In today’s digital world, things move quickly, and distractions are everywhere. It can be incredibly challenging to stay focused and produce strong results—but if you want to thrive at work, you need to develop a strategy for overcoming those challenges.
Check out the list below for six ways you can become more successful at work.
1. Break down your tasks into smaller ones
It’s very common to be overwhelmed by all of your tasks and deadlines at work. As Jason Fried, Founder of BaseCamp, highlighted in his TED Talk, the main reason many people fail to meet expectations in a given timeframe is the number of distractions in the workplace—such as all the endless meetings.
You can become more productive simply by having a focused and dedicated “work time.” One strategy you can try is the Pomodoro Technique, in which you break down your work into intervals (typically 25 minutes in length), and then separate those intervals by short breaks (say, 5-10 minutes).
This approach teaches your brain to stay focused on one task at a time, while keeping your mind refreshed with frequent short breaks. Although it sounds simple, the Pomodoro Technique can improve your attention span and concentration, and consequently help you complete more tasks! All you need is a timer.
2. Don’t let your inbox consume you
If you’re like most people, the first thing you do in the morning is check your email and drown in the wave of incoming messages. While this might seem productive, it might actually be just the opposite—unless you do it right.
First, realize you don’t have to respond to every email. Train yourself to make decisions and separate incoming messages into actionable steps: do, delegate, defer, or delete. Choose which action to take using two principles: importance and urgency.
If the email is important and urgent, you’ll want to reply and follow up directly (and if there is another person who fits the task better, delegate by forwarding the email to them). If the email is important but not urgent, defer by adding it to a “Later Box,” to be dealt with at a later time. Finally, if the message is not important or urgent, simply delete it.
This exercise will give you a more manageable inbox, and a much calmer state of mind.
3. Be open with your teammates and ask for help if necessary
It’s crucial that you work in an environment that fosters psychological safety, where you can be open about your challenges, feelings, and thoughts. If you have questions or concerns, speak up and share them with your team. Similarly, don’t hold back when you have a potentially great idea.
A study from 180 project groups at Google discovered teams that practice openness perform significantly better. Asking others for help is a strength, not a weakness. Consider it as part of a strategy of allocating and prioritizing your time—not a sign of incompetence.
A colleague who has the expertise you don’t will complete a task quicker and better than you would on your own. Learn as much as you can about everyone’s individual strengths, so you know whose resources to tap into and when. It’s all about finding the right man for the right job.
4. Take constructive feedback seriously
In your professional life, regular feedback is necessary to ensure quality improvement. It is natural to feel afraid or nervous when performance reviews come around, or when your supervisor calls you to have a one-on-one chat. However, realize that critique will reveal your blind spots, improve your work, and help you thrive.
In addition, top managers see those who can take criticism well as “coachable,” which is important when it comes time for promotions.
When someone gives you feedback, make sure to pay full attention, and don’t interrupt. After they finish, repeat back what they just said, focusing on “understanding” rather than “reacting.” This will demonstrate a positive attitude towards constructive input.
The next step is to act on the feedback successfully. Here, prioritizing is key. Sort through the critiques you’ve received and determine which issue needs to be solved first.
5. Always end a meeting with a list of “next steps”
You probably have countless meetings every week. But what separates a great meeting from a bad one?
The secret is identifying actionable next steps. These steps tell everyone involved the meeting has worthwhile consequences that will continue going forward.
A great list of next steps starts with restating the conclusion of the meeting and its important highlights. After that, continue by listing which tasks must be done, and assigning a person to take charge of each task. Finish by setting a deadline, to give everyone a clear understanding of when the tasks must be completed.
Put the list in writing and send it as a follow-up email to all of the meeting participants. Implementing this strategy will help you become an effective leader who runs effective meetings.
6. Never directly reject an idea during a discussion
When you conduct a brainstorming session, it might feel natural to quickly reject ideas that are not immediately impressive. However, this action quashes any possibility of finding potential use in “bad ideas,” and it may dissuade some people from sharing their own.
Instead of dismissing anything right away, defer judgment and welcome all ideas. The key is to encourage everyone to contribute their thoughts and feel safe and comfortable speaking up.
Stay positive and word your responses carefully. When you want to improve upon an idea, use “and” instead of “but.” You might be surprised by the outcome. This will also help you learn to embrace differences of opinion at work.