Keeping Your Job in a Bad Economy: Tips For Working Smarter

We work longer hours in the United States but we are less productive as compared to other countries that work less According to an article from the Harvard Business School by Stever Rogers . This is particularly important information when millions of Americans are unemployed and many others are worried about losing their jobs. There are however, many things we can do to increase our effectiveness at work and make ourselves more valuable to our employers. Rogers says that it is of utmost importance to create focus or to get into the “zone” for a few hours a day. This involves shutting the door to your office, turning off your phone and committing to particular project. The 80/20 rule that 80 percent of your productivity is generated by 20 percent of your efforts. How can we be sure we are working on the right things?

Dr. Michael Warech of Warech Associates is clear on how we can begin to gain clarity on where to focus our work energies, “It is essential to gain clarity on your job role before you think about how you can improve your performance” he said. Warech suggests that you spend some time understanding the mission of your company as well as taking a look at the work flow and procedures before implementing any behavioral change. He also advises that a good strategy is to talk to your supervisor and your colleagues about what you do well and what you can improve. This can lead to a more accurate assessment of what is needed to truly improve your performance and thus, success in your job role.

Dr. Kurt Kraiger, a Professor of Industrial Organizational Psychology at Colorado State University agrees and added, “It is important to note that supervisors are often reluctant to give feedback unless an employee asks for it.” He encourages employees to work to develop greater comfort in their relationships with their boss so that their boss will give them honest feedback about things they could change. Dr. Kraiger sites research by Kruger and Dunning that shows people are not very accurate at assessing their own performance. According to Kraiger, we are also inaccurate at judging how long it takes us to implement a change or finish a project. Dr. Kraiger recommends taking a conservative estimate of how long it will take you to finish a task, double that time and then double it again. This will ensure that when you take on a new behavior or goal, you (and your boss!) will have realistic expectations of the time entailed in completing your goal. By thinking carefully about what our jobs really require of us and working on developing our efficiency we can make ourselves truly invaluable at work.

Tips for improving your job performance:

1. Find out what is required for you to succeed. Read your job description and the company mission statement.

2. Interview your supervisor and your colleagues about what you should do more of, what you should stop doing and what you should start doing that you are not doing now.

3. Be realistic about the time entailed in completing a change or goal. Take an estimate and then double it twice.

4. Have some time each week in which you eliminate distractions (close the door, turn off anything that beeps) to work on ongoing larger projects.

5. Complete the task you like less first, then reward yourself with doing the easier tasks next.

6. Work in parallel. After assessing what is needed to complete your job, start things in motion by delegating etc so that some things can be progressing while you are focusing on others.

7. Schedule time for yourself (on your calendar) for certain tasks.

8. Try to only check email at certain times each day. If possible wait until mid-morning after you have had 1-2 hours of concentrated work time on important projects.

9. Be social, but monitor the time you spend chatting as it could impact your ability to concentrate and get to work.

10. Reward yourself for your achievements. Being social, or enjoying a favorite pastime after hard work can create an increased sense of accomplishment and reinforce your new work habits!

Jonathan Fader, PhD

Follow Dr. Fader on Twitter.


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