Ways to Improve Work Performance
In this article, you will learn the top 3 ways how to immediately improve your work performance and reach a higher quality of output.
We also collected other 18 proven ways that you can use to boost your performance.
For leaders, we collected 9 tips on how they can help you become a lot more productive, check it out, and share it with your supervisor or HR team.
At the end, you will find 7 great books that are definitely worth a read if you desire to take your work efforts to a whole new level.
- Top 3 ways to improve work performance
- Other 18 areas of improvement at work
- 9 Tips how an organization can help you improve performance
- 7 Books to read about work performance
Top 3 ways to improve work performance
1. Limit distractions
According to Udemy In Depth: 2018 Workplace Distraction Report:
Most workers (84%) estimate they’re able to refocus completely within around half an hour after they were initially distracted.
The impact of workplace distractions according to Udemy are:
- 54% aren’t performing as well as they should.
- 50% say they’re significantly less productive.
- 20% not able to reach full potential, advance in career.
Those statistics look pretty bad for performance, there is little surprise as with access to the internet and notifications coming through to our phones from friends and family around the clock, it is easy to get distracted and temporarily postpone work.
While that isn’t an issue, it may become the reason for a lowered performance rate if it happens too often due to additional stress.
And so, in order to achieve great work-related results and keep yourself focused throughout the working hours, you need to understand where lucrative distractions come from and limit your exposure to them.
- Turn off your smartphone or set it to not disturb mode. If you find it difficult for you to totally disable your phone, you should set up work and rest intervals. For example, for every one hour of work, you get a 10-minute break on your phone. Eventually, over a couple of weeks, you can try to increase the work time while minimizing the time you spent on your phone.
- Work in a quiet place or use headphones to minimize distractions from around the office.
- Give yourself random rewards. This way, you will want to get work completed which will put your mind further away from wanting to distract yourself from work.
- If you are working from home due to Covid-19, you should dedicate space within your home (preferably a spare room) and turn it into your office. This way, you will keep distractions from children or pets to a minimum so that you can focus more on your work.
2. Split your tasks into milestones
When working on a big project, the single best thing you can do in order to ensure that you aren’t falling behind schedule and are performing at a high level is to break down your tasks into small and easily achievable milestones with appropriate time frames.
This way, you will know exactly what needs to be done and the date that it needs to be completed by so the overall project is put together by the set deadline.
- Segment your workload into easily manageable milestones.
- Allocate sufficient amounts of time per milestone in order to achieve a great overall outcome.
3. Stop multitasking, prioritize your work
Multitasking at work is not uncommon. If you work in a busy agency, for example, it is not rare for you to handle communications with potential clients, talk with different contractors, handle and check work from freelancers while doing your actual job on top of that.
While you may be thinking that this way you actually get more work done, what you are doing is really impacting not only your level of output for your actual job but also the quality.
According to the article “Executive control of cognitive processes in task switching”, multitasking can lead to a 40% reduction in productivity.
- Rather than multitasking 3 different projects at a time, prioritize them and work on each one individually. This way, you will not only provide better quality work as your focus remains on a single topic but will also be able to do your work much quicker and more effectively.
- Simply reject any work that may distract you from your actual job or communicate with your manager/boss that you cannot multitask effectively.
Other 18 areas of improvement at work
4. Improve your time management
When starting work on a new project, allocating your time properly is everything.
Since you only work an average of 40 hours per week, you don’t have a whole lot of time to waste on a project since they will all have deadlines that need to be met.
So, if your work performance is not something that you can be proud of, if you work on your time management, you will see a great improvement in productivity at work.
- Plan your time ahead of time. This way, you will have more time to appropriately manage your time for each project before you begin working on it.
- Avoid unnecessary random distractions that will eat up your time like small talk with colleagues and consistent use of social media platforms.
5. Try to do important tasks first
As an employee, you are often going to be allocated a wide range of tasks that you will need to deal with by a particular deadline.
It is not uncommon for you to have more tasks than you can handle and so, the best way to ensure that you maintain your performance at work is to prioritize your tasks in an order judging by importance.
- What is the deadline for the projects? If you have a project due in 1 week and a project due 2 months, put your whole focus on the project that is due in a week. This way, your work performance will be at an optimal level and you will easily meet the set deadlines.
- If time is not a factor, think about which one will have the most negative impact on you/the business if not completed soon. Do that one.
6. Set clear goals
Everyone wants to progress at their job as quickly as possible, but sadly, that is not a practical objective you can aim for.
When setting goals for projects that are about to begin, don’t overwhelm yourself, as the last thing that you’d want to do is get burned out halfway through.
Instead, you should consider your strengths and weaknesses as well as working capacity and limitations and set goals that can actually be achieved.
You will be surprised how much of an impact clear and achievable goals have on your productivity levels.
- Layout the main goal and after that, break down the main goal into smaller goals for each stage of the project.
- Align your goals with business goals.
- Review your goals regularly.
- Set goals with achievable time-frames.
- Try Objectives and Key Results (OKR) goal setting strategy.
7. Improve your communication skills
If you are working on a big project with some of your work colleagues, communication will be essential for the overall performance of the team. So, ensuring that you communicate with them everything from good to bad will be key to successfully complete the task.
- Develop your communication skills especially if your role requires you to be in constant contact with clients and shareholders.
- Discover ideas on how to improve your communication skills.
- Struggling with a particular part of the project? Don’t waste time trying to figure it out yourself, ask for help!
- Worried that something could go wrong that could affect the project? Communicate your concern with your team members so that the issue can be taken care of before it becomes worse.
8. Don’t try to do your own, delegate
Unless you are a master of all trades within your industry, you should almost never work on a single project alone. Why? Because unless it’s super simple and straightforward, it may require a different set of expertise that you may not be so good at.
Take a website for example, in order for a fully functional website to be ready, you need backend and front end developers, UI & UX designers, copywriters, SEO & marketing experts and so forth.
- Allocate each specialized task to a colleague that focuses full time within the specific field.
- If you try and take on a field that you don’t fully specialize in, ask a colleague for an expert opinion.
9. Make use of the right tools
If you are operating in the product or service industry, one of the key reasons for reduced performance could solely be due to your lack of knowledge in the tools and resources that you are working with.
Usually, way before you joined the workforce, your employer would have already tested a couple of tools and has provided you with the best ones. So, in order to be more productive at the workplace, you should master the tools which will help you to increase your performance at work.
- Use tools that make the most sense to you. By making use of tools that you already prefer will allow you to focus a lot more on work which will result in an increased level of productivity at work.
- Implement and make use of new tools. Who knows, you may find a software that you like much better that will help you to take your work to a whole new level.
10. Give yourself down time
Mental health is a real problem, and sometimes, after long periods of time, it is possible to ‘burn out’ from your work or feel unmotivated.
Luckily, you don’t need to work 8 hours straight on a daily basis, allowing you plenty of time during your working hours to take a break and recharge.
Also, according to research conducted at University of Illinois, United States, short breaks increases your focus and productivity.
You can do that by simply drinking coffee and watching your favourite show on Netflix for 10-15 minutes, or if practical, you can even do some yoga or take an exercise break. Now, if you are really starting to feel worn down, you should take a day off or even a vacation.
- If you begin to feel like you can’t focus or do quality work, taking a short coffee break can have a great impact on your performance at work.
- Daily or bi-daily exercises can also greatly contribute to shifting your focus away from work. Simple exercises like stretching, yoga, or even walking can help you out immensely.
- In cases where coffee breaks are no longer effective, you should take the day off or even book a vacation and rest your mind for a few days.
11. Encourage desk cleanliness and organization
It is proven that a messy environment can slow down your performance.
If you have hundreds of documents laying around everywhere on your desks, finding what you need when the time comes can be a very time-consuming process.
So, be sure to always keep your desk clean and well organized throughout the day to avoid such time-wasting nightmares.
- If you notice that your desk is becoming a little messy, don’t ignore it and organize it right away. Your future self will thank you.
- Besides your working space, keeping your laptop’s desktop files organized into folders is essential for optimal productivity.
12. Stay healthy
No one can be productive at work when unwell, and so, it is vital that you take care of your health.
After a long day at work, it is normal to feel exhausted, leaving you with little motivation to go to the gym or complete an exercise. However, you don’t need to go to the gym every single day. All you can do is walk or bike to work, limit your consumption of unnecessary snacks throughout the day, and stick to healthier options.
Then, your mood will increase, your focus will get sharper and so will your performance at work.
- Walk or bike to work if it is practical.
- Drink around 1 liter of clean water during the day.
- Try to eat healthy food.
- Improve your sleeping habits by going to bed before 10 PM. This will help you with getting a productive 8-hour sleep.
- Do some exercise: gym, cycling, running, yoga and so on. If you have longer breaks during your day at work, you can visit your local gym for a quick exercise. You would be surprised how much of a mental reset exercise has on your mind.
13. Don’t leave tasks unfinished
Whether it's because a new and more exciting project came along or the current one is too boring, we have all left a task unfinished and quickly jumped onto the new project without much consideration.
This, however, creates a chain of problems that can lead to delays, which will essentially harm performance. So, never leave a task unfinished regardless of the new circumstances to avoid any performance-related issues that will hamper productivity levels at the office.
- Allocate additional time to a project if needed in order to finish it off before taking your focus away from it. This will save you a lot of time as you won’t need to familiarize yourself with where you left off when you inevitably come back to complete it later.
- If time constraint is the reason for leaving tasks unfinished, ensure that plenty of time is allocated for such circumstances.
- For the future, organize workload better in smaller and achievable milestones.
14. Become a lifelong learner
The world around us is evolving all the time, and so are the requirements for performing well at work. What worked yesterday and made you an expert in your field isn’t necessarily going to work tomorrow.
And so, lifelong learning must become part of your daily life if you wish to stay ahead of the curve in your industry. How? By reading books, watching videos, and listening to the podcasts and relevant pieces of information in your field.
- Find experts in your industry that you admire and read content that they produce on social media or their blogging website.
- Read work and performance-related books written by experts in the field.
- Listen to podcast.
- Subscribe to YouTube channels related to your interests.
- Sign in to learning courses.
15. Ask for constructive feedback
Have you recently completed a new project and are not too sure of what to think in regards to your work performance?
Just ask your supervisor or manager for some constructive feedback. Usually, they would be very happy that you asked them and will gladly provide you with some things that you can work on and compliment you on everything that you have done right.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for constructive feedback, your supervisor would be very happy that you care about your work.
- Always ask if you are unsure of your performance and if the manager is satisfied with your work, it will give you an indication of whether you are doing well or need to put in some extra work.
16. Participate in mentorship
This tip is particularly fundamental for employees who are just starting their careers in their chosen field of interest.
Although you may know a thing or two, being mentored by a field expert with decades of experience behind their back will provide you with a fast-track to the knowledge that will take you years of experience to learn.
- Ask senior employees at the company in your field whether they could mentor, or supervise you for some time while you gather enough knowledge. This will have a fundamental effect on your work performance as you will know how to tackle almost every issue that may arise in your field.
- Become friends and develop relationships with experts in the field. Quite often, industry experts would be more than happy to share their knowledge with you.
- Ask for a mentorship program and see what is available. The HR department within the company may already have ideas about it.
17. Try to be punctual and accountable
Want your performance to be better than ever? Take responsibility for your actions, behavior, and decisions at the office. It really is as simple as that.
If you don’t want to help yourself, you can’t wait for your manager or boss to encourage you to not do the destructive things that hamper your productivity at work.
- Analyze your behavior at the workplace and pinpoint the things that you know you shouldn’t be doing. Then, simply eliminate them and watch your work performance skyrocket.
- Another great way to be punctual and accountable is to not reward yourself with something that you do anyway, like going on your phone during a break. This way, you will learn the consequences of not being responsible at the workplace. It may seem harsh at first, however, it is a great way to do it.
18. Rethink ineffective ways of working
If you have been working at the same company for a while, it’s likely that you are now used to some sort of a work regime that you repeat day after day.
In such cases, it’s very hard to spot any behavioral patterns that may be affecting your work performance.
You should sit back and address all ineffective ways of working that you fall victim to. Only then can you start increasing your performance at work.
- Stay alert for behavioral patterns that you deep down know to affect your work performance. For example, do you open up and answer emails through your phone? Usually, communicating over the phone via e-mail is much less effective and more time-consuming than doing it on a laptop or a desktop PC.
- Once you spot a bad trait that is affecting your work performance, work on making yourself better at avoiding/handling it.
19. Build your own development plan
As an employee, as you gain experience in the industry, eventually you are going to progress through the ‘corporate ladder’ and gain a higher position within the company.
One of the best ways to ensure that you speed this process up is by being an excellent and consistent performer at the workplace.
How to do that? Build your own development plan and follow it strictly.
- If you are within the IT sector, build a plan around gaining as many certificates as possible that are relevant to your field. If you work within internet security, make a plan to acquire 1 or 2 certificates each year like CEH, CISMCompTIA Security+, CISSP and CISA.
- You can also set a goal of reading at least 1 piece of vital information that is relevant to your field per week which will eventually accumulate and make you a true expert in your industry.
20. Build working relationships and connections
As an employee, building relationships and connections will have an immense effect on your performance at work.
How? By meeting people, engaging in new conversations, and developing relationships, you will get to exchange experiences with people alike who may have been in the industry for longer and may know a thing or two that will help take your work to a whole new level.
- Make an account on LinkedIn and start actively using the platform as a professional.
- Be open-minded about meeting and speaking to new people. You never know who can bring what to the table.
- Say yes to conference or group talk invitations where you will meet people from your industry.
21. Avoid idle chat, drama, and gossip
As human beings, we like to communicate with one another and discuss various topics of interest, however, this can seriously affect work performance, especially if it happens too often.
Now, we are not saying that you shouldn’t communicate with your colleagues at all as communication is at the core of a successful business, but it is important to not engage with any ongoing drama or irrelevant gossip that can distract you and the people around the office from getting work done.
- If you find yourself engaging in pointless conversations, time-consuming debates that can take your focus away from work, try to end the conversation and leave it for the break time or after work.
- If you like listening to music, put on your headphones. That way, you will easily miss out on any such discussion without even knowing that they happened.
9 Tips how an organization can help you improve performance
1. Be a leader and a role model
As a business owner or a manager, you must set a standard for a strong work ethic and productivity for your colleagues and employees in the office through your own efforts.
Even if you don’t notice it, you are your colleagues’ team leader and role model.
They look up to you and if you don’t work hard on a daily basis and show results for the effort, why should they?
- Always take accountability & responsibility for projects.
- Display a strong and organized work ethic.
- Support all of your employees and guide them accordingly.
2. Communicate with your employees
Communicating clearly and effectively with your employees is the single most important key to maximizing their overall performance.
In other words, if you feel like an employee is struggling, offer your help, communicate, ask questions until a solution is found.
The idea is to create a working environment where the employees are not afraid to communicate and ask for your help.
- Update your employees on a weekly basis with what is going on in the business as that will really help in tough times of uncertainty.
- Have coffee breaks or chat meetings with your employees, where you can talk about problems, help them out when needed, or answer any random questions that they may have.
- Create an environment where your employees feel comfortable to ask for your feedback, review, or whatever.
- Be genuinely interested in them as professionals on a personal level. This will increase the level of loyalty, work performance, and trust.
3. Provide constructive feedback
Providing regular feedback to your employees based on their performance at the workplace is an important part of your professional and business relationship.
Without it, your employee won’t know what they are good at or what they need to work on to be better at their job.
One of the best opportunities you will have as a manager or a business owner to provide more in-depth constructive feedback is during progress-related meetings. Your employee will not only take it seriously but will also know exactly what direction to take in order to be better at their job.
- Provide feedback on as many pieces of work as possible, regardless of how large or small a project is.
- Discuss what could have been done better and if there is a faster and more efficient way to do a task.
4. Organize and optimize tasks
Typically, if you are in the service industry, your employees will work with you for around 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Those 40 hours a week might seem a lot, but they really aren’t.
You’d be surprised to know that over 5 hours on average get wasted by employees waiting for meetings or on other employees every single week.
So, optimizing teamwork processes, removing or improving meetings that are a waste of time can lead to greater overall performance from your employees.
- If meetings are useless or take up too much time, you can optimize them or totally remove them.
- Establish meetings and collaborations between the different departments. This way, employees that don’t typically work together can benefit from each other.
- Only set up sessions or meetings that are absolutely necessary and cannot be done through an e-mail or a phone call.
5. Provide good judgement
At times, we all express our biased opinion or judgment on a particular topic, which can often cause conflict.
As a business manager, you should always be right in the middle and provide a good and fair judgment in every situation.
Other employees around you will see that you are reasonable with your judgment which will make them feel confident in their decision to come to you for advice in the future if something is bothering them.
- Always see both sides of every story. This will help you to make a fair judgment on every situation.
- Listen more and allow yourself some time to think about your final decision.
6. Let employees learn even from mistakes
Whether it is in the workplace or at home, everyone makes mistakes. It is the most normal human trait. What is important for you to do as a manager or business owner is to help your employees learn from their mistakes.
Your employee in question will not only appreciate your help but will also work extra hard in order to ensure that the same mistake doesn’t happen again.
- Give your employees proper guidance for their mistakes if you find necessary. This way, they will learn from them moving forward.
- Boost their confidence by encouraging them. This will very quickly restore the smile on their face so that they can get on with their work.
- Judge each mistake on an individual basis and always set a line for what is totally restricted and where they can have their freedom in making mistakes.
7. Ask questions
If you see an employee struggling or not performing to the level they normally do, go over and ask them if you can be of any help.
Make them feel like they are not alone and that they can trust you. At the end of the day, we are not robots and all have emotions and problems of our own that could affect our work performance.
Showing care and sympathy is the least you can do to brighten someone’s mood and bring them back to their optimal level of work ethic.
- Be sure to always ask questions when you see that one of your employees is struggling or isn’t performing as well. Usually, all they need is a quick chat.
8. Compliment your employees
As people, we love being admired and complimented.
It is simply in our nature and is something employees really appreciate. It doesn’t take much to tell your employees that they have done a great job after a big project.
As a business owner or a manager, it is your responsibility to keep your workforce happy and satisfied in the workplace.
At the end of the day, without them, your business will not exist.
- Give credit where deserved. After a long project, going over to your team and individually congratulating them for the hard work is the least you can do which will have a massive impact on their confidence and performance moving forward.
9. Provide an enjoyable working environment
No one enjoys working in a messy and outdated environment.
It will indirectly affect your employee performance as the only thing they would want at times is to just leave and go home.
So, providing an enjoyable working environment that your employees get excited to go to in the morning will have a great effect on their mood and ultimately, their performance at work.
- Purchase a pool or table tennis table for the office where your employees can relax their minds and engage in activities with colleagues during their break. When making such an investment, you should take into consideration where you will place the activity within your office as you don’t want your employees on a break to be distracting everyone else.
- Ensure that all working stations are modern and look great. Usually, you can hire a designer to take care of organizing your office space in accordance with the current trends for optimal employee performance.
- Ensure that there are plenty of plans and enough daylight in the office. It is proven that sunlight and plans can better work performance and sharpen focus.
7 Books to help you improve your work performance
1. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
2. Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed
3. Employee Experience: Develop a Happy, Productive and Supported Workforce for Exceptional Individual and Business Performance by Ben Whitter and Josh Bersin
4. Getting Things Done by David Allan
5. Great at Work: The Hidden Habits of Top Performers by Morten T. Hansen
6. How To Get Sh*t Done by Erin Falconer
7. Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg