life.

✉️ What level are you on? Which tips are you going to integrate into your work routine to improve your performance? Write to us at blogfeedback@clockify.me for a chance to be included in this or one of our future blog posts.

Author: JelenaMraovic

Jelena Mraovic is a time management and productivity author and researcher, constantly in search of new time distribution and productivity hacks. Since being a time management and productivity writer helped her improve her own self-discipline and reduce stress — helping others do the same has become her aspiration.


Free time tracker

Time tracking software used by millions. Clockify is a time tracker and timesheet app that lets you track work hours across projects.

FREE FOREVER • UNLIMITED USERS

Learn more Arrow Right Primary
Clockify time tracker
Watch demo (12:35)
Closing video